Tolstoy tells us happy families are all alike. Raymond Chandler’s prescription for a good story includes a man with a gun. And writing teachers everywhere will tell you that conflict is the essential ingredient of plot.
But does that mean good writing has to be depressing and difficult?
Literature shelves are predictably packed with dysfunctional families, suicides, murders and anxiety. But surely it doesn’t have to be that way. Where’s the laughter, the levity and the light side of life in the pages of our books?
Celebrations of beloved books and characters are often dominated by the doomed Anna Karenina, cursed Cathy and Heathcliff, and other characters who seriously suffer. But we should equally celebrate unlikely romantic hero Don Tillman, unlucky (but laugh-a-minute) Candide, and other fictional characters who you don’t need to recover from after reading.
Chris Flynn is author of the novels The Glass Kingdom and A Tiger in Eden. His writing has appeared in Griffith Review, Meanjin, Paris Review Daily, Monster Children, Smith Journal, Silent History, Age, Australian, Big Issue and many other publications.
Toni Jordan's debut novel, Addition, was shortlisted for the Barbara Jefferis Award and longlisted for the Miles Franklin in 2009, and has been published in sixteen countries. Her second novel, Fall Girl, was published in 2010 and her latest, Nine Days, in 2012.
Shane Maloney is one of Australia’s most popular novelists. His award-winning and much loved Murray Whelan series — Stiff, The Brush-Off, Nice Try, The Big Ask, Something Fishy and Sucked In — is characterised by a strong sense of humour and an acute sense of Melbourne’s political and cultural nuances.