Can it be deep but not somber?

Today I read this installment of the “Why’s this so good?” series on the Nieman Storyboard site.  This post, written by Joanna Kaskissis, discussed Michael Paterniti’s account of the 2010 Haitian earthquake and how the author’s use of language made the story compelling.  It was a sad story, written with the depth born of insightful reporting.  But I’ve been thinking lately – must a moving story always be sad?  Paterniti wrote:

The wandering survivors, too, were caked and stunned. To pass one was to see your own reflection, some strange mix of horror and elation. Two houses in a row might have been leveled while a third might have remained untouched, the line between life and death a couple of feet.

Sad, horrifying, and brilliantly written.  Is there a parallel in writing about a day of joy?  This is a corollary of the thought I had about crime writing – crime is compelling.  So are natural disasters.  Is finding a happy story and telling it well a greater challenge than writing about something inherently sad or shocking?

Now that I’ve FINALLY gotten all the “commercial” articles done that I have had hanging over my head for two months or more, I can fully turn my attention to school.  And now I’m not sure quite where to start.  When I sat down and just let my fingers fly, I slid right into that somber tone.  It’s so easy.  But if I write about people, for example, whose lives are enhanced by religion, shouldn’t there be more joy than sadness?

I think I’m just thinking aloud here, but I wonder if I can sit down today and write several pages that are just about happiness.  I’m meeting with more Mormons this afternoon and maybe I’ll plan to write something literary based on my interview with them as soon as I get home.  I’ll see if I can “write happy.”

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