I heard part of an interview with Paul Simon on the radio today. I had to get out of the car to pump my gas/petrol just when it was getting interesting, but when I got back in he said this, and I really liked it:
“I’d rather take the dark subject and touch on it and then say something funny or, you know, back away from it. When you really get into tender areas in people’s lives, you don’t have to, you know, put a stick in it. You just – if you just touch it gently, it hurts enough. And then you move away and – just to indicate that you have some compassion for how tough it is for just about everybody to make it through this life.”
(You can read the whole interview here.)
He was talking about how he approaches sad events or tragedy in his songs. I think it’s a perfect rule of thumb for any writing – no reader wants to be made miserable (Cormac McCarthy, I’m looking at you). I’d much rather tell a story and let people find the little points of parallel for themselves.