Darkness on the edge of the page

I really do have a sense of humor. Really! I know how to laugh at myself. I’m not one for practical jokes or silly behavior, but I do laugh. And while I don’t think I’m everyone’s ray of sunshine (my wife gets me!), I do appreciate absurdity, the ridiculous, the clever wordplay. Chickens make me laugh. The Onion makes me laugh. 30 Rock is brilliant.  I’m not all dour. And yet my writing is dark. Grim. I’m not sure why that is. Life experience, I guess, but that’s only part of it. I’ve always written dark.

I was a humor columnist for ten years at  my old job. A graphic artist, proofreader, unofficial assistant editor, and one memorable time, the writer/photographer for a front page story. And a columnist. A humor columnist at that. And yet the dark side has always bubbled through, like a swampy stew. I don’t make any apologies for it but sometimes I think, Dude, you’ve gotta lighten up! I try, I really do, but the dark stuff is so damned compelling to me. Hopefully, I infuse that darkness with humanity, with heartfelt compassion, curiosity, and empathy. It can’t be all dark, or we’d all be monsters.

Sometimes the things that I write are so full of genuine emotion that I need to pause when things get too heavy. I’m a big softie, a huge softie. The ending to Ordinary Handsome was probably the most heartfelt things I’ve ever written. It was dark, but yeah, it felt real. No bullshit happily-ever-after because that’s not how things work.

Years ago, when I discovered that I wanted to write, my father told me that I should stick to writing humor and to do away with all the serious stuff, that humor was my gift. I like humor, I do like to make people laugh (with me), but with the serious stuff, I’d much rather make people feel.

Knock knock…

Who’s there?

Grim.

Grim who….? 

Okay, back to work, back to that  poor woman who murdered her husband.

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14 Replies to “Darkness on the edge of the page”

  1. I can relate, Steven. I’m a fairly easy-going, happy person. Though my first book is light and sweet, the following books grew darker and darker and darker. I don’t know why I go there either, except that I have to. What I’ve noticed in reading the blogs/bios of grim-dark writers is that many of them are pretty content people. Hmmm.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Perhaps it’s because the darkness takes us places we really wouldn’t want to visit, a means to explore our fears without actually having to live through them. Taking the worst-case scenarios and humanizing them. I think that, as bad as things can get, if there is love and kindness, we can endure anything. That may be what I’m writing, have always written… we can endure if we have those things.

    Like

    1. Thanks for saying so, Laura. I was hesitant about posting this one. I’d like to think that some of my humor does come through. I remember reading “Pet Sematary”when it was first published (a VERY dark novel), and the mood of that book was simultaneously haunting and moving. That helped me realize that good writing was good writing, regardless of genre. In a way it opened the door for me to pursue the darker themes that interest me. And I don’t think my writing is without hope.

      Liked by 1 person

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