Why We Write Depressing Stories

Have you ever seen the Italian film Il Postino?

It’s the story of a poor postman, a postman who delivers mail to Pablo Neruda during his exile from Chile.  The close contact awakens a love for poetry in the simple postman, and by the end of the movie, his life has been drastically altered all because he learned the power of metaphor.  I won’t give away any details, it’s far too beautiful to ruin.

Watching the movie again last night, I was instantly struck by Neruda’s words:

When I was Senator of the Republic, I went to visit Pampa – a region where it only rains once every year, where life is unimaginably hard.  I wanted to meet the people who had voted for me.  One day at Lota, there was a man who had come up from a coal mine.  He was a mask of coal dust and sweat, his face contorted by terrible hardship, his eyes red from the dust.  He stretched out his calloused hand and said: ‘Wherever you go, speak of this torment.  Speak of your brother who lives underground…in hell.’  I felt I had to write something to help the man in his struggle, to write the poetry of the mistreated.

In that one scene, it made sense to me why my stories can be so sad, so heartbreaking, so brutal at times.  It’s because writers, poets, painters, musicians have this obligation to “write the poetry of the mistreated.”

Injustice must be made immortal through words, through art.  It’s the only way for things to change in our world.

What tone do you often drape across your stories?  Do they tend to be more depressing, realistic, or do you opt for comedy?