In 2011, I wrote a book about death.
Now you have to understand, I am a very happy person. I like spreading positive messages and being optimistic about things that happen in the real world. All things considered, I’ve had a pretty good life so far and I don’t particularly enjoy writing sad stories or stories with dark undertones.
But I got this idea to write a book about dealing with loss for some reason (I hadn’t ever, really, at that point in my life). And once I get an idea, I don’t abandon it very readily.
I had a lot of fun writing it. I fell in love with the characters and latched onto a solid motif and got to write a song about the FOIL method (and I hate math). I didn’t realize how dark the story itself actually was until my mom read it, and tried to pretend she didn’t hate it, but she totally did. (It’s okay, I don’t really blame her.)
I didn’t understand where all that darkness came from. Like, was there a secret part of me that loved to dwell on the deep, sad parts of the universe?
I mean, I was on pain medication after getting my wisdom teeth out during a good portion of writing that book, so I’m sure that didn’t help much. Well, it helped me write a lot, anyway. I can’t say it was of any sort of quality. But still.
Thinking about it, I realized that book was only part of a much larger literary pattern in my life. In middle school, pretty much the worst few years of everyone’s life, when “bad” things happened to me, I always dealt with them by writing stories. They weren’t, therefore, always happy stories.
My mom was actually the first one to ever point out the darkness in that and many other stories I had written, and for awhile, I let that change the way I wrote. I didn’t want people to think I only wrote about the worst parts of life.
But then I started writing a new story last month, one I’d been putting off for a few years. Why? Because, when it comes down to it, it’s pretty dark. I don’t necessarily like that, and still try to keep the dialogue and inner monologues as lighthearted as possible. But it has made me realize that writing about the tough things, that’s just part of being human.
If writing is a writer’s way of dealing with the hardships of living in the world, then it only makes sense that not all stories are positive ones. You can still have a relatively dark story with a positive message, if you arrange things right. Just because you write a book with a dark storyline doesn’t mean you’re a pessimist.
The story ideas we come up with are based in reality, even if we’re writing a fantasy. We shouldn’t feel the need to hold back writing those stories.
There might be someone out there who’s dealing with that same dark thing in their own life, and needs a character to relate to.
You never know.
Are you writing something that feels dark and, dare I say, depressing? How does writing that story make you feel? Why do you keep writing it?
Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.
Meg is the managing editor at College Lifestyles magazine, a guest contributor with Lifehack and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine. She is an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner and has also written for Teen Ink and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter.