I think of myself as a positive, optimistic person. It is something forged in me by dark times I’ve been through. I’ve learned to focus on the good aspects of a situation, although I still take the negatives into account. Lately, I’ve made “positive pragmatism” my mantra. So, how (and why) do I go about writing stories full of darkness and horror? In short: it’s complicated. 🙂
In my latest short fiction, the protagonist kills innocents (although he believes them evil). When I created the outline for the story in my mind, I felt sadness for those destroyed. I know they are fictional beings, but writing something of this nature doesn’t necessarily bring about “good” emotions for my readers or myself. My goal in writing is to entertain and uplift people. I want them to love life and have my words play a part in that, no matter how small. So I ask myself: Does this type of dark help or harm peoples’ lives?
I think the answer lies in the nature of human existence. We experience an entire spectrum of emotions, both those considered positive (love, happiness, satisfaction) and negative (hate, anger, envy). If a story is all positive, it isn’t interesting. We have to have conflict, deception, destruction, lies, etc., to make it interesting, because that is how we experience everyday life (albeit usually on a smaller scale). We want our heroes to overcome their problems. It gives us hope we too can reach a goal or win against our enemies (even if they are just the drivers around us in the morning commute). Dark stories, and the conflicts contained in them, give us insight, both into ourselves, and the worlds around us. Even when the bad guy wins in fiction, there is correlation in our everyday lives.
Maybe this is just a way that I justify exploring the darker side of my human consciousness, but I think these kinds of stories have a place in our society. They definitely aren’t for everyone, as it might push some deeper into depression or towards destructive behaviors. But for most, I think there is much to be learned and gained from exploring darkness. There is no light without darkness, after all.
To jump back a bit, one thing I’ve been very interested in exploring with the Entho-la-ah-mines in the Dawn Saga (and the character Cazz-ak-tak specifically) is the “positive” to “negative” emotional spectrum. I think there are times when just about any emotion portrayed as negative can be used in a positive way. Even hate can fuel positive change when used appropriately (and not for long, or in large doses).
At any rate, hiding from your darker side or ignoring the fact it exists is a dangerous path. I don’t necessary embrace mine, but I think exploring it—taking it out into the light—is a healthy habit.
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