Anyone who has truly read a book, and by that I mean entered the world and connected with the characters as if he or she followed them on their adventure like a ramora on a shark, just might understand what I’m saying when I speak of getting sucked into a story, to the point that the reader shares the emotional journey as well as the physical (in the head of course, not literally): when the protagonist’s beloved father or sister or friend dies in a well-written book, I feel as if I’ve lost my own, if the book is written well enough. You may too. [I mean, what Harry Potter fan didn’t feel their heart break when Sirius and Dumbledore died (respectively)? And don’t even get me started on Deathly Hallows. Or what Hunger Games fan didn’t fear for the fate of Katniss and Peeta, when it seemed Peeta might never come back after being hijacked, leaving Katniss to give up hope? (Unless of course you were a Katniss/Gale shipper, in which case that didn’t turn out quite so well either.)] Just as much, readers connected to these stories feel the protagonists’ joy as well as their pain.
But it’s the pain that can get you down.
I believe the same can happen in writing these stories. In the book, Train Your Brain to Get Happy, by Teresa Aubele, PhD, Stan Wenck, EdD, and Susan Reynolds, there’s a point they make about unhappiness in the brain while reliving for yourself an unhappy memory–that the effect it has on the brain is the same as if the event were occurring all over again. My feeling is that the same can be said when you’re simply imagining such an event for your character in a story. Presumably, the character you’re writing about is one you love, and you’d hate to put them through any kind of pain. And just the thought of doing it when you know you have to…oh it’s just so depressing!
I remember once on a tour of Eugene O’Neill’s house in Danville, California, I learned that after a day of writing he would emerge emotionally wrung out. Luckily he had his wife Carlotta to act as a soothing combatant to these hard feelings. And I don’t think it’s any secret either that J. K. Rowling cried while writing “The Forest Again” chapter in Deathly Hallows. So, just to keep those happiness levels up after writing harrowing scenes, or just thinking about them, I’d do what I do, and cheer myself up afterward with a hilarious movie, or better yet, a hilarious movie with friends. Or put on a HAPPY song and sing along! Or whatever puts the spring back in your step.