At a recent author event, an audience member asked me how I keep upbeat when most of my writing revolves around troubled souls who get into trouble. The most obvious answers come to mind. I have a husband who pulls me away from the computer. I have kids to attend to. I have a great group of friends to have fun with. The most honest answer, however, comes from deep within. Simply put: I don't think delving into darkness is a bad thing.
Have you ever met someone who you know instinctively to stay the heck away from? Do you know someone who is so needy, so clingy, that you suspect he or she has some big issues to deal with? Of course, you do. But I don't think any of us should be so quick to point the finger. Not one of us has had the luxurious privilege of walking this earth unscathed -- it's just a question as to what degree we are scarred. And if we do carry baggage around, shouldn’t we dump it?
As an author, what I most enjoy doing is creating a character with baggage. I then ask professionals, such as psychologists, how they would treat the particular issue. Some characters, like real people, end up in denial. These souls don't want to address the darkness within. But like anybody traveling around in the dark, they cannot see where they are going. In other words, they can't decipher if the path they are on is good or bad. That's how people (and characters) get into trouble. Some of the villains take it a step beyond denial. They don’t just deny that there is anything wrong with them; they blame everyone else for their actions. That makes it okay for them to commit the worst acts with a clean conscience. Since I am a big proponent of delving into darkness, my protagonist will consistently address his issues as they come up. Some of the best scenes to write are the ones where the protagonist greatly fears tackling his own weaknesses and insecurities. We’ve all heard Franklin D. Roosevelt’s famous quote, “The Only Thing We Have to Fear Is Fear Itself” and we all know that the only person we can truly change is ourselves. That’s about as much control as we have. So it begs the question: Why fear delving into the darkness?