Writing for Building Up (or, I’m Tired of Depressing Stories)


Recently I finished reading the Divergent series. And while they are entertaining, popular books, I have a big problem with them and with a lot of the books circulating today in general that I just realized was a problem.

I’ve never really liked books that left me feeling depressed and drained, but I didn’t think it was a big deal. I’m slowly realizing, however, that what I read has a huge effect on me and that I need to be more careful that the stories I choose feed my soul instead of eating it away.

What is the Purpose of Writing?

This thought process was sparked by a pair of posts K.M. Weiland wrote a few weeks ago entitled 5 Reasons Writing is Important to the World (her reasons) and 15 (More) Reasons Writing is Important (reactions from people who read her first post).

They were beautiful posts, compiling many reasons why writing is important. Stories display truth, open our minds, teach us to hope. Stories reflect the meaning and purpose in life. They give us role models. Quality arts glorify God.

In a nutshell? The purpose of stories is for encouragement. They are to build up, to feed our minds with truth and beauty.

Writing is an art form, and it has incredible power.


Transforming a Powerful Art Form into Cheap Entertainment

In our secular world, unfortunately, many authors do not realize the power that they have or they are using it in the wrong way.

Almost every popular young adult novel or series I’ve read left me incredibly underwhelmed, depressed, or even disgusted. I’m going to avoid mentioning names as much as possible in this post because it really isn’t one particular author; it is the standards that have been set by the entire industry and, mainly, by the reading public.

Because books that feature whiny, sarcastic, tough-girl protagonists sell. Books that feature violence, death, and destruction sell. Books that feature a general atmosphere of hopelessness and darkness sell. Books that are empty of values or messages sell. These books are entertaining, and that is the problem.

Writing has been transformed from a powerful art form into cheap entertainment. Some books that I read have such underwhelming writing quality that it makes me frustrated.

And it isn’t just the YA genre either! Christian romance novels, while seemingly much more upbuilding, are often empty and low-quality. Because that kind of easy-to-read, cheap, feel-good novel is what sells. And the same could go for many other genres as well.

To clarify, I’m not saying that sad books are bad. I just finished reading The Scarlet Letter, which is not a particularly happy book. Yet, it had hope. It had redemption. It left me feeling emotionally full, not emotionally empty. It’s a slight distinction, but it makes all the difference. (Take A Tale of Two Cities. The Book Thief. etc. There are plenty of sad books that leave me feeling full rather than empty.)

Having High Standards

The title of my blog comes from Philippians 4:8.

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

As Christians, we are not only called to avoid the bad stuff, but to avoid the mediocre as well and actively seek out things that are commendable, lovely, excellent, worthy of praise. We are called to not only ask “What’s the harm?” but to ask “What’s the good?”

Let this be a challenge to all you readers out there to raise your standards for the books you read. Is it true and honorable and just, or does it present an offensive worldview in a positive light? Is it pure, or does it feature content that we should avoid? Is it lovely and commendable and excellent and worthy of praise, or is it dark and depressing or empty and mindless?

Let this be a challenge to all you writers out there to seek to write in this way. Does what you are writing present the truth about the world? Is it pure, a good witness to Christ? Is it excellent and lovely, or will it leave readers empty?

I don’t want to read any more empty and depressing books; I want to seek out books that leave me with hope for the world, that make the world seem more beautiful.

I want to seek out books that give my soul a generous helping of truth.


What do you think? Do you agree with me? Will you try to seek out more uplifting stories? If you have any recommendations, please let me know! I’ll probably be doing

love, grace


17 thoughts on “Writing for Building Up (or, I’m Tired of Depressing Stories)

  1. Harrison Zeiders says:

    Great post. I feel when I’m watching a show (not so much in movies) there is so so much negativity and cynicism. After finishing a post-apocalyptic show called Revolution I realized nothing went right, there was so much bad stuff going on. I now have begun watching better things (mostly movies now). Movies depend on a strict runtime that their priorities are tension, suspense, building character arcs and so on and it’s hard to find a really negative film save fore films that include gore and violence.


    • graceevalyn says:

      Yeah, everything I said definitely applies to shows and movies too! And I do think that since TV shows in general have more time to develop a message, there is much more potential for a bad message vs. a good one. But on the other hand, there also is potential for really good messages to be developed over a TV show, and I’d love to see more shows that took advantage of their time to create something truly beautiful.
      Good to hear from you! 🙂


  2. K.M. Weiland (@KMWeiland) says:

    This is so good! I’m just standing in the aisles cheering right now. I agree with this wholeheartedly. The world needs hope right now, not sugarcoating by any means, but an honest assessment of darkness and a guidance toward light. Great post!


    • graceevalyn says:

      I’m so glad you liked it! I admire you a lot and really love all the writing advice you give, so this basically made my day 🙂 Thanks for commenting!!


  3. Kumquat Absurdium says:

    Gatty’s Tale by Kevin Crossley-Holland (I think) is a beautiful book. It makes you laugh and cry and has its moments that are tough to read but it will fill you and uplift you and give you hope for the world 🙂 same with the Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson (also a favourite). Thank you for this post. I wasn’t sure what it was about YA but you’re right, much of it leaves you drained and tired. I guess we just have to help each other find good books and write ourselves the things we want but can’t find.


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