Category Archives: What We Write

Writing the Dark Stories

“I believe these stories exist because sometimes we need to create unreal monsters and bogies to stand in for all the things we feel in our real lives….That truth is monsters are real, and ghosts are real, too. They live inside us, and sometimes they win.”

~ Stephen King, from the 2001 Introduction to The Shining

“Words have no power to impress the mind without the exquisite horror of their reality.” 

~Edgar Allan Poe 

I love this time of year not only for Halloween, but the gloom and wind chafed by all the brilliant autumn colors. Dark juxtaposes light for a brief time, then days shorten and we celebrate with costumes and candy. I’ve long been drawn to dark stories and poetry, and these are the things I write.

We all know paranormal, horror,and urban fantasy dominate the market.Some say these books flood the market; I believe readership for these types of stories will always exist, but that’s another post. Earlier this week, Rebecca celebrated some of the best horror novels and anthologies in this post. Many members of my writing tribe author the same types of stories. Why does this demand continue to exist? Why do we read them or pay money to see the horror movies, or the tragic love stories?

Is it, as Stephen King, or even Edgar Allan Poe, suggests, because we harbor these things within us?

Yes, I believe so.

Even a good love story, or comedy, requires a counterpoint between light and dark. One antonym for darkness is illumination. We want to do more than survive, we seek enlightenment. And there’s the balance- the theme- of many of the stories we read and tell to each other.

King also suggests we need these stories to save us. When I staggered through some of the harder times in my life, reading Dean Koontz and Anne Rice reminded me how weird and beautiful live is- even during the unpretty parts. When I shivered, my heart raced, or I cried for a favorite character, I experienced a much-needed emotional release. I compare this to our love for music. From Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Phantom of the Opera to popular progressive rock band Tool, millions find catharsis in someone else’s song, or story.

Any good story I’ve read- and this is my opinion- contains some element of darkness, as most tell a love story as well. This creates much-needed tension and conflict. Otherwise, dull Pollyannas and mundane resolutions would crowd the literary landscape. Our stories should be at least as complex, if not more so, as our inner lives. We all harbor secrets, doubts, fears, regrets, or anger. Not that we let these things govern our lives, but we should spill them, along with a little blood, onto the page.

Are you drawn to stories with darker elements in them? When writing, how deep do you dig into your psyche? Do you feel that these types of stories or music provides catharsis?

* Artwork is Courtyard with Lunatics by Goya (1794)


Posted by on October 19, 2012 in What We Write


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