|Writing In the Darkness
What makes a dark writer? What makes them what they are?
One of the things that makes me a "Darkling" writer is what I read and watch. That's the stuff my nightmares are made of. I grew up reading Nancy Drew, Grimm's fairy tales, and Roman and Greek myths. As a teen, I discovered the gothic mysteries--Victoria Holt, Daphne du Maurier, et al. Then came Agatha Christie, Shirley Jackson, and Ellery Queen, Edgar Allan Poe, Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury! All names that can still give me a chill.
I've been writing since I was ten. My first stories were fantasies of talking dragons and the children they befriended; and in my teen years, they were of love fought for and won. As I grew older and my reading preferences changed, my writings did as well. Then I discovered EC comic's "Tales of the Crypt" and later, Stephen King. Nothing has ever been the same -- either in my reading or my writing.
I have been writing my "Stories from the Darkside" for over 24 years now. Many nights working as a bartender have shown me how easily we mortals can go over to the Darkside. But I'm not one who writes about blood and gore; I prefer to explore the dark side of the psyche, the darkside of the soul. Yes, I occasionally write about ghosts, vampires, and monsters, too, but even then, my stories tend toward the psychological side of the tale.
It's not so much that I try to be a dark writer, or even that I want to be. That's just the way my writing turns out. I once forced myself to write a straight romance, where lovers met on a staircase. The reactions of my friends were hysterical--one said, "I thought for sure she'd push him down the stairs!" Another was more forthright: "Are you feeling O.K., Starr?"
Part of the reason I like to read and write "scary stuff" is because I don't like a predictable story. I like to be surprised. Nothing is as boring to me as when I can figure out what happens next.
As for my melancholy stuff--well, those are written on what I call my dark days. Writing has always helped me work out depressions. The journal I've kept for over thirty years helps me work things out. Sometimes, when the feeling of darkness is overwhelming, it is only the writing that can help me find a path back out. Then, I can't even articulate well enough for my journal--the words have to come out in poetry form.
There's something liberating in being able to write a poem, even if the form isn't correct. The great thing about poetry is that the form there matters less than any other kind of work--we can call it ‘free form' and get away with almost anything! Of course, that sort of poetry is more for private release of feelings, not for public consumption.
Being a writer of the "Dark" is not something I consciously chose. I like to say that it's my Muse who chooses what I write; I have no control. I'm just a willing and happy follower down whatever path she may choose to take. I just know that when I write, whether it is a straight rendition of a nightmare I had the night before (pure fiction), or a somewhat-hidden biography in prose, it's the Darkside of me that often comes out into the light of publication.
And that's another good thing about writing--you can write all you like about dismemberment, pain, and revenge, and then say 'It's just fiction--it doesn't mean a thing.' But it's certainly cathartic. It's good to get out in fiction the things you would never do in real life.
I really believe that someone who doesn't spend time writing can't understand how much writing means to us; how it makes us feel. Those people don't understand how devastating it is for us when we can't write!
Tell a non-writer about the writer's trance or "falling into the page" and he might not get it. They probably can't understand the high we get from it, and the obsession that both follows and precedes...how it's possible to miss such a place when it's nowhere "real." How can we explain to them that it's real to us? It's just as real as any other world we create in our heads.
I believe in a darker side--I believe it is in most writers, whether they admit it or not. Maybe it only shows when they write in their journals at night, just before they turn off the light, or maybe a bit of darkness is in every little piece they create.
Perhaps not everyone admits it, but I believe that the darkness is in every writer. Is not writing a private thing? Even when we engage in campfires or forums, we are still writing alone. And being alone is what can lead to the darkness....
When I sit alone in a quiet apartment with only the cat and my notebook for company, it's then that the dark thoughts come. It's the things that come to me in the middle of the night that make me the most frightened...and these things are my thoughts, emotions, and sadness; not anything that any "monster" could create. The nightmares that make me wake screaming in the night are often turned into stories, because that way they don't come back. I wrote a tongue-in-cheek poem called "Nightmares," in which I talk about Things Under the Bed...and I was only half-kidding.
When the Darkside descends upon me, I only have one weapon--my writing. If I didn't have writing, I believe my life would be much different than it is today. Writing has saved me in more ways than one.
Thank you for reading my work. I'm glad you enjoyed the wanderings of my mind.
Jan. 7, 2002
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