138 – Light Stories

The Mythcreant Podcast
Sometimes it feels like we’re up to our ears in dark and gritty reboots, but what about lighter stories? It turns out they’re not just for kids, and we’ve invited Ariel back to talk about them. We discuss why light stories can attract a wider audience than darker stories, how to make a story light while keeping it engaging, and the times when even light stories can get too dark. Plus, a conversation about the hilarity of reanimated corpses.

Download Episode 138 Subscription Feed 

Have a question or comment for our hosts? Send it to [email protected]

Opening and closing theme: The Princess Who Saved Herself by Jonathan Coulton. Used with permission.

Show Notes:

Japanese light novel



Golden Compass

Kiki’s Delivery Service

Pushing Daisies

They’re Made Out of Meat

Hire Ariel to copyedit your story!

P.S. Our bills are paid by our wonderful patrons. Could you chip in?



  1. ejdalise

    I’m eager to listen to this episode and will return after I do, but do they sell?

    Does anyone buy light stories? I ask because I seldom see them (yes, that’s a pun) and — in fact — I can’t remember the last time I read one.

    . . . of course, it could also be I’m going senile and hence the not remembering . . .

    • Oren Ashkenazi

      While I don’t have a statistical database of light stories vs dark stories, anecdotally, I can point you to a few light stories that have been very successful. Discworld comes to mind, as does My Little Pony: Freindship is Magic. Avatar the Last Airbender, the Dinotopia books.

      Right now Hollywood doesn’t think much of light stories, but we all know how good Hollywood is at knowing what we like. Heck, the Marvel movies are known for being lighter than many of their superhero rivals, and they are an unstoppable juggernaut.

    • ejdalise

      I listened to the podcast and I’m not sure I agree with a few of the examples. A few I’m not familiar with and will look them up.

      I certainly don’t agree about the Golden Compass, not for the first book and definitely not for subsequent books. (yes, I like words ending in -ly)

      I’ll have to give Discworld series another go, but I know I tried reading it before and quickly lost interest.

      I was surprised no one mentioned Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe six books trilogy. I think the Dirk Gently series somewhat qualifies.

      Is it because it’s not deemed relevant by modern readers? For that matter, and here I date myself, something like the Flying Wizards by L. Niven. I don’t see things along that vein either in short stories or longer books. Perhaps I’m missing them, but if they are out there, they’re not coming under my radar.

      If we’re talking movies, Galaxy Quest and Big Trouble in Little China would be two quick examples. The mention of Marvel movies is interesting because it goes to the classification of light. I call those action movies and while somewhat enjoyable, in their case light refers more to plot than being a thematic description.

      That then brings up the question of the role of humor. I suppose that’s a prerequisite because any drama — regardless of eventual outcome — brings a measure of discomfort to the reader/viewer.

      In that case, I think I know why there are few light books and movies . . . it’s difficult to execute smart and funny. Movies can default to slapstick and general stupidity as a substitute for clever and funny, but books have a tougher time executing the lowest common denominator of today’s visual comedies.

      Anyway, interesting discussion.

      • ejdalise

        Quick question . . . would you classify Jim Butcher’s Dresden Series as “light”?

        I ask because I would. In Dresden’s stories, things *mostly* work out even if not exactly how we might want. There is tension, there are high stakes, and the resolutions have consequences, and it’s all told with a light tone that allows interest and suspense to build without beating down one’s soul . . . you know, if one had a soul and if it could be beaten down. I think it’s a figure of speech, but being soulless, I’m not exactly sure if I’m using it correctly.

        Regardless, Dresden . . . light or dark?

      • Oren Ashkenazi

        Over all I’d say Dresden is on the darker side, but not super dark. It’s got a lot of brutal murders described to make them seem brutal, and there are enough permanent consequences for characters, not to mention character death, to make it darker.

      • ejdalise

        That’s a fairly narrow definition of dark.

        With the exception of one character I can think of, we don’t see characters with multi-books arcs die in the Dresden universe. Within individual stories, we might see situational characters die (often, there’s a murder that has to be solved), but if the metric is character death, Lopan getting a big ole knife embedded in his forehead rates Big Trouble in Little China as dark, and that’s not even mentioning all the minions who die. One even inflates and pops like a balloon.

        The question of light and dark for me goes more to the anguish I’m made to feel as a reader.

        The Incredibles is a comedy, but guards are killed with impunity. The audience has no emotional connection to them. It would be different if a guard is killed and a little kid runs up to the body yelling “daddy, daddy!”

        I guess I look more at the emotional impact of the events as far as light and dark.

        Thanks for the response.

        • Chris Winkle

          We actually have a more complex definition of dark here: https://mythcreants.com/blog/how-to-talk-about-dark-stories/

          I believe Oren was referring to how explicit Dresden was, but I suspect it would rank at least moderate on several other scales listed in the post.

        • ejdalise

          Weird that I have to enter my name for each reply . . .

          Anyway, that is a comprehensive list.

          Of that list, I actively avoid all but Gritty. By the way, Watchmen was frustrating for one reason: Rorschach’s demise. That didn’t make any sense within the confines of the world and plot, but I won’t get onto that soapbox right now.

          As for the rest of the descriptors, most deal with emotions, hence why it’s suggested (good idea) one asks before recommending particular works.

          But that, again, is my point: emotions are where I hang my hat, and that will vary with the individual.

          “Hitman” to me is not dark despite the body count. “Up!” to me is dark because of the opening chapter.

          Thanks again, and no need to reply . . . unless one wants to debate why Rorschach’s demise ruins that film (along with Ozymandias’s plan).

  2. Quinte

    I think a simple reason why dark stories are appreciated over lighter stories is that dark stories tend to be more memorable than light stories because they draw on more emotions, plus I know for me at least that also is how I estimate a stories quality.
    As a side note, as someone who reads stories that are marketed as dark only for them to turn out to be light (because the author doesn’t have the stomach for real consequences) I have little patience for light stories (except discworld which is awesome).

  3. Tifa

    I like this podcast very much, as I often prefer light stories over dark stories [the Claymore manga, Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle manga, the Digimon Tamers anime, and the Sandman series notwithstanding].
    It’s proved especially helpful in trying to organize the massive mess that are my books, since I’ve got a better sense of what I want my stories to be about. If only I knew about this site six years ago…

    The ‘dark = good’ nonsense seems to be popping up more and more lately.

    Anyway, here’s my counterpoint: Discworld = 100% awesome.

  4. Bellis

    I think an interesting aspect to consider for how a story makes someone feel is payoff and a satisfying resolution. That alone won’t make a story’s tone, but it can definitely add something to it. It is also a good reason to include some conflict (in the literary sense, not necessarily a fight) even in the fluffiest of stories, because achieving a goal or overcoming a hurdle makes the reader feel elated. Just reading about someone’s perfect life won’t usually do that, even though it can be pleasant.

    I guess the more intense the unpleasant feelings or suspense are, the higher the payoff can be – but isn’t automatically! Especially in stories with unhappy or tragic endings, but even if the villain is slain, a lot of “edgy” stories just leave me feeling miserable and angry at the writer.

    What I personally hate about the trend of everything in media (and real life) being gritty and edgy is that it all too often comes with harmful messages about morality and human nature. It’s not clever or realistic to depict human nature as inherently immoral and morality as unrealistic.
    Granted, a story could be very gritty, explicit, suspenseful and all that while upholding some kind of moral values, but that seems to be rare. Maybe because it’s harder to do?

    I used to think that I hate media that is edgy, gritty, gloomy or even the ones that are described as “realistic” (which I would argue against), but the more I analyse it, what I really hate is glorifying or normalising harmful behaviour, especially oppression or abuse. And that’s not in the definitions of any of these words and shouldn’t be inherent in these types of stories. It’s also definitely not absent from fluffy, feel-good or even children’s media…

    I think the message a story sends about values and morality and what kind of behaviour is depicted as necessary, useful or justified play a huge impact in the tone and how it makes the audience feel. Maybe more writers should consider this alsongside more superficial trappings like humour and novelty versus explicitness and gloom.

    Another thing more writers could stand to consider is that in gritty stories, your audience will include people who have gone through the gritty thing you’re depicting. Try to make the story enjoyable for those people too, or else you send the message that you don’t value them, no matter what you’re /trying/ to say. A common example of this would be an anti-oppression story that depicts oppression in such a way that it will be too painful for anyone from that demographic to read.

Leave a Comment

Please see our comments policy (updated 03/28/20) and our privacy policy for details on how we moderate comments and who receives your information.

Follow Us


Support Us

We depend on our readers to keep running. Become a patron or learn more.