Why do authors of fiction glamorize unpleasant or traumatic situations?

 While lots of people want happy endings, we also seem to gravitate towards a sad story. A lot of traumatic scenarios (ex. diseases, accidents, deadly injuries, mental illness) in the real world are glossed over in fiction. I read a lot, mostly YA, and I admittedly didn't realize how terrible these situations can be in real life, because an author can make a reader perceive something the way they wrote it, whether it's correct down to the last gory detail, or completely glamorized. 

 As a starting point for the project, I'm going to gather examples of how fiction glamorizes situations like this. I'm going to be looking specifically at books, since I don't watch a lot of movies or TV shows, but I may incorporate those in later depending on where this goes. 

 From those examples, I want to figure out why authors do this. If they're going to include this material in their stories, what good would they get out of glossing over it? 

 I'd love to hear all your thoughts! 


Original Post

Hi Sophie,

Personally, I have never read a book that ends in a particularly bad ending. Usually, there are some sad things that are incorporated, such as character deaths and losses, but never do the bad guys win or the aliens end up invading or the main character never finds what her was looking for throughout the entire story. I guess it's because authors set goals in the minds of the characters and readers need some fulfillment by the end of the story to feel like the book had a purpose. 

Also, I know you said you were focusing on books, but when you talked about the glamorization of situations, I immediately thought about a TV show that had a lot of talk about this subject: 13 Reasons Why. People thought there was a lot of glamorizing teen suicide in this story, so maybe you can elaborate on that in a future research round.

Hi Sophie!

When you take a step back and look at the big picture, its kind of amazing how words can make you see an event in a completely different light. I agree with you that tragic events are 'glorified' as you say. People, not just authors, have this unique ability to completely transform a subject and make the audience agree with them. Look at the news, and you will find many examples. 

Most of the protagonists we know today from books, movies and TV shows have a dark event that shaped them. Take Batman, for example. I feel that the reader is as important in your question as the author though. Readers have expectations and authors try to meet them. Glorifying traumatic situations might be a part of the society we grow up in. I really am looking forward to seeing your findings on this topic. 

Hey Sophie 

I think it depends  on how authors write about these events, if they are romanticizing trauma vs trying to normalize talking about it and reduce stigma but I think that you could explore the audience that these books are aimed towards and how talking about trauma might affect them? and could that be a factor why so many authors talk about a certain topic? I also think they might be writing about these things because they know that because often people are curious about traumatic events, and they want to know whats going on but that also relates to the directed audience. Good luck, I'm looking forward to your next post


Hi Sophie! 

Nice question to ask! (and topic on books!! ^.^) Pretty interesting and there's many ways to approach this. Of course: each author is their own self so reasons will be hard to pinpoint but commonalities can be found.

As an avid reader and writer, here's a few cents i can throw just for now. 

  • One being target audience. The fact those books will be read by a 6 year old vs a 17 will be likely different. Again, its all suggested and not restricted but the varying degrees of complexity makes such decisions as they are. 
  • Two is that some authors may not be able to talk about X topic in detail or they are able to in detail because either A have researched or not researched respectively, and or B experienced. 
  • Some may consider that this event in a story line is not significant enough to draw all attention away or risk pushing people away. Placed well, and you have a hooked reader on and on. Placed badly, and some just can't continue the story itself. 
  • Genres is a key, as one in Horror (not my thing but) would take on a different perspective and detail than one of Fantasy. 
  • The style that one author may have also affects on how they can glamorize or not glamorize X thing. 

I'll cut off here since it's getting long, 

Keep it up! Interested to see what you find. 

Hey Sophie, 

While it is true that authors can present horrible scenarios quickly and can morph your perspective to there will (if they are good), it may not necessarily be that they are trying to avoid such subject matter and be more that they want to focus on the characters reaction or how the event affected the character. Another thing tom keep in mind is that action sequences are often quick in books as prolonged descriptions can take away from the suspense. 

Ben Laird

Hey Sophie,

I love your topic! This is a very good question. I want to point out that some authors pull these unpleasant and traumatic events from their own experiences. This can sometimes be used as a way for the author to express themselves or even to address the situation that they may feel uncomfortable talking about. Also i just wanna point out that one person's unpleasant or traumatic situation may not be unpleasant or traumatic for another person. That being said, there may be people that aren't at all affected by these types of situations. Just something to think about.

Good luck!



Hi Sophie,

This is a really interesting topic! I've wondered the same myself in the past when authors put their readers through the deaths of their main characters, etc. I think that some authors may be thinking along the lines of needing the readers to feel the sadness in the story to truly understand the happy parts. I think it generally makes the story better (though I dislike the sad parts of stories and shows!).  I'm looking forward to seeing what you may come up with! Here are some links that may help:



Good luck with your research!

Hi Sophie,

This is a cool topic to choose. Most authors just use death or traumatic situation as a climax for a book without realizing that it can actually be traumatic in real life situations. Authors just use it to build and maintain suspense easily. it is a really cool topic to look into. I will look forward to where this goes.



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