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We all have it … a darker side. We may not admit to it in the light of day, but we all have that clichéd angel sitting on one shoulder and the devil sitting on the other. One is saying, “Make the right choice, and you’ll be glad in the end.” The other says, “Make the wrong choice, and you’ll have much more fun.” It’s that conflict that keeps us engaged and waffling with the decision at hand.
The same is true with a well written story. It’s conflict.
If the main character always makes the right choice, then why bother to read the story? You already know what will happen. She’ll make the right choice, and everything will turn out fine in the end. But what if the main character makes the wrong choice and everything goes south from there? Will she realize her mistake sooner or later? What will she do to rectify the situation? How will she ever win in the end? This conflict is what keeps us turning the pages.
According to Mary Kole, author of WRITING IRRESISTIBLE KIDLIT, “Teens are exploring the dark side of their personalities around the time they hit fourteen or fifteen. They get interested in suicide and serial killers and other darker shades of humanity. Death-related worlds and characters help them explore that through fiction.”
That’s not saying authors should focus their plotlines on serial killers; it’s saying authors need to keep this aspect of the teen psyche in mind when developing characters and plot twists. Let the character explore these darker issues.
And it’s not just teens using fiction to explore dark elements; adults do it, too.
According to James Frey, author of HOW TO WRITE A DAMN GOOD THRILLER, “Though we may be rooting for the hero, we have a secret fascination with the villain, who has a twin deep within our psyche.”
Writers have an incredible power to influence the thoughts of readers (if the story is written well, that is). Is it possible to explore the dark side without losing ourselves in it? Sure. As long as good wins out in the end, and writers have the power to make that happen.
Who is your favorite author that dips you into the darkness but brings you back out again?