Thursday, December 10, 2009

Genre Series: Unhappily Ever After


By: Pastiche Pen

“There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.” —Oscar Wilde

I love tragedy.

The first tragedy that I ever really got into was Medea by Euripides. Medea is the wife of Jason, the great Greek hero who basically charmed Medea into betraying home and country so that she'd give up the bling (notably the Golden Fleece) and make him the most epic of all Greek heroes. You see, Medea thought she was getting an HEA when they rode off into the sunset. Unfortunately, after bearing two of Jason's children and having a few stretch marks, Jason decides that he deserves the pretty daughter of the king of Corinth.

Bye-bye, Medea.

Except that Medea has rage—rage so potent that it overwhelms everything. She sends Jason's new bride a poisoned dress that burns off her flesh. The king, trying to save his daughter, dies too. Then, so as to destroy everything wrought on her by him, Medea murders her own baby boys. So, yeah...


Medea is a bad person. She has never been some innocent damsel (...betraying your family is not an oopsy act.)—but that's not really important. All of her acts of revenge—the infanticide—the regicide—are only as important as her motivation. Medea's raisone d'etre has been Jason—and when Jason betrays her...

What is paramount is her rage: Medea's rage is something that almost every person can relate to. It is the stab of betrayal that so maddeningly overwhelms everything else that we go insane with it. It's about emotion overwhelming logic and sympathy and all civilized tendencies to such an extreme that even when we as readers recoil, we also recognize that part of our personal horror comes from recognizing the same potential within our own person.

Aristotle called this catharsis. Cartharsis is the state in which "the human soul [] is purged of its excessive passions." A deep connection occurs with the reader/audience member and the story/play. This may involve hysterical sobbing, mute horror, or maniacal laughter on your part—but the point is that we enjoy tragedies because they make us feel intensely.

So, that's what I want to talk about—I'm not interested in Twilight stories that simply have unhappy endings—I'm interested in stories that rip my chest open and make feel. Tragedies, because of this requirement, I believe are much harder to write—you might note how Stephenie Meyer failed to even write an ounce of tragedy—because tragedies have to be about something more than the characters. Most tragedies involve some sort of moral dilemma. They're complex and interesting in order to provoke our souls.

Let's talk about our own Fandom. There are various big "features" of tragedy that seem to shape the general wave of tragic stories in our fandom:


One of the main facets of tragedy is point-of-view. For example, let's take Jacob Black—the one true and tragic hero. The Twilight series, if told from Jacob's point of view, could be told as a tragedy. You have this guy who saves this girl from depression, only to lose her to this obsessive love with this broody ole vampire. In the end, she dies—becoming one of them—and she didn't love him enough, so there was nothing he could do. Of course, Meyer gives Jacob an oddly-named HEA, but in doing so, she partially trivializes Jacob's role in the books. His gritty and real love for Bella is explained away by supernatural science and replaced by a glowy sharp-toothed bundle. But then again, Breaking Dawn is undeniably best read as a comedy.

For some good, tragic Jacob fic (big thanks to Stretch, whose fics should also be read), check out: Another great plot line for tragedy is the New Moon plot line. What happens if Edward really never came back? What happens if Edward decides to never change Bella? What if he decides that he'll die when she dies? The Truth About Juliet by luvcali76 - explores this.


Another defining aspect of tragic fics is where the story ends—it can make all the difference. Great Vexations by AngstGoddess0003 is a great example of this, because this not-so-little one-shot is the tale of Jasper's unrequited love for his best friend, Edward. What I love about this story is that it's closer to reality than almost any other slash tale. Most of the first-loves of gay men are probably people who are close to them—and who are most definitively not gay. Of course, in the long run, Jasper's life may not be a tragedy. He can find real love in the future—even if the present is a black fucking hole.

Next, in this category is Beautiful Beat—which cheers to my friend Americnxidiot—is a gorgeous written AU in which Renesmee is born as—not a half-vampire—but as a 100% human. The story is about sacrifice and humanity and life, and the end of it will surely have you in tears and possibly looking to cuddle an infant or two for simple comfort. Of note, though, for the Support Stacey Auction, there was an addition to the story in which Renesmee's eventual rediscovery of her parents occurs. We get a partial happily after. If you want the full thrust of the tragedy, stop at the end of the original story; however, if you want some petting and partial resolution (Time Heals All Wounds.) read on for the epilogue. I personally think I just liked ending it with a good cry—because I'm a masochist, apparently.


It's the living and not the dying that is, after all, the point. MY FAVORITE sort of tragedy are ones in which we know the ending at the beginning, and yet we still need to figure out why. These tragedies are essentially mysteries. They are often morally-complex, involve soul-searching, and involve some desperate struggle that leads to a series of otherwise unthinkable events. Sleepers Awake (which I have started but not finished!) and We the Forgotten (currently on hiatus) fall into this gorgeous messy category. We learn first of impending (or recent) death, and then discover the consequences.

Other Tragic Stories to Read

Multi-Chaptered Fics

Previous Genre Series Articles: Romance - Supernatural & Fantasy - Horror
I want to give a special thanks to Stretch and the ladies at Edwardville for their help with compiling recs for this article. This article is not all-inclusive, because well, reading a ton of tragedy is just hard on the soul, even as it makes you feel more whole. So, please feel free to rec more. :-)


  1. Wow. this was great! I truly loved it, and your points were great. NGL, makes me want write.

  2. This is an amazing article. It's so true in many ways, but especially in that SMeyer fails to write any tragedy.

    "we also recognize that part of our personal horror comes from recognizing the same potential within our own person." that's an amazing explanation of it.

    In that list of tragedy, I've only read the Best Man.

  3. Brilliant. I loved your view on tragedy. Medea is an epic story.
    I agree with you as regards Jacob. He truly is a tragic hero! I will never understand why people hate him so much.To me he is this honest, warm, loyal character who gets to watch the person he loves the most reach the worst possible fate (in his opinion). And being tied to an evil spawn hardly qualifies as a HEA! Poor Jake got screwed!
    The comment of BD best be read as a comedy was perfect.It's TRAGICOMIC.
    Sleepers Awake would be my choice for best tragedy, because Feisty manages to reach into your chest and crush your heart with every turn of the story. And even though it hurts, you can't stop reading. This is probably one of the few stories that has made me cry. Beautiful.


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