Painful Stories

Everyone loves a happy ending. We want stories that are neat and tidy. All loose ends are tied up, and the heroes/heroines are the winners. But sometimes the best and most unique stories are the painful ones. These stories don’t need happy endings but they should still have some sense of closure.

Painful stories can be stories about trauma or any part of the human condition. Can you talk about cancer, surgery, losing everything in a natural disaster, failed relationships, losing someone loved? How does your character get through this? How do they grow from the beginning of the story until the end? It might only be a slice of life that reflects a moment in your character’s life but it can have significant impact.


Memoirs tend to tell people’s own painful stories. Even those of us who get to live in relative comfort compared to others can learn from painful stories. They may have their own painful story to tell, too. It requires deep introspection and is not something that comes easily.

This doesn’t mean that painful stories can’t have happy endings. But what does a happy ending look like? Perfection might work for some fairy tales, but a happy ending can be simple or even temporary as well. Real life can gain some hope from these stories. We can see how others have survived and how they’ve grown.

Painful stories show the many different ways that our wounds heal. Scars are inevitable. Most of us have scars, whether physical or spiritual. These scars don’t necessarily define us or show how the pain that caused them made us stronger in the end. But they do make a difference in our lives and influence our growth as people. These stories are important to tell.


The following articles share book lists about memoirs and other painful stories that you can read to get a better understanding of how to write your own fictional or real-life painful story.

Note: I write this post while recovering from major surgery. Pain can be hard to bear but sometimes we need to go through certain things in order to survive. Other types of pain should have never been inflicted on us but we can find a way to continue living, perhaps finding our own best lives out of the rubble.