Is my story to dark?

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  • #36467

    @sarah-inkdragon lots of great thoughts here already. But I do have some, so I’m just going to go ahead and share them. XD

    First of all, what @daeus-lamb said about the difference between darkness of content and darkness of tone is spot on. That’s the most important thing.

    The biggest thing that hasn’t been specifically mentioned yet is establishing a definite and coordinated balance.

    Recently I tried to write a short story on one of the events in the history of my made-up world. The MC was an eight-year-old girl in possession of an extremely powerful and dangerous secret that power-hungry bounty-hunters and ruffians were trying to steal. To defend her secret and protect her brother, she lured the bounty-hunters out into the jungle in the middle of the night and led them into a poisonous bog. Self-defense, but also murder in cold blood by a frightened eight year old girl who didn’t know what else to do.

    When I started the story I was planning to really knock home the themes of ignorance, loss of innocence, superstition, and deception. But the deeper I got into it the more I struggled to bring thematic clarity and resonance to the work while dealing with such questionable actions on the part of my heroine. She lives in a culture of extreme superstition that doesn’t believe in God, but also semi-worships the island they live on because of its mysterious and inexplicable secrets and ‘powers’.

    I felt the tone of the story slipping out of my control and spiraling downward into a really depressing outlook of ‘defend the people you love because it’s the only thing you’ll ever have worth defending’. I eventually got so fed up with trying to wrestle it back to what I wanted it to be that I clapped a trite, makeshift ending on it so I could say I finished it and just let it drop.

    Looking back, there was no balance to that darkness. It all happened in a bubble of superstition, fear, and dulled/foolish consciences that latched on to the only thing they could find and settled for that without looking for a higher hope because they didn’t know a higher hope existed.

    Trapping yourself as a writer in that dark and limited of a scope is dangerous and frustrating. If you’re exploring a dark subject for the sake of your theme, never let it monopolize the stage. Even just for a scene; that might just be ‘the scene’ that makes the reader stumble and put the whole book down. Always have other story-threads running beside it; other characters with different worldviews, moments of hope (maybe a beautiful memory?), conflict within the characters themselves, or other options for the characters who are struggling.

    When I write, I become so immersed in the minds of my characters I can forget to look up from the one character I’m pursuing until they’ve landed me in a bog. Then I look up and realize I’m in pitch blackness and I don’t even know how to get them out of it. For me, making sure from the beginning that I have other, brighter threads to pursue and weave into the darkness is very important.

    To illustrate Daeus’s point about different things being disturbing for different people, I’m not really bothered by spiritual darkness. Not in fiction, at least. There’s only one thing that really bothers me. Being inside someone’s head when they’re being excessively violent, lustful, or otherwise in the grip of completely animal emotions. Wrong worldviews or forces of evil don’t trigger me; my brain is wired to handle those and flexible enough to bend and see different perspectives without hurting itself. But being in the head of someone who’s become an animal beyond control is extremely unsettling.

    The only example I can come up with was in Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn, The Hero of Ages. The prologue was taken from the perspective of one of the villain’s minions who’s been so destroyed and degraded by darkness that he now believes destruction is the most beautiful thing in the world and the only thing worth living for.

    It’s one thing to see a brutalized character slaughtering helpless people with complete abandon. It’s quite another to be that character as it happens, and be forced to share in his maniacal joy and accept, just for suspension of disbelief, that narrow and revolting an outlook. I felt like I needed to go scour my head out with bleach.

    So be careful how you use POV. On the same note, be careful how you use ‘on-screen’ time. If the villain has a mistress, all we need to know is that the villain has a mistress. We don’t need to be in his head and attached to his emotions as he lusts for her, and we definitely don’t need to give their sin open and explicit screen-time.

    Is there a time and place for both of those? Yes. I’m sure there is. The Bible itself includes ‘on-screen’ instances of rape, seduction, adultery, incest, and lust. These are very real issues that need to be dealt with just as much as all other sins. But generally speaking, the time and place for them in explicit detail doesn’t happen very often. If you can avoid it, do so.

    There may be more room for a character who isn’t a villain who experiences feelings of lust, rage, attraction to violence, etc. and must work through them as part of his or her journey to the light. The problem lies in dwelling on darkness that is set in its ways and won’t change; darkness for its own sake, even to illustrate how horrible it is.

    And… yeah. I’m pretty sure that’s all I had to say. 😛 Great discussion and great thoughts here already, people.

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 10 months ago by Kate Flournoy.

    INFP-A. If you can't be brilliant, odd will do.

    #36469

    Augh! Where’d my reply go?!

    INFP-A. If you can't be brilliant, odd will do.

    #36470

    @daeus-lamb my reply seems to have disappeared into cyberspace. Any way to bring it back?

    INFP-A. If you can't be brilliant, odd will do.

    #36483
    Sarah Inkdragon
    @sarah-inkdragon

    @sageinthemeadow

    Thanks! Yes, I totally see where you’re coming from. I remember reading The Maze Runner and thinking, “oh, not to horrible, but not great” until I got to the last page. The book was okay until the author decided to drop enough gore to disgust me out. And I am not one easily disgusted. I, for one, don’t mind violence in stories, unless it’s taken waay to far, like the end of The Maze Runner. The description in that part was totally unnecessary. (And don’t get me wrong. I love the series. But some parts of it I could do without. *cough* R.I.P. Newt *distant sobbing*)

    @devastate-lasting

    Thanks! I am planning on marketing this book to 15+, kind of like Jill Williamson’s Blood of King’s series, I believe. But don’t worry, I’m trying to not make the tone dark. Like… I need it dark in some spots, but not through the entire series. Just enough to make everyone cry when all their favorite charries die…. *evil laugh*

    Not to mention my villain is over 10,000 years old, very detached, and sad, really. And partially insane. (But that’s what happens when you’re alive for that long and stupid humanity keeps making the same mistake over. And over. Again. It’s frustrating for poor old Arius. You can’t really rule the world when it keeps destroying itself, can you?)

    @thewirelessblade

    Thanks! Yes, I’m marketing to an older audience, so this books not really for younger kiddos. I’d let my 13 year old sister read it, but any younger than that I think wouldn’t be fitting. Not that it really has super dark content in it… But it asks a lot of hard questions and there is violence. It’s kind of like Lotr movies. Blood, some gore, lots of evil black orc-creatures, Sauron, and darkness, but in the end, lots of happiness and hope.

    Haha, “too”. I noticed that as well… but I wrote this when I was pretty tired, so…. XD I’ll have to see if I can fix it. If not…. here is living proof of how bad my grammar is when I’m not officially writing. 😉

    "Come waste your time with me..."

    #36484
    Sarah Inkdragon
    @sarah-inkdragon

    @kate

    Let me guess. You typed up a two-page essay on how to write darkness, clicked the submit button, and whoosh! Gone? XD I’ve done it many, many times. One time on KP, I think, I typed up a super long reply, and then went to X another tab…. and accidentally X’d my KP tab. Bravo to me. 😀

    "Come waste your time with me..."

    #36485

    @sarah-inkdragon *mournful sigh* Yeah… ONLY IT WAS POSTED. I SAW IT POSTED. And then I had to edit it… and… *sniffles* it… didn’t come back. *tragic bawling*

    I’m going to wait and see if it can be pulled from backstage before trying to type it all out again. XD

    INFP-A. If you can't be brilliant, odd will do.

    #36486
    Sarah Inkdragon
    @sarah-inkdragon

    @kate

    Oh, I’ve done that to. In fact, just the other day I had a huge post that I misspelled a word in, went back to edit it… and gone. Just gone. *distant sobbing*

    "Come waste your time with me..."

    #36492
    Daeus Lamb
    @daeus-lamb

    @kate Behold your post.

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    #36494
    K.M. Small
    @morreafirebird

    @sarah-inkdragon

    Yeah. There’s definitely a place for lighter reads, but there’s also a place for heavier ones.

    That…sounds like one of my novels. 😛 At least the one I’m re-doing. My MC is depressed for quite a bit of the series, and there’s a part in the second book where she enters a forest that “infects” her so she relives her most terrible memories, and she spends the rest of the series fighting her own mind to stop that. Another character gets trapped in a concentration camp for three months and goes down a rather dark path (but he’s bundle of brutal sarcasm, so I can’t help but love him). But I don’t put that stuff in there because I enjoy writing darkness, but because I feel called to reveal the power of Light in my stories, and the darker the darkness, the brighter the light. It’s just a balance of making sure we don’t include so much darkness that the light doesn’t seem to be enough, but it doesn’t seem like that would be the case with your story.

    Oh my word, I want to meet that character. Even if he’s the villain XD

    Ah, well, I’m part INTJ too, so that would explain my view 😛 But then I’m part INFJ as well, so it’s a constant war between feeling and thinking for me. 😉

     

    ~ Khylie
    "Beauty will save the world." - Dostoevsky

    #36495

    @Daeus-lamb *swears undying fealty*

    INFP-A. If you can't be brilliant, odd will do.

    #36496
    Daeus Lamb
    @daeus-lamb

    @kate Aaaand….. that was exactly what I was trying to say, but much more thorough.

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    #36498
    Daeus Lamb
    @daeus-lamb

    I officially need to write an article on this now.

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    #36501

    @daeus-lamb I hacked your brain and unscrambled the code better than you did. Obviously.

    INFP-A. If you can't be brilliant, odd will do.

    #36503

    Do it.

    INFP-A. If you can't be brilliant, odd will do.

    #36515
    Sarah Inkdragon
    @sarah-inkdragon

    @kate

    I now see your reply. @daeus-lamb must have somehow dragged it out of cyberspace for you. XD

    Yes, being inside the head of someone like that is creepy. Fortunately, even though my villain is partially insane, he’s not like that. He wants ultimate power over life and death, and the world at his feet. But to be able to rule the world, one must first have a world to rule. (I always find it ironic in stories when the villain simultaneously tries to rule and destroy the world. Sorry Villy, it just doesn’t work.)

    Arius(my villain) is actually a really fun dude to write. He’s sarcastic, eloquent, and he loves animals and people. He doesn’t want to kill people. In fact, he hates killing people. He views all life as precious, and fears death more than anything else. In fact, he got to where he is just by trying to save some lives. Sad, isn’t it?

    And fun fact–Arius’ name means deathless. Wonder why? 😉

    But still on the note of being inside someone’s head–there’s a reason I chose Kirin to be my MC. Yes, he’s naive and irritating and hotheaded and stubborn, but he doesn’t give up. If he wants something bad enough, he’ll keep fighting until he gets it or he’s dead. Sure, he gets sad and discouraged like anyone else–but he doesn’t wallow. If there’s anything life has taught him, it’s that there is no mercy for the lazy. He can’t become famous by being lazy and giving up every chance he has.

    @morreafirebird

    Thanks! A bundle of brutal sarcasm, hmm? Well, he sounds like my type. Let’s meet. 😉

    Yes, Arius is a funny guy. He’s really heartbreaking sometimes, actually. I’ll tell you all about him someday… Perhaps I we should have a villain thread in our guild. *hint hint* 😉

     

    "Come waste your time with me..."

Viewing 15 posts - 31 through 45 (of 53 total)

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