And for this reason:
So I was talking to amireal a few seconds ago about something that hit me while wandering around outside, thinking, God I love this story (will have your babies Kass! Really! Call me!) and then stopped short and considered the set-up and thought, wait. I hate this kind of story.
Very general spoilers somewhere under cut.
In English II, a special dark hell of objective analysis of an emotional medium (parts of a story, are you *kidding me*?), there were the seven points of analysis; setting, characters, language, theme, something here God knows what (structure maybe?), resolution, and tone. We started with theme (man against man, man against nature, man against himself (always wondered about nature against nature, but whatever), went to language, resolution, etc etc etc (I am be massacring baby lit analysis, but seriously, I retained zero from that class in self defense after having to do A Rose for Emily and wanting to kill myself after and changed my major). I hated it all. I hated it. It made no sense in any intuitive way, it asked me to do something that, at the time, seemed senseless, and it also made me read about a freaking crane and a little girl and kind of wishing for some kind of tornado to hit the building.
Suffice to say, I said never again, glanced at political science, noticed it did not ask me to explain the significance of setting and said, yay. (How ironic I'm doing computer science now.)
Didn't hate tone, though. That one I got.
As explained to me by the very nice lecturer, I never got it. Writing the paper, I did. Tone asked a question that, to me, only the reader could fully answer, and I could only answer the question thus: how did this make you feel?
Actually, that's completely wrong, but I got an A anyway because I could defend what I read by a lot of quoting. I'm pretty sure the objective criteria is a lot stricter than that, because a reader, as a rule, can't pick up the psychic vibes of the writer.
You're so sorry you started reading this, aren't you?
I read for five things in a literary sense, and in this order: tone, tone, tone, characterization, tone. The rest I tend to blow off. And characterization is subjective, flexible, and depends on mood to what I like. Tone is kind of strict. I know bleak when I read ten words in and no matter what, no matter how, I know the story will break my heart. Bleak can be mundane, angsty, dramatic, or death. Doesn't matter. You know bleak by the twisted second you stop denying it (for me, ten pages in, staring in horror going, oh my God, why did I keep reading? I KNEW IT THE FIRST SENTENCE).
Tone, bleak, taking anything (mundane, angst, drama) and edging it with pain, hopelessness, fear, a feeling of settling for something far less than desired, and a feeling that it will never get better and no one will ever find peace, much less happiness.
Case in point, Battlestar Galactica, who seriously shock me every time they succeed at anything, because I am totally braced for universe ending even when it's happy. Bleak.
(A weird, sideline curiosity of mine has always been to give five writers of varying skill, tone, and style the same basic story and see what they write. As an exercise in how writers think--for that matter, how readers think--it would be deeply interesting, and eleveninches and I sort of tossed around that idea a bit, just to see how different the same story would be in two different styles.)
So I know bleak when I see it (and deny, but I am like that, all about denial), but I'm always vaguely surprised by the other side, which covers a larger area but I usually clump together with the concept of hope.
Tone, hopeful, taking anything (mundane, angst, drama) and edging it with pain, hopelessness, fear, a feeling of settling for something far less than desired, and a feeling that it will never get--wait. That's where I stop, because that's where they change.
It's a faint ray of something better, maybe not strong at first, but slowly building through, where you're reading faster, looking for the edges of light no matter how many times the Genii have been cutting off body parts, you know they'll get through this dammit, somehow, somehow, come on come on come on, do it.
Case in point: Firefly, which I never believed the end of the day would not be saved, somehow, no matter how many losses or how much sacrifice and death adn shooting bad guys. Just--it would work out. Dammit.
Hopeful. Bad now, will get better later, something goes wrong, they will find a way to fix it. Settling is when they've given up, and you know, know, that somehow, they won't.
The set up of two individuals somewhere they hate not doing what they love and very bitter is somehow completely and utterly the perfect start for that feeling, that edge of but this will change. How we don't know (yet) or why (no clue), but that feeling is there from the first paragraph, the second my brain clicked over and settled in and got very grumpy when lunch ended and I had to go back to work, because--oh. Oh. Not giving up. Something is happening. Change, the kind of change that's sneaking in from underneath, making me read a little faster, a little sharper, get incrementally more excited as I watch the characters start to awaken and think and feel and it's just--something is coming. All through. Wait for it. You'll be surprised. Just keep reading.
I really, really hate work today. I want to finish this.
One day, I am going to make sense when I do this, I swear to God.