This week: Come to the Dark SideEdited by: Lilli, the Coffee Elf ☕️
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I enjoy dark stories. I like reading about characters that struggle, worlds on the brink of destruction and in need of saving, words that go into the deep, little-seen parts of the soul. I like writing them, too. As a writer and lover of stories with a dark side, I'd like to point out what makes a dark story good.
This week I'm offering some tips for writing a dark story that's not just a black hole of death and depression.
The darkness needs to have some meaning.
What it is that makes dark stories so good? Perhaps it's the light in them. That may seem a bit counterintuitive, but it's not. Why do we like dark characters? It's often because those characters are broken people struggling against the world and themselves. We see them fighting to make themselves better. We like reading about characters combating tough situations because it inspires us and shows us that we can work through our problems, too. That's what makes darkness in fiction so alluring. Not the darkness, but what people can glimpse on the other side. The meaning, the purpose, the light.
Make sure there is a reason and a purpose behind the darkness in your story. Ask yourself: What are you trying to say? What do you want your readers to learn? Make it your goal to show the world something through the darkness.
Dark does not mean twisted, brutal, or gory.
Keep that locked up in your mind. It's important. You don't have to have a guy cut people up with a chainsaw to make a story dark. Or a story told from the POV of a schizophrenic sadist. You do not have to stoop to gallons of blood and gore and general disturbances to make a story dark. So before you decide to stuff a fridge with dead people to set the mood for your story, think again. Try for something clever or subtle.
Go deep and complex with your characters.
This is something we should be doing with all kinds of stories, but it is especially important when it comes to dark stories. People don't make sense under normal circumstances. We are walking paradoxes, natural hypocrites, and a mixture of everything that is both right and wrong with the world we live in. This becomes more and more apparent when we're put under stress. Reflect on this in your story. Your heroes do not have to be 100% good, nor your villains 100% evil. They each should have goals, contradictions, character flaws, deep, dark secrets, and some admirable traits. This adds a realism that is an important component to dark stories.
"And they all died" is not a necessary ending.
Some stories can end this way if that is their natural course, but don't just do it in an attempt to devastate your readers or the one living character. Death and unnecessary darkness does not make a good story/book.
Everything does not need to be wrapped up nicely at the end.
The world is messy. It often doesn't make sense. There are questions we cannot answer and problems we cannot solve (or even fathom). Don't feel like you need to have an answer and solution to all of the darkness in your story. You need to have a point and something your readers can take away from it, yes. But you don't need to answer the question about life, the universe, and everything. All that really matters is that the characters find a way out of the darkness...or at least find a way to live within it.
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