Tom sat with his daughter as she cried over her dead pet mouse. Her tiny knuckles where white as she tightly grasped the shoe box holding her furry white friend. Minnie had been Susie’s favorite pet for three years and she was heartbroken at her passing. Tom held his little girl close, his shirt slowly filled with tears. She asked her dad to tell her why Minnie had to die. He said he knew it was hard and nothing made it easier, then he talked to her about all the good memories she had with Minnie and reminded her of how much that mouse enjoyed its time with her.
The family cat Snuggles came in during the conversation and sat with them on Susie’s bed. His small cat eyes blinked with a seemingly human sadness as he cuddled in between Susie’s arms and the box. Tom hugged his little daughter and the cat as the tears slowly dried up. Susie told her dad she was ready to let Minnie go now, looking out at the backyard would the mouse would be laid to rest.
She opened the box for one last goodbye and Snuggles snatched the mouse and ran. Susie’s shocked face could only mouth “why” to her father as the tears began to well up again.
He replied it was probably for the same reason Minnie died.
“Because we didn’t feed her?” Susie asked.
Tom reluctantly stood to follow the cat. “Yeah.”
Today we will be discussing well placed laughter in the midst of sadness. This is an art form that will help any story. First we’re going to go into a little history of laughter and sadness, and then the good stuff, wisdom (application).
The Start of Laughing and Crying
Laughter and sadness in story telling was given a prominent start in ancient Greece where the two dominant plays were comedies and tragedies (smiling masks or frowning masks). These two distinct plays had a nice long life.
A few thousand years later a great playwright was known for his tragedies that he slammed out with uncanny precision and quality. His name was William Shakespeare. Now what Shakespeare did that was quite brilliant – whether he was first or not does not matter here – when he had an extremely sad scene in one of his plays he would follow it with comedy, with something funny. Why?
Laughter in the Sadness
For one thing it makes the tragedy sadder by contrast and the comedy funnier. Because of the stark difference between the two, putting them both together makes each of them better.
Another kind aspect of this juxtaposition is when people are sad it can be very kind to give them a reason to laugh for a moment. When someone has passed, we do not just need to be with them to cry about the sad times, but also to talk and laugh about the good times. There is a noticeable change in the atmosphere of the room when people are laughing and talking about the good times.
A Tool Not a Rule
So when writing your stories, or plays, or internet blog posts, give some occasions to let people laugh after the sadness. People are looking for an excuse to let off some of the pressure from overwhelming sadness, laughter is an up-building way to do that. You do not have to do it after every sad scene, it would cheapen it if you did in my opinion, but give the reader a break to let off some steam every once in a while.
As always, balance is key.
How do you feel about using this tool during your writing?