In a recent book review I mentioned that angsty teenage books aren’t my thing. It’s nothing personal, I’m not into romance for the sake of romance either. For me, the stakes aren’t high enough, or at least I don’t care enough about them, for either to draw my attention.
Which is why I was really surprised when I found that my own writings and also the TV shows that I prefer watching have plenty of super angsty moments.
What’s the difference?
For me it’s motive and reach. In all stories the main character has a really big problem that he or she needs to overcome. In teenage angsty novels these problems tend to revolve around the internal needs of the teenager. She needs to feel accepted. Her boyfriend is cheating on her. She is dying of a terminal illness. He is a wimp. Her boyfriend is a vampire. Not all in the same book, although that would be awesome.
None of the problems extend beyond the main character or their immediate friends. If the worst should happen, yes it’s devastating for the character, but it the effects rarely leave the community.
In my preferred fandoms, and also in my fiction, the scope tends to be larger. The problems affect whole cities, worlds, or even universes. When something goes wrong, it threatens more than a few emotional teenagers, civilizations are at stake. The problems can include anything including universe eating temporal rifts, demon fueled armies, megalomaniac wizards, and gods squaring off against each other.
That’s not to say that the same internal problems don’t exist, they most certainly do. But they exist layered along side much bigger issues.
Last night I had my own personal angst fest with non other than our friend the Doctor. Doctor Who is a great example of how layering massive universe-sized problems alongside intense personal conflict makes for some very compelling stories.
I have a few favorite doctor moments, specifically with the 10th doctor.
In the episode Journey’s End, the season finale for the fourth season, there are lots of different angsty elements at play. It’s touted as the most tragic episode – guaranteed to give anyone the feels. The villainous Daleks have kidnapped planet Earth to create a reality bomb that will in essence destroy all matter in every universe. The Doctor has found several of his previous companions to come help avert the crisis. These include Rose Tyler, the companion he loved and lost; Donna Noble, the closest person he’s had to a best friend; and Martha Jones, the woman who loved him but he didn’t love back.
In the course of the episode a second Doctor is created, who is essentially a clone except for one vital difference – he is not a Time Lord and will age and die like a human.
I’m a sucker for a good tragic character. I love Hamlet, Frodo, and now, the Doctor. In Journey’s End. The angst comes from the multitude of problems that can’t be solved without sacrifice. The Daleks must be defeated to save Earth. Rose must be returned to her own parallel world. Donna, being human, cannot sustain having the knowledge of a Time Lord.
The Doctor must sacrifice his love for Rose by sending her off with the clone doctor to repair the rift in time. To save his best friend Donna’s life, he must remove all knowledge of himself from her mind, and lose her forever. His clone has committed genocide on the Daleks, getting him, a man who abhors violence, named the Destroyer of Worlds. In essence, everything that is important to him is ripped away and he is left alone once more.
Take that teenage angst! I know it’s unrealistic, but it’s oh so good.