character / crime / death / editing / effort / life / murder / novel / passion / plot / publication / story / The Blue Jar / The Plum Tree / writing

Why is it dark in here?

my art + photoshop elements

Recently I joked, “I could’ve written a light comedy.” And my husband replied, “I don’t think you have light comedy in you.”

A friend said, “It’s odd because you’re a funny person.”

Hey, I didn’t set out to write a dark, emotional novel. I started with an image and went from there. But I don’t sit down with an agenda. I always start with an image.

The novel that is to be published this winter began with the sound of marbles hitting a wood floor. Just that. No characters. No plot. But I asked, why would the marbles be spilled on the ground like that? And all these words later there is a tale of abuse and violence and survival and friendship.

Another novel started with an image I’ve had since childhood–a girl with a paintbrush that can change whatever she wants. That became a story of murder and jealousy.

And another novel started with the image of a young man who loses the ability to sleep–which is about jealousy too, and secrets, curses, and death.

And another with a young woman putting on red lipstick–which became a story about falling in love with the wrong person and going through hell for them.

But for all I know I could write a comedy. You never know.

As I edit my novel, I’m having to think about some of the things I’ve put a character through, and I think, she may be too damaged to come out all right in the end. Then again, I know people in the real world who’ve been through very real hell, and on the surface anyway, they seem to be doing fine. It’s hard to know though, isn’t it?

You have to find a way to do justice to a character’s suffering. I don’t mean that the bad guy will end up in jail or realize the error of his ways. If you put a character through trauma, that character can’t just shrug it off and be fine.

Something JK Rowling said recently about how Harry Potter would function after all he’d been through–not very well. Don’t you imagine he suffers from bad dreams that wake Ginny up in the middle of the night? Or that sometimes he’s a morose and remote father–loving, and generally good, but a man who needs time alone to brood. Wouldn’t his children sense his sadness at all his losses?

JK Rowling doesn’t put that in the books, but she doesn’t make it an impossibility either.

My character is going through a dark time, and I’m not sure how she’s going to be.

I’m not sure what it is about me that compels me to write stories of loss and trauma, and I can’t afford the therapy to find out.

You? Are your stories mostly happy? Sad? Funny? Why is that do you think?

5 thoughts on “Why is it dark in here?

  1. This is a compelling blog Marta. For me personally, writing about sadness overcome and the inspiration that we find in the light that is within us and that helps us through the dark night of the soul is what I write about. I love the idea of the marbles…the image…and where it leads. I am so looking forward to reading this.

  2. I don’t know that I think of my stories as happy or sad, or whatever. (But I will say that no one (that I know of) has ever said my fiction is sunnier and more uplifting than they expected, ha.)

    And now that I’m pondering it, I don’t know if I’d classify my stories as, well, alike in any particular way. The main characters are often confused and/or indecisive, often about some dilemma more or less major (to them). But some of the stories are funny and some are more, um, dark-and-threatening and some are a bit of one and a bit of the other.

    (Re: JKR — got something to send you.)

    • From what I’ve read, your stories have sadness and happiness in good measure, but they are not bleak. I’m not a fan of bleak.

      And, by the way, interesting way to end that comment.

  3. This is a really good point. I find most of my fiction to be dark- not necessarily sad, but quite the opposite of my conversational self. I think it’s interesting that such dark and sorrowful stories can come out of something; write it through and see what else you find.

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