Monday, May 2, 2011

Writing in the shadows

"Your Grandma is worried about you," Mom said.


"Well, she read "The Speaking Bone," and it really disturbed her. She just wanted to be sure you were okay."

It's not the first time someone in my family has expressed concern over what I write. Or had pieces that I thought were maybe a hair on the dark or weird side be described as disturbing, or as horror. And I get that my authorial intent stops being important the moment I give the story to someone else.

"I'm fine. Tell Grandma thanks, and I'm sorry I worried her."

"Why do you write stuff like that, anyway?"

Why do I write stuff like that, anyway? Well, for the most part, because that's the kind of story I like. I go through occasional binges on romance novels - witty banter, hot sex, and a guaranteed happy ending is my literary recipe for stress relief. (I'll even skip the hot sex if the banter is hot too, as well as very witty, which is probably more personal of a revelation than I mean it to be, but we can have that discussion another time.)


My point is, I don't generally read for the happy ending, and I don't write for it, either. I like to write about the moments when something strange happens. My favorite kind of character is someone who is interestingly broken, and who wants to put herself and her life back together. My literary kinks require bad things to happen in my writing. My purpose in writing isn't to give my grandmother nightmares, but it also isn't to hand out a fuzzy blanket and a cup of tea with each story.

I want what I've written to stick in your head. And if it lives in the shadows and the dark places, well, I'm fine with that. Even darkness needs a home. Even shadows tell a story.


  1. I relate to this post so much. I recently wrote a story that was rather dark -- and it had one really disturbing scene (which was difficult to write, but necessary to the story).

    I know it will eek people out. But that's kind of the point. And it's not like you choose to write something that will scare your grandma (like you said). I like that your stories are the kind that stick with you. They're thoughtful and thought-provoking. I don't read for kittens and rainbows, either. I read (and write) so that there's an impact.

    I really good example of this is also King's FULL DARK, NO STARS. I'm only part of the way through, but it's dark and compelling. And disturbing. It holds my attention quite well.

    Great post.

  2. It took me a long time to get over the "talking about [dark thing] is bad, if you do so you are depressed and unhealthy" teachings of my childhood. I am inescapably drawn to emotional extremes and fascinated by what happens when you put the human soul under intense pressure. It's often horrible, but equally often it is beautiful and amazing.

    I truly believe that shadows show us where the light comes from...