Writing Fiction: Mean-Spiritedness

I think we all know that schadenfreude means joy at another’s pain, but I wonder if the Germans have a word for pain at another’s joy. (Apparently they don’t have a word for kindness.  Sometimes I wonder if they do this on purpose.)

It’s a little like jealousy-plus.  I remember going to an information day about finding an agent.  One of the speakers was a published author who talked about how she’d just bagged up her first novel with brown paper and string, bunged it in the post and two days later had a phone call from an agent asking to represent her.  We all wanted to kill her.  Or was it just me?

I’d love to be one of those open-hearted people who is happy at the good fortune of others.  It is something that my friends and family seem to achieve.  And, to be fair, usually I genuinely am pleased.  I think it’s just different when it’s something that I want to do.  Occasionally I cannot read the Guardian review for all those people getting published, and will switch off interviews with authors on Radio 3.

It passes.  Most often they are saying useful things.  Looking into Buddhism, one of the things that has become apparent to me is the sheer number of unexpected people who have their own suffering.  And – when I’m listening to yet another author talking about their great success – it is of some comfort.

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