Writing Focus: Tragedy

Tragedy is a highly misunderstood genre. Many believe that for your story to qualify as a tragedy, it simply needs to be sad. However, there are some key elements to writing a novel so that it can be labelled a tragedy. This week's Writing Focus is shedding a light on what the requirements for this genre are!

What Is Tragedy Writing?

Tragedy writing, or writing that would qualify as a tragedy, revolves around one main aspect: the flawed character that is brought to disgrace by the aforementioned flaws. In tragedy writing, this flaw is known as the character's hamartia. This can mean anything, from greed to lust. A perfect example of a tragedy is Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare. Antony is a wonderful flawed character: his blind love for Cleopatra eventually causes his untimely death. Since his flaw was the main object that brought him from grace to the ground, Antony is a flawed character and his story is one of tragedy.


It is always a good idea to map out the main flaws of your character before you begin, and discern how these flaws are the key to bringing about the character's fall from grace. Without this key element, your story may not fit under the tragedy genre. Doing so gives you something to refer back to when documenting the destruction of the character's world. Having the reasons for the downfall sitting in front of you can always be reassuring, especially when the dreaded writer's block plays a visit!

Although tragedy writing focuses on the flaws of the character, remember to be balanced and include some virtues! No person is without their good side, so showcasing both of these will allow you character to become more rounded and the audience will find themselves connecting more; this makes the downfall even more heartbreaking to the readers.


Looking to delve into the world of tragedy writing? Check out these prompts designed to get those creative juices flowing!

  1. Your character is a successful businessman, but they are also exceptionally greedy. Throughout the duration of your story, document their fall from grace due to this excessive greed.
  2. An extreme trusting of others is your character's flaw. Using whatever methods you like, write about how this seemingly harmless flaw causes untold damage to the character.

Although tragedy is a widely misrepresented genre, it can be incredibly fulfilling to write one well! Why not give it a go yourself?

Special thanks to silent hearts., elixir and Fandango for editing!

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