Dark Writing

I have been a fan of Anne Rice since I first read The Mummy. I fell pretty hard for Lestat and his undead gang too. Yet, if you were to ask me which of her works stands out as the most moving, I would immediately respond Violin. Yeah, you are doubting my sanity right now. That is okay this was back in my – I will read anything cover to cover and power on through – stage. Helps that I might of been in my own dark place too.

So how was this novel the most moving? It went from a beginning so heavy my I will read anything stage was severely tested to an ending that held music and light. The first few chapters were over the top, think 3 pm soap opera meets the crypt keeper. But pass that and somewhere Rice gets into a groove. She begins to sweep in bold strokes the lives of two souls tied to this one particular violin and crescendos them in redemption. I read it eons ago but that is what I remember.

Kate DiCamillo did this with a mouse in the Tale of Despereaux minus the 3 pm soap opera dramatics. She instead went right for poor Despereaux’s throat. Did it work? I pass on the name of that book every chance I get. It is age appropriate for kids (some adults too.) Will those who have seen the darker side of life appreciate knowing a little mouse can save the day and come out on top? You betcha. A few chapters in the middle are emotionally heavy so don’t expect the rainbows and lollipop crowd to hang in there. They won’t.

That is the thing about dark (emotionally heavy) writing. It is not everyone’s cup of tea. It requires a certain vulnerability and willingness to take a gritty ride. Few people like to do that without some form of happy/funny along the way to lighten the emotional load. Especially in today’s world where we are bombarded with 24/7 sensationalized media preying on our worries and fears.

It is true we need hope. We need faith. We need to know tomorrow is a new day. Which probably accounts for all the feel good/escape reality fare we all read. Yet happily ever afters often slide on make believe with their too perfect and often improbable real world solutions. We don’t expect answers from them, only fun. This is not always said about the heavy hitters. When was the last time anyone picked up The Shack thinking it would be a fun read? Even Harry Potter towards the end became dark. Why? Because real life intruded. Harry was growing up.

Readers of darker writing however, are expecting something more than fun. Perhaps inspiration, a solution to a problem, commiseration, or sometimes even a life line they can hold. Emotionally heavy writing that rings with authenticity lets you know you are not alone. You can see in black and white – words that reverberate with your soul. Words you reread because they resound with heart. This is perhaps its greatest gift.

Such writing causes us to be vested, makes us ride the roller coaster, weeping and cheering the story on as it touches us. In each turned page we slough off the old, shed our darkness – protagonist and reader, until we arrive at the end. Altered and forever changed.

 

Author/Contributor: Teresa Little

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