Writing darkness

Justine Larbalestier and Sartorias are saying interesting things today about dark fiction for teens, and about folks who complain teen writers are being edgy for its own sake and because they can be, rather than for any deeper purpose.

In the comments to sartorias post, the issue was brought up that the world is so dark already, and that maybe not everyone is comfortable with the idea of adding to the darkness without good reason.

Which got me to thinking about some of the reasons that I do write dark stories–especially given that I’m also perfectly capable of writing funny ones. And that’s not because the world’s darkness needs to be increased, but because the world already has dark places–and fiction can show us how to navigate them, literally or figuratively. I don’t think books should ever be only or even primarily about their messages; but I do think a book can provide hope that there are ways through the dark, something that at 15 (or 35 or 65 for that matter) isn’t always easy to believe.

Writing about darkness is, in many ways, really writing about light–specifically, about the light that shines through the dark, and about the things that survive when most things seem lost.

(Not that I think about this consciously while writing, especially in earlier drafts–while writing it’s mostly all about “what does the story want to be told well?” The patterns and reasons often only become clear afterwards.)

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