Is my story to dark?

Forums Fiction Themes Is my story to dark?

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  • #36357
    Sarah Narnathron
    @sarah-narnathron

    *has been traveling and only just got to this today*

    Your book is good. Write it.

    I basically agree with what the others have said— that there’s a place for darkness and stories that are hard to tell because of the sorrow they carry. And it sounds like you’re being smart about this; you know your target audience and you’re writing for them. And, honestly, I think we need more books that deal with the type of issues you say come up. Not all Christian fantasy is rainbows and unicorns and fluffy romance. (For evidence: Tales of Goldstone WoodThe Wingfeather Saga. The Ilyon ChroniclesPlenilune. The aforementioned Songkeeper Chronicles. Most of Bryan Davis’s books, although he can get a little preachy at times.) However, I will agree that a good bit of it is. And even the existing books cover a limited number of topics.

    So, yeah. Write your book. And if you want to send me scenes to get my opinion, or if you need a beta for the full book, just let me know. (Just, maybe not in the next week, because I’ll be on a semi-hiatus and might not respond very fast.)

    Welcome to the masquerade.

    #36363
    Sarah Inkdragon
    @sarah-inkdragon

    @aysia-serene

    Haha, I’ll probably give everyone at ST a discount when it gets published…. 😉

    @rachelle

    Ya, I don’t like getting bogged down either, so I’m really trying to make sure that doesn’t happen in this book. Thanks!

    @ethryndal

    So true… cynical is better than narcissistic though. XD

    "Come waste your time with me..."

    #36366
    Sarah Baran
    @ethryndal

    @Sarah-Inkdragon Yeaaah… and narcissistic is better than mean.

    All in all, we’re a truly wonderful, kind, friendly personality type. *chokes*

    INTJ ➸ https://thesarcasticelf.wordpress.com/

    #36381
    Sarah Inkdragon
    @sarah-inkdragon

    @ethryndal

    *cough* very friendly *cough* *choke*

    "Come waste your time with me..."

    #36384
    Sarah Inkdragon
    @sarah-inkdragon

    @sarah-narnathron

    Thank you! I really need to read some of the books you’ve listed…. My fiction reading has gone down lately. Haha, I don’t think it’ll be quite next week. I haven’t barely started the “official” 1st draft yet. It’s taken me over a year just to get to this point, with all the world-building, plotting, character developing, etc… so it may be a while. But I’ll keep your offer in mind when the day comes. 😉

    "Come waste your time with me..."

    #36396
    Sageinthemeadow
    @sageinthemeadow

    @sarah-inkdragon I think darkness is necessary in stories, to portray the reality of the world. Too often, ‘scary’ things are glossed over in (Christian) novels, and the story suffers for it. On the other hand, it’s easy to go overboard with the scary stuff, and be off-putting. But I think it is entirely achievable, (though challenging) to find a balance. (Not giving too many of the gory details, for example.) Darkness can be a valuable tool, to show the vast distinction between good, and evil.

    https://sageinthemeadow.wordpress.com

    #36401
    Sarah Narnathron
    @sarah-narnathron

    @Sarah-inkdragon Yes, you should. And haha, got it. I wasn’t sure where you were in the process.

    Welcome to the masquerade.

    #36417
    Daeus Lamb
    @daeus-lamb

    @sarah-inkdragon I have complex thoughts on this subject which I will try to state as coherently as possible.

    First of all, in my opinion, there are two types of darkness.

    There is a darkness of content and there is a darkness of tone.

    In general, I think you can have a lot of dark content so long as you’re writing for an older audience, but I don’t think there is ever any excuse for a darkness of tone. If anyone thinks differently though, I’d certainly love to hear their opinions.

    Content is a simple concept. A village gets massacred, the villain has a mistress, starving parents in a besieged city eat their child to stay alive.

    Not all content is the same. For instance, I would argue that there is a good deal more room for violence in fiction than language or sensuality. There are also varying degrees in the emotional impact of dark content. Most likely, there is no content that could not be included in a story if done in bare minimum detail, and some can be handled in graphic detail.

    Tone is also easy to understand in general, but, at least personally, I don’t have it all figured out yet. Maybe someday someone will. For now, I’ll just share what I do know. Tone is closely related to voice. It’s the flavor your narrator or POV character has to their personality, way of describing things, and way of thinking. Here are some things that can create a dark tone. There are doubtless more.

    1. When evil is processed through the lens of a dark and/or meaningless worldview. This can be true even when only one POV character does this. For instance, the villain relishes killing and thinks of it as good because he believes might is the highest virtue. This is where it get’s tricky because, obviously, we need to deal with these types of worldviews so we want the reader to understand them, but understanding and emersion are not the same thing. Jesus became a human to understand our weaknesses, but though he was tempted to covet, lust, hate, etc and he understands these things, he did not give in to them. When the evil minds of evil characters are displayed with a brashness and proud confidence as if that thinking were normal, it goes beyond giving the reader an understanding of evil. We not only understand the attraction of evil, but the experience of relishing it. We have moved beyond sympathy for evil to empathy for evil. Even Christian authors can do this. I call to mind Wayne Thomas Batson’s Sword in the Stars. In that novel, there were two or three scenes that I am convinced delved too deeply into the villains highly twisted mind. (Disclaimer: I have not read WTB’s new and revised publication of Sword in the Stars which may be much better for all I know.) Keep in mind, I am not faulting WTB
    2. A lack of hope. Again, I have to pick on Sword in the Stars. Overall, most scenes are hopeful awesome scenes, but it’s mainly the last scene which ends on a dark, gory, depressing note. The last scene really sets the tone for a book in a lot of ways, and so the tone for the book ended up mildly depressing and dark for me even though the protagonist was awesome and there seemed to be cause to hope.
    3. A lack of humainty when people die. You see this a lot in certain fantasy novels. I’m thinking specifically of the inheritance cycle. There needs to be a tragedy to any death, especially the death of the unnamed populace whenever posible. At the same time, if one of your good characters needs to kill another human, don’t think that giving the human a few touching details will give humanity to the death scene. In some cases, that can just make the killing darker. Humanizing the victims is not the same as humanizing the death. I think humanizing death properly stems from understanding that man is made in God’s image and then keeping that in mind while you’re writing these scenes.
      Also, while I laud your attempt to write stories from a Christian worldview for a non-christian audience (I’m doing the same and probably always will), I do feel obligated to warn you of a potential stumbling block. I’ve had this very issue myself–while thankfully it’s never been major, it did pop up in the last book I wrote, so it’s a very real issue to me.

    The danger in writing for non-Christians from a Christian perspective is that sometimes we tend to raise thematic questions and then fail to answer them because we are trying too hard to write in a way that will seem natural to non-Christians. For instance, here’s a scenario I Christian writer might face.

    Joe wants to write to a non-Christian audience. He has read a lot of Christian fantasy and finds it much too cheesy, so he ditches the ever-so-poorly-done allegories he is used to and goes for a story that doesn’t really deal with salvation and all that. Now, as a Christian, the meaning of life is very, very important to Joe and he feels so sorry for unbelievers who don’t have any solid basis for meaning in life. Since he is writing to unbelievers, he wants to write about the theme of the meaning of life so hopefully those unbelievers will turn to God to find meaning in life. The problem is, Joe can’t answer his thematic question, because the meaning of life is ultimately tied up in the gospel, which is missing from his story. Not only is Joe not answering his thematic question, but (and here is the real danger), he may be leaving his readers with a secular morality. If you are not careful, when you don’t fill your thematic questions with real gospel empowered answers, you may accidentally fill the void with close substitutes. Like, “The meaning of life is to seek truth.” That’s almost true, but it isn’t. It’s ultimately secular — man focused.

    This is a form of darkness. Nothing is more dark than secularism. If your characters are fighting demons and trying to find sense in life and all they can come up with is that they need to love each other, act moral, keep hoping, and never give up, that would be as dark of a story as they get. Pitch black.

    There are three ways to overcome this problem:

    1. Don’t ask the thematic question in the first place. If your story can’t answer the questions of the meaning of life, the existence of God, the reason for suffering, etc, then 99% of the time it should not ask these questions in the first place. It is true that this will significantly reduce the depth of your novel, but it does not mean it will be meaningless. A lot of truly good juvenile fiction falls in this category.
    2. The other 1% of the time, you can bring up questions which you won’t answer, but you must make it *exceedingly* clear that you are not offering your readers any sort of answer and that your goal is merely to provoke them to look for answers themselves. This could be an effective type of fiction to write, but it would be very very tricky and I would generally not recommend trying it.
    3. You can answer your deep thematic questions! Yes, this is possible even if you are writing for a secular audience. Examples: Crime and Punishment and Cry The Beloved Country, both of which are powerful Christian stories (though I think C&P’s theology is a bit off) which are considered classics among even secular readers. I think  The Wingfeather Saga is another good example of this type of fiction, though I’m not sure how much it has been read by non-Christians.

    @Kate I’m tagging you because I’m guessing you have some thoughts on this.

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    #36418
    Daeus Lamb
    @daeus-lamb

    Also, building off that idea of dark tone vs dark content, when people say darkness is important for Christian fiction and it makes the light shine brighter, I believe they mean darkness of content. I am fairly convinced that darkness of tone actually impedes and dampens the light.

    I also feel I should mention that there are teens and adults who are sensitive to spiritual darkness just as there are some people who can’t handle seeing someone getting stabbed in the chest with a sword.

    For my part, I have always been very sensitive to spiritual darkness. This is not to say that it is wrong to have it in your story, but just be sensitive with it. I can hardly hear a story of some real person’s demon possession without losing an hour of sleep over it, though it really depends heavily on the level of details. When I was probably twelve, I read the only book by Frank Peretti I have ever read — The Door in the Dragon’s Throat. I was unsettled for a day or two after reading it and I honestly think the read had a negative rather than positive impact on me. This is not to say anything against Frank Peretti as I do not remember the book extremely well and I’ve heard that others really appreciate him. I am probably in the 95th-ish percentile for sensitivity to spiritual darkness, and it is okay to write stories that aren’t for everyone.

    Like I said though, just be aware and sensitive.

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    #36428
    Steward of the Pen
    @steward-of-the-pen

    @sarah-inkdragon

    First, I want to say that I agree wholeheartedly with Daeus.

    Second, I don’t think fantasy is good without a reasonable measure of darkness.

    I mean, who wants to read about a world where happy characters who pick flowers in golden meadows sail over rainbows on unicorns and ride off into the sunset?

    To me that’s more depressing. It’s too forced. Too fake. Too…too…fluffy. Like pink cotton candy.

    When God created the world, it was perfect. It was beautiful. Then we rebelled. And since then, we have lived in a broken world. And it’s becoming more and more broken every day.

    Darkness is growing. Evil is real. To make a world with little or none of it feels fake.

    However, there is one BIG problem with some dark stories. They omit one VERY important thing.

    Hope.

    Even though our world is broken, we have hope because God loves us and has paid the penalty so that we no longer have to live in darkness.

    In my opinion, fantasy that is not dark makes readers, and I think especially non-Christians, feel depressed because our world is dark and that world isn’t. Then they wish they could live in that world instead because it’s “better.”

    When a story is dark, but there’s hope for redemption, I find it encouraging because it reminds me that our dark world will one day be restored and be perfect again.

    So keep your story content dark, but be sure you portray evil as evil and shine through the darkness with a glimmer of hope. 🙂

     

    #36431
    Sarah Inkdragon
    @sarah-inkdragon

    @daeus-lamb

    Thanks so much for all the great advice! I totally agree with your two definitions of darkness: darkness of content and darkness of tone. I don’t really appreciate books that are dark with no sense of hope whatsoever. I see you mentioned The Door in the Dragon’s Throat–I’ve also read this book, but I came off with a bit of different opinion. Yes, the darkness in the book is unsettling. But not the book itself. To me, yes, some of it was a bit scary. But unlike some books I’ve read, the ending of it was very satisfying, hopeful, and good. The characters were faced with incredible odds and terrifying adversaries, and instead of trying to defeat them on their own, they looked to God for help and he answered them. That, in my opinion, was an amazing display of faith.

    But I also understand where you’re coming from. I don’t want my book to be unsettling. I want it to be scary in some parts, yes, but only to show the difference between the light and dark, good and evil. I don’t want it to become to strange or weird.

    As for writing to a secular audience and the dangers of doing so–unlike Joe, I’m not ditching allegory. This trilogy is allegory. There is one god, there is Jesus Christ, there is the Holy Spirit, and there is also Satan. I’m not dropping or deleting any elements of allegory, but instead, (in the words of C.S. Lewis, I believe), I am imagining how it could have happened in a different world. One with similar circumstances, the same faults, but different people. Different cultures. Different races. All in all, it’s still the same story. Just in a different world.

    As for answering thematic questions–the whole “main” theme of this story is God’s unfailing love and forgiveness for us. The reason behind that is because many of my characters(my MC, my side characters, even both my antagonists) all struggle with guilt, depression, self-loathing, survivor’s guilt, and many other things. There’s a heavy theme of racism and the effects of it upon people. There’s also themes of redemption, bullying, etc… but at the bottom is always the question “what is love?” And no matter what happens throughout the series, the ending will answer that, and hopefully *crosses fingers* other the length of the trilogy all other answers will be revealed as well. So no. I’m not going to ask questions I can’t answer. This entire story doesn’t work without the themes, and the answers, so leaving them out would ruin it.

    And for depressing endings… that’s not going to happen. I despise tragedies from the depths of my soul, and would never, ever do that to my poor charries. Plus, I personally hate un-hopeful endings. I mean, the ending’s what we read through the whole book to see, right? How could you let down all your readers with a sloppy ending or a depressing one?

    And again, thanks so much for all the great advice! You guys are awesome. 😉

    "Come waste your time with me..."

    #36432
    Sarah Inkdragon
    @sarah-inkdragon

    @steward-of-the-pen

    Thank you! And don’t worry, there is lots of hope in my story. After all, rebellions are built on hope, yes? What good is a story without it? XD 😉

    "Come waste your time with me..."

    #36435
    Linyang Zhang
    @devastate-lasting

    Welp, everything’s already been said, apparently.

    I agree completely with Daeus. If you’re writing for an older audience, then more content is okay. Also, some people can handle more than others, s just moderate your content to fit your story. And, yes, please be careful about the darkness of tone.

    I think that the best thing to do would be to continually pray over this and ask God to guide you. and remember that we all make mistakes and need God’s forgiveness, even in our writing. (Because I, too, tend to make my stories a bit on the violent side)

    Good luck! I can’t wait to see what you’ve written!

    "Moving on and on and on we go,
    Shining lights above blown away..."

    #36453
    Daeus Lamb
    @daeus-lamb

    @sarah-inkdragon Awesome. Sounds good.

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    #36465
    Thomas (CrØss_Bl₳de)
    @thewirelessblade

    I think it’s interesting that you’ve decided to write about stuff like that, it’s not something I’d do myself.

    You’re not doing anything wrong in my opinion, in fact, I think you’re brave for writing like this. Go for it!

    I think that as long as you have that 15+ thing out there, you should be fine.

    -Blade

    P.S You’d use “too”, not “to”.

     

    *Forum Signature here*

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