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I’m a young author writing a fantasy series. I decided to try writing the ending first because I was having trouble writing the first part. In my second book, they’re supposed to lose, and this guy’s girlfriend is killed after he’d betrayed everyone he knew trying to save her. The bad guy escapes after he kills the girlfriend.

Here are a few paragraphs so you can get the feel of the situation:

I woke up propped against a wall. My head hurt. The stab wound in my gut felt like it was on fire again. My friends were gathered around me. I stared at them, still unable to speak.

Suddenly I remembered Emma was dead. I looked down and started to cry. And I mean really cry. I wept into my hands, horrible sobs racking my chest. I had never let myself cry like this before. It hurt. In fact, everything did. I was lightheaded and dizzy. My friends voices sounded far away. I stopped crying and took a long, slow, raspy breath to steady my vision. I felt hollow and weak. I knew I was still badly injured.

Camryn looked me in the eyes. ”I forgive you.”

My breath was ripped away. I had completely forgotten I’d put her through the exact same thing. Even though I felt like bawling, I was too weak to start crying again. My gut was warm and wet, and I realized I was bleeding through my bandages. But I deserved the pain. All of it. I’d deserved for Emma to die.

It goes on like this for a bit, him summing up all the things he did wrong and completely giving up, asking his friends to kill him and just get it over with so he can finally be with his girlfriend. Of course, they don’t actually kill him, but they can’t even think of a good argument as to why he shouldn’t give up. This is the ending of the book.

Is this too depressing? My targeted audience is middle school age, and my characters are 16.

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    I just realized my first book is even more depressing. I did some math and exactly 4,217 people die. – Hello.There Dec 7 '20 at 16:42
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    97 people survive – Hello.There Dec 7 '20 at 16:53
  • Just stopping by to say that that was a pretty dang well written passage – Tasch Dec 8 '20 at 7:06
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    I voted to close this because it seems very opinion-based, which is not a good question for this stack exchange. This is a better question for beta-readers and such. – AnnWriter19 Dec 15 '20 at 21:02
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    gonna have to go with AnnWriter19 on this one, seems like something for betas. – Ceramicmrno0b Dec 16 '20 at 14:10
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First of all, according to your profile, you are a young author. I got to say - that's pretty dang good writing. Keep it up!

Ok - for your question.

No, that is not too depressing. As a reader, the more drama and action, the better. Of course, that's only my opinion - but, the middle-grade audience soaks up that stuff. I mean, who doesn't like a good page-turner.

That said, there are limits to what you can do. If you go beyond just a couple of chapters and make your whole book spiral into depression and misery, then you've got a problem. Younger readers will get too sad, bored, or uninterested.

The challenge is to hit the spot and find the balance. Something right in the middle, where readers can feel the emotions of the characters whether it's rage, joy, or sadness. While also giving a book that is not too heavy of despair.

But honestly - you're the writer. It depends on how you write your story and what your genre is.

But you should be OK, most middle-grade readers have read their share of tragic plotlines and played enough violent video to be fine with what you have so far.

Again, I liked reading your writing and you seem like a very good writer.

Good luck with your book!

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Go for it:

Why not? People love a happy ending, but you can give them that in book 3. The Empire Strikes Back left the story pretty bleak, but everyone knew there was a chance for recovering in the next movie. There are plenty of places where life sucks, and in middle school, I hated being patronized. And I still remember 16 - everything seemed like the end of the world. It is a needed lesson that no matter how much things seem to suck, you are still there and need to go on.

So model moving on and finding purpose after everything seems doomed. Is there a third book? You can end a middle book in a dark place, since a loyal reader is waiting for the third. Your character can organize a new reason (revenge, new GF, defeating the enemy in a novel and unexpected way, making amends - whatever) but the third would need to end a little better. Look at the last Hunger Games movie (spoiler alert: it's pretty bleak, but so is war). The lesson is there is always something more to lose and always something to live on for.

Good luck.

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It's never "too depressing." However, it might hit differently depending on the reader

Some readers, like me, like the happy ever after endings. Other people might prefer more tragic endings. Some people love them, some hate them.

It is not too depressing. There is no "too depressing" in the world of writing. Happy endings leave most readers feeling content. You feel a warm, happy glow surround you as you close the book. Sad endings, on the other hand, haunt us. They may even keep us awake long into the night – filled with rage, desperation, or frustration.*

So, if that's the feeling you're looking for, you are probably on the right track. There are many sad middle school books, and some of them go on to become bestsellers. Books like the Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson ended with a sad, but beautiful ending.

*https://www.autocrit.com/blog/sad-ending-might-good-book/

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I once read a scifi series written for late elementry to early middle school where a teenage character describes having one of her arms amputated, picking it up, and beating some enemy mooks upside the head with the severed limb (Animorphs, and the nature of the series' rules was such that the characters could recover non-genetic damage to their bodies, so long as they did not die.). So... um... no... not too depressing. Generally, parents are so happy their kids are reading books instead of playing violent video games that they don't complain all that much about violence. It helps that while descriptive, books are not graphically violent, and the reader can adjust his/her mental picture of the events to their own tolerance level. A good read of the Harry Potter series will also show a quite dark start given that the whole series was designed to age with the reader during the original release schedule. The first book is quite dark for an 11 year old and the series takes a much darker turn as the series progresses. And personally, I still consider the second book to be one of the overall darkest of the franchise just for how much it ramped up the darkness from Book One. In fact, the infamous pre-release information from the author that someone will die in the book really didn't start until book 4 or 5.

I will say that from the sample you gave me, my first aid dread senses are tingling as a stab wound to the gut is kind of a serious matter that bandages alone aren't going to help. Bleeding through a bandage means you don't have enough bandage and/or pressure applied, which means you're bleeding out... and stabbings cover a wide area and are usually deep... meaning lots of blood loss. To say nothing of the fact that stabbing anywhere on the torso (gut, chest, back) is not good because it's likely to cut into these goopy things we call vital organs, which are... you know... vital...

I'll admit that I'm not sure how recent the wound is, but if its not treated by a medical professional, he's not going to be rationally thinking and his friends won't be behaving as calmly as described... if he is in a hospital, they're is no way doctor would let in his friends while he's in such a state. And as you said this is fantasy so there might be magic in play to mitigate the serious nature of the wound in play... I don't know. But for me and my back ground, this scene is a little too casual for the nature of the injury and there isn't a sense of urgency or concern that it should be given (Not necessarily from him... he's suicidal as you described, but the friends still want him to live and will be fighting for that.). In effect, it's not dark enough for me... because your focusing on the regret and not the imminent death of the character.

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    Actually the wound was quite old, and treated properly about a week and a half earlier in the story. I agree he should not have been fighting, his friends told him not to, but he secretly went anyway because he felt he had lost too much and fought too hard to give up now and let his gf die. – Hello.There Dec 16 '20 at 17:03
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Before anything, take my words purely as advice. I'm not trying to criticize your writing or anything.

Now, I don't know the exact context and the relationship the main character(MC), Emma, and Camryn, and others had... but...

Firstly, though I have no idea what it's like to be in Camryn's shoes, her sentence 'I forgive you,' seems a bit too sudden. There's not enough time for MC to breathe and think and see his faults. If possible, stall the conversation between MC and Camryn for a little while and build emotions before you say that 'forgiving' statment. But if you think Camryn forgiving him right away is a must, then please do proceed. I just gave you my opinion, but in the end, it's your novel, so your belief in it matters before mine or anyone else's.

Secondly, you should avoid using the words 'really,' 'in fact,' especially because you're writing in MC's POV. Otherwise, it feels like you're forcibly making the readers believe in MC's feelings, which you don't want to do.

Thirdly, if you want to write in Deep POV to have a much greater impact on readers, then avoid words like 'felt,' or 'knew,' etc.

Fourthly, you said 'his friends gathered around him' in the first paragraph, yet you said that 'his friends voices sounded far away' in the second paragraph. Were you trying to say that because he was dizzy, his friends voice sounded like they were coming from far even though they were standing not far from him? I believe that you should be more clear with this.

Fifthly, you said 'he felt warm and wet in the gut' in the last paragraph. I suggest that you change this phrasing because it can lead some readers into thinking he felt better, though the preceding and succeeding sentences speak differently. Also, MC can't go from dejection/depression to feeling warmth in their stomach in the span of just a couple of paragraphs. So use different phrasing instead of 'warm and wet.'

Sixthly, as for being depressive, there’s no limit for that since you’re at the end of your novel. It’s all up to you.

Last but not least, I briefly edited your passages, and you can see how it flows:

I awoke and found myself propped against a wall. The searing stab wound in my gut had missed the perfect spot, or I would probably be cold as a corpse now. As the pain in my head split my mind into million pieces, some feet fenced around me. I looked up, and there stood my friends with expressions I didn't deserve to see. No words came out of mouth as I suddenly remembered the cold truth that Emma was dead.

Pain painted my face with ugliness. My head tilted down in regret. Tears rushed into my eyes, and I couldn't stop. I wept into my hands, horrible sobs racking my chest as Emma's memories kept playing in my heart, proving my (current?) pathetic self wrong again and again. Why am I still alive? The knife shouldn't have missed the perfect spot. I don't deserve this life you're not part of.

Still, my friends' gazes kept touching me gentler than the wind. I wanted to raise my head, but the pain in my neck, or maybe my heart, didn't let me. Blood still kept flowing out through my bandages, weakening me with every second. I struggled to take a long, slow, raspy breath to steady my vision before lifting my head with a great effort. I had to.

My eyes met with Camryn, who was looking back at me straight in the eyes. ”I forgive you,” she said, her voice neither light nor heavy. (I didn't change this sentence's core meaning because I don't know the relationship between MC and Camryn.)

My breath shook. I had completely forgotten that I’d put her through the exact same thing, yet she had the heart to forgive a fool like me. I wanted to bawl my heart out, but all my strength was leaving me. I grew too weak to even cry for my wrongdoings. But maybe I deserved this pain, flooding in my gut, in my heart, and in my throat. All of it.

"I’d deserved for Emma to die." I didn't get what this last sentence exactly meant, so I left it.

In the end, I hope this example will help you at least a little. Cheers, and good luck for your novel.

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  • “I’d deserved for Emma to die.” Obviously, I couldn’t explain the entire story, but the line, “I’d put her through the exact same thing.” Was referring to the end of the first book where Camryn’s brother died. His death was related to the fact that he’d been a spy, and he feels like he’d deserved for Emma to die because he’d gotten thousands of people killed, including Camryn’s brother. – Hello.There Dec 18 '20 at 4:46
  • Camryn immediately forgave him because A: she’s grown very close to this person before she knew he was a spy. B: She saw him as herself when her brother died. C: she forgave all of the earth elves (the slaves/soldiers of the antagonist who are also forced into helping the antagonist) so if she didn’t forgive everyone that had been put in that situation that wouldn’t make sense. D: it’s been a few months since her brothers death, and over the course of the second book she’s gotten over it. – Hello.There Dec 18 '20 at 4:50

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