I know it isn’t the most intellectually stimulating entertainment to be had, at least not on the surface, but I have to admit that I actually enjoy the continuous tragedy that is The Walking Dead. Believe it or not, I find the show to be an interesting examination of the nature of evil. As one might expect, the primal cause for all of the characters on the show is avoiding becoming lunch for some dead guy, yet inevitably the greatest source of disaster for the temporary survivors of the slow extinction of the human race is other people just trying to survive. The characters, good and bad, are constantly forced to choose between evils, which leaves the audience with a perpetual knot of repulsion tangled up in awkward commiseration sitting hard in their bellies.
At the end of this Sunday’s Walking Dead, when _____ was ____ in the _____ by that _____ from the _______, my sixteen year old daughter burst into convulsive tears, howling in agony, like ____ was one of her best friends (neurologically speaking, she was a good friend, but this is not another Theory of Mind post). My daughter’s was the titanic sort of meltdown that teenagers are especially prone to when something terrible happens to their favorite character, the kind of meltdown that had her questioning all of humanity and making deals with the universe. She just could not believe ___ was ___, and she wanted someone—anyone— to take it back, to undo “all the feels,” as she muttered through the synthetic fluff of her pillow. For the record, I cried too, but not nearly as hard or as long as she did, though to be fair my own upheaval for ____’s sake was interrupted by a minor internal drama of my own, as I listened to my daughter carrying on about deaths in movies and television shows and books, because as I consoled her I was reminded of my biggest fear as a writer (well, it’s actually my second biggest fear, but my first biggest fear is beside the point… try to stay on point here, people). My (second) biggest fear is that I will fail as an author to make my readers fall apart the way my daughter fell apart Sunday night—completely, and without shame.
As she sobbed over ____ _____, I quietly considered my own duty to provide that visceral explosion within my own audience on a regular basis. It is a duty. No matter the genre of choice, we read to experience a full range of emotions, to live vicariously through the heroes of our imaginations, so a writer who fails to incite chemical riots in the mind and bodies of the masses has no room to call himself a writer. As a writer, I must make certain readers of The Eleventh Age ____ ___ ____ as ____ and ____ ___ ____ ____ by penning small betrayals of their trust along the way. If I want a part of you to ____ when ____ _____, then I must first build every reason for you to believe that can never happen, while at the same time leaving you continuously afraid it will. And in order for you to feel ______ when you figure out that ____ ____ is a _____ and is ___ ____ _____, I have to lie to you and then make you hate me a little when you discover the truth. It is my job to paint those screaming, crying, throw-the-book-across-the-room-in-rage (but a good rage, not a “What the heck do you mean by it was all a dream!!?!” rage) moments that cause your heart to break right in the middle of soaring. I have to make you laugh and cry and fall madly in love and just as madly in hate, and it scares the_____ ____ out of me that I might miss the mark. This fear is irrational, along the lines of worrying obsessively over the potential for losing one’s keys. But the reality is I’m writing to young adults, and every year I get a little, er, less young and more likely to lose my keys.
For the record, my daughter is presently telling me all about the Slated trilogy, by Teri Terry (a good review), which is why this post wound up named “How To Avoid Spoiler Alerts”. The answer is to write MadLib-style blog posts.