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Why Write About the Dark Stuff? 03/26/2010

Posted by allisole in Writing.
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I finished reading the novel Push by Sapphire the other day.  The  movie Precious was based off this book.  I haven’t seen the movie, but it’s on my list.

There are a lot of dark stuff in this book.  The boyfriend and I actually got into a fight about it.  The book was on my mind, so I wanted to talk about it, but he didn’t want to hear anything about a girl who had been raped by her father and abused by her mother.  He thought it was sick,  thought the author must have been sick to want to write about that sort of horror.

Our conversation got me thinking.  Why do people write about terrible things?  Why do people read about those terrible things?  (Why do people actually DO any of these terrible things is another thing altogether and I’m not even going to try to go there in this post.)

I enjoyed Push on a lot of levels.  It’s written in a stream of consciousness, which usually isn’t something that appeals to me.  Precious’ voice is strong though, and it pulls you in.  The story is one of survival, of triumph and growth, and I liked those parts of the novel.  But so much of it made me sick, enough that it literally gave me nightmares.  The things that happened to Precious were horrifying, and often it seemed like there was no end to the terribleness.  Do these things happen in real life?  Unfortunately.  Do they ALL happen to just one person?  Oh, I hope not.  I really, really hope not.

Why would I read something like this?  Even now, thinking about it gives me the willies.  And why write about it?  Why have your mind go somewhere that dark?  Because those things happen in real life and writing should reflect life?  Because you want to draw attention to real problems?

My own writing sometimes dips a little into the dark side.  I’ve written suicidal characters, I’ve written a flash fiction on torture.  I’m drawn to characters  who lose everything, because that forces them to reach deep and pull out something from themselves that they didn’t even know was there.

Push, for all it’s darkness, ends on a very hopeful note.  There are other stories out there that are full of misery, that still end in misery.  For me, those would be worse than Push, and I’ll be honest- I don’t want to read them.  I like my happy endings.  I like my good conquering evil.  When I read unhappy endings, I respond the way the boyfriend did, and I think, why would you write that?

I guess we all just have different tolerances for dark stuff.  Is something wrong with me because I could read a book like Push?  Or does the boyfriend (who may read this, sorry I’m picking on you if you do, you know I love you) just turn a blind eye to some of the dark stuff in life?

Another question to think about: is there anything out there too dark, too taboo for anyone to write or read about?  Or is everything up for grabs now?

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