More than a place--it's a writer's muse.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Escaping into Darkness

We're currently in a cycle of darkening novels. Larissa Ione recently wrote a great article for RWR about writing on the dark side of romance (I recommend RWA members revisit it). Perhaps we're already seeing fallout from the 2012 madness with all its End-times talk. I dunno.

I used to narrowly consider books as a potent form of escapism (a belief I still hold to, mostly). The problem with that line of thought is that I was thinking people wanted to escape the dark--war, hate, anguish and loss--not jump into it...

But we're diving right into some of the darkest tales around right now. Why?

I recently had an epiphany (hey, it happens ;-). It led me to believe the reason readers are so quick to jump into the darkness we writers are currently creating is because we're giving them characters who are struggling with the same things they are (or bigger, wilder things) and these characters are finding the means and the strength to get through it.

Even in the darkness there’s a hint of light.

I like to think of it this way: I'd never willingly "escape" into an Indiana Jones scenario--unless I knew he was there to fight “beside” me. But living it through him, with his sharp wit, ready whip and gun--I'm thrilled!

Even better-- in dark novels, YOU control everything because you decide when to put the book down and take a break (or quit altogether--as I had to do with one recently).

So what do you think of the trend of more dark romance and the emergence of dark heroes?

*Next Tuesday—Dark YA. What are the limits if there are any?


Jennifer L Hart said...

You hit the nail on the head with one crucial word. Control.

I've lost count of how ofter I feel totally powerless in a day. War, poverty, starvation, fricking swine flu --it all scares the ever-loving snot outta me. And there is only so much I can do. Engaging in a story where I control the darkness, or an author I trust does, relieves me from the helplessness I'm so often burried under.

Of course I am a control freak, so take all this with a grain of salt.

Shannon Delany said...

Welcome, my fellow control freak. ;-) I agree with you Jennifer. If I think about all the nasty stuff in the world I'll just cower in a corner. But I can read a lot of it (and waaay scarier stuff) because I can just set the book down if I need a break.

I think it's actually an advantage books have over television and movies--our ability to even escape what we were escaping into. ;-) In movies, it all just gets hurled at you and unless you're ready to walk out you can wind up sitting through some really rough stuff. There's no break. TV's similar. Flip the channel or turn it off and if you finally decide you CAN handle more you have to look for it online later.

But books! Set 'em down. Think about the story, the characters... Return to it when you're ready. With a book you're always in control. ;-)

Amos Keppler said...

What today is perceived as darkness is simply a better way of life. "Dark" novels, with "dark passions" are also just more realistic, telling true to life stories. I see myself as a transgression artist, going far beyond the currently acceptable at every opportunity.

Mankind needs to be shaken up, hard. It's a pleasure telling the stories doing that.

Shannon Delany said...


Don't get me wrong--dark's not bad (imho). Heck, dark chocolate's supposed to be (somewhat) good for you--so is the idea of pushing certain boundaries.

When I was more involved in the independent comic market, we called similar stuff "gritty." And I agree, given my own life experiences (and those of friends and previous students) what we equate as "dark" tends to be (in some ways) more an honest portrayal of humanity.

I guess I'm curious to know if most people WANT to escape INTO darker, grittier worlds or at what point they're clawing back towards simpler, happier stuff (like chick lit)?

Liane Gentry Skye said...

I really think there's a common human yearning to overcome, now more than anytime in most of our lifetimes. But with that said, I threw my dark stuff by the wayside and dove headfirst into the light LOL. I want to laugh, darn it!

Shannon Delany said...


I think that's what's so fascinating about the current trend (and I do think it's a trend because we humans have short attention spans ;-). I was initially puzzled by the idea that in a country where we're still dealing with war, a poor economy and all the other day-to-day headaches and tragedies that agents and editors don't seem to be buying lighter-hearted stuff!

I seriously thought it would have been the opposite. And I can't imagine there won't be a backlash at some point--I just hope I get the rest of my darker stuff out before the market shifts back too far...;-)

And believe me, I like to laugh, too. I find it odd that a fascination with darker stories is holding so many readers' attention right now. And it raises lots of questions for writers.

Robin said...

Have you ever read a dark novel where the world is completely destroyed? Where everyone dies? Where hope is lost? I have yet to find it. Dark novels, in the midst of destruction, tote survival and light at the end of the tunnel. We can believe, even on the slim faith of a fiction novel, that things will get better in our lives. We just have to be like the main characters: self-sufficient, clever, industrious, wise and tenacious. even the darkest novel is driven by the light of hope.

SarannaDeWylde said...

I used to only write dark romance.

I like it when the characters have such insurmountable odds to overcome. You get to experience the gamut of emotions with them.

In fact, Werewolves Prefer Blondes has a chipper title, but it has some very dark themes. My werewolves are brutal and some of them are even scary.

If you'll notice the times when the world was in a particular state of unrest, the horror industry bloomed. Horror and other dark themes are more often than not morality tales and social commentary.

I've since found that I can be funny. That I can still tromp around those dark worlds and when I step in werewolf poo, everyone can laugh with me. This is new to me, but I think I like it.

Liane Gentry Skye said...

I'm curious, too, Shannon. I watch my stories at textnovel closely to see what's getting read. Oddly, my mythic romances are the ones getting the highest numbers of votes. Granted, I tend to write magical worlds with an undercurrent of brooding emotion, but still...I thought my darker stuff would be the ones to catch. Readers decide, I guess. I'm going to ride my personal trend and see where it takes me, which might be right back to the slush pile LOL!

Courtney Sheets said...

I usually write lighter stuff, but must admit I am going to a darker place with The Hooded Man and another WIP about a paranormal CSI team in Vegas.
For the Hooded Man, the story just led me there. Marian had to face all the horrors she did in order to move forward. She will be forced to do some pretty violent thing later on in the books as well. I didn't intend for it to be that way, the characters and the plot led me there.

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