L. G. C. Smith
Regret can be sharp and assailing, the unexpected splinter-stab on the see-saw, or the bite of the not-quite-cleared hurdle. But all too often it’s kind of a wishy-washy emotion. In real life regret more often inspires melancholy than anything dramatic or useful. It has to be pretty ramped up to spur decisive change. As such, it’s not the heaviest hitter in the novelist’s selection of emotional sledgehammers.
Remorse is better. Throw a dose of anguish onto a garden-variety regret, and you’ve got something to write about. Paralyzing guilt is a golden oldie. Festering bitterness over past slights can start with regret over not standing up for oneself, or something equally mundane, and is far more interesting than mere regret.
Regret is just too mild to be a power player all by itself. Everybody has regrets. Everybody knows they’re futile, so most people move past them as quickly as they can. That’s the healthy thing to do. Those unable to move along wallow in vague dissatisfaction as they shuffle from mistake to mistake. Good fiction demands more.