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do you seek the darkness or the light?

Here’s an amazing follow up question to the workshop I taught last Saturday for the Long Island Romance Writers.  Thank you Lisa! —

I add my tremendous thanks, Michele, for your thorough, captivating workshop about building a story world. You provided new insight to generating seed ideas.

My favorite part was your posed challenge to “write what scares you, what keeps you up at night, what pisses you off to no end.” Which brings me to my question. I want to write romantic comedy–that’s my first WIP–but in between, I’ve written darker, supernatural short stories that seem to flow out of me of their own accord. I know you said you fought it, as I am.

I find reality scary enough, I want to escape it in my writing. Have you found that writing about the ‘darkness’ helps you cope with fears?Or does it pull you in further?

I’m trying to decide whether I should take your challenge to write what keeps me awake at night…TIA for any feedback.

Thanks again,
Lisa Brennan
(a currently “safe” writer, hopefully not writing a “safe” book)

A great question, because I believe the answer is going to be different for each person, and thus is not capable of a single, neat answer.

I’m a big fan of letting the writing write itself.  There are the Big Reasons people write stories — to express their vision of the world, to banish their inner demons, to promote a certain world view — and then there is the simple joy of writing.  It is my belief that many writers who last are writing because it’s fun to write, because it is exhilarating to disappear into the story world and return to our own with treasure.

Whatever gets you to the page — your outrage, your fear, your ideals, your naked ambition — is great.  And whatever keeps you writing is great too.  In my own case, fear serves as a marker.  DO NOT WRITE THIS is the neon sign that points me to what I should be writing, because for me the taboo stuff has the greatest charge, the most treasure.

Again in my own case (because every single writer is different) what gets me out again is my belief (a recurring theme in my writing) that no matter how deep and vast the darkness, even a small candle can often defeat it.  Another way of saying this — the fear gets me started writing, the transcending of the fear is what gets me to the other side.

For you, Lisa, I say embrace the darkness and come out the other side.  I’ve read romantic comedies — Jenny Crusie’s books come to mind — where the darkness is right up front, casting weird and beautiful shadows over the comedy.  Or, check out the mordant humor on display at writer/agent/editor Betsy Lerner’s blog — slashing wit.  Love it.  The best comedy doesn’t shy away from darkness but confronts it head on.  Maybe that shadow darkness is the layer your romantic comedy needs.

Or it may be that dark, supernatural stories are yours to tell.  You could write both the funny and the earnest — my favorite stories are a mix of the two.  I’d say, whatever writes easy.  Write these supernatural short stories and send them out — you never know. . .

It’s like I said on Saturday.  I believe that each of us has stories only we can tell.  The job is to write as honest, close to the bone, as we can get.  The hardest part of writing, sometimes, is just getting out of the way and letting the writing out, uncensored.

Thanks again for sending along your note, Lisa — I am so glad you enjoyed the workshop.  I hope this answers your question!

And as for you, dear reader, what do you think?  What do you look for in your reading?  If you write, why do you write?

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