Hello all! This is a small series that I’ve been doing over the past couple of months – you can check out the first instalment of mental health tropes and how to avoid them here (I talk about the trope of the curative power of love). Today I’m going to be tackling another trope that I really don’t like:
- The book has to end with the character being ‘cured’
Now, I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with recovery narratives – sometimes they can be really inspiring. They can show that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and that recovery is possible. What I don’t like is the idea that mental health narratives absolutely have to end in recovery. Because to me, that’s just not realistic, and it kind-of invalidates the idea that mental health is a journey, with ups and downs that sometimes just can’t be predicted.
This is one of the reasons why I like memoirs so much. Because the story isn’t over yet, and often the writer talks about their ongoing struggles with mental health. Some of my favourite mental health memoirs include:
In Mad Girl in particular, Bryony Gordon talks about her struggles with mental health whilst she was writing the book, which I thought was a really great.
Some tips for writers looking to write realistic mental health include:
- If it is a recovery narrative, it is perhaps an idea to have little blips here and there throughout the story. I personally have never met someone who has a mental illness and just gets better without encountering dips in their mental health whilst they’re recovering.
- Recovery isn’t easy. In Follow Me Back by A.V. Geiger the main character just suddenly stops being agoraphobic through no effort on her part – it just happens. (Needless to say, I did not enjoy this book.) For most people, recovery is extremely difficult. A lot of therapy involves re-wiring your thought patterns and beliefs about the world. It’s a lot more than just ‘cheer up’ or ‘go outside’.
What do you think about this trope? Are there any others that you’d like to see me discuss? Let me know!