“I am so glad I get to write so much torture today,” Rain Sivertsen pronounced while sweeping into a meeting room on the cusp of a new writing day, her face aglow as she faced the other unsuspecting writers in the room, all also suspended on the brink of furious writing session…
Hi, all, please welcome Rain Sivertsen to my blog today! She writes fantasy (like I do – yay!). She’s as of yet unpublished (still working on perfecting her first book), but I’ve roped her into my closed writing group here in Prague, which means I get doses of her writing once a week (as she is forced to swallow equal doses of mine – mwahahahahaha!). In any case, I’ve invited her here today to write about her take on fantasy (or dark fantasy) in general. Afterward, hop over onto her blog Writing Up My Serotonin and check out some of the stories she’s got there from her fantasy world Hurst.
Without further ado, I’m setting her loose…
Fighting Demons with Dark Fantasy
When Sonya asked me to write a guest post for her blog, I panicked – mainly because that’s just what I do. But I was also incredibly flattered, because Sonya is one of the most talented and dedicated people I know, and the idea of her wanting me to contribute anything at all to her blog is both flattering and dangerous for my ego. The thing is, while she gave me free rein to write about pretty much whatever I wanted, she originally asked me to write something that might in some way be connected to dark fantasy. That idea stuck with me and sounded very appealing…. except I don’t write dark fantasy.
I write fantasy that sometimes has very dark elements, and I love the darker aspects of fantasy in general. It’s always a great day when I know I’ll get to write a fight scene or a torture scene or some kind of brutal slaughter. To most non-writers and possibly a few writers as well, this sounds just a little bit fucked up. Those people are probably more healthy and stable than the kind of people I associate with. I’ve written a little bit about this on my own blog a few times, but I thought this might be a decent topic to re-iterate now that we are nearing the end of NaNoWriMo and I imagine a lot of people are trying to keep their brains from melting.
Writing violence and darkness is good for your sanity. This is my personal opinion, but one that I believe in with all my heart. If I didn’t occasionally get to write horrible, brutal acts down on paper, I shudder to think what might become of me. No, I’m not saying I’m a wannabe serial killer and writing death and destruction is the only thing that keeps me from committing actual murder. I’m saying writing death and destruction is one of the greatest tools I use to retain some semblance of stability in a world where I often feel like I don’t quite belong. Here’s how.
People Are Hard
Interacting with other people is very difficult for me, as it is for most introverts. This isn’t just because of how desperately I loathe attention, but because I have such a hard time with the small, casual aspects of human interaction. Small talk, polite chit-chat, that kind of thing. I cannot stand it, and I don’t know how to do it.
If a random stranger walked up to me and asked “Do you believe in destiny, or are humans in control over their own lives?”, that would make me significantly less uncomfortable than when a colleague asks me how my weekend was. Because they don’t want an honest answer! They don’t want me to tell them how I spent Sunday in a fit of anxiety contemplating my future and how every choice I make puts me on a new path. They want me to say “Fine, and yours?” I can’t stand that. It’s such a small thing, but the insincerity of it gets under my skin. I would rather everyone think of me as rude rather than have to fake interest in something I truly don’t care about.
But whether I have to fake it or just smile and run back to my desk, interactions like that take a toll. Feeling judged and out of place is uncomfortable and disconcerting, and sometimes the frustration of not being able to click with most people makes me want to scream and throw things and punch walls in anger. Except I have a theory that if I actually did that in the office, I would get fired – and I kind of need my job. So I take that burning rage and put it on the page. I dial it up to the extreme and just pour out pain and suffering until the frustration at my displacement fades, and as my characters make it out of those tormenting situations, I am able to go with them into a place of calm resolve that could never get to on my own. The senseless violence on the page lets me process my emotions and move on.
Feelings Are Hard, Too
It’s not just the outside world that can drive you to the brink of madness. Most of us have shit going on inside our heads that we for various reasons can’t or won’t deal with. Demons, I suppose, either of our own making or forced upon us by others. While fighting demons is great in fiction, confronting your own demons is fucking terrifying. Sometimes too terrifying to face at all.
In those moments when your demons threaten to break loose from their chains and devour you from the inside out, it can be a literal lifesaver to instead set other, worse demons loose on your characters. I’ve never had someone pry open the skin of my stomach with a knife and lift up my ribcage to peer inside – I’ve never even taken a punch – but somehow doing that to my favourite MC helps me simultaneously confront and suppress things that have happened to me that I would rather not think about. There are things you just can’t face head-on, and when those things loom over you and get too close to taking over, turning the focus to torturing or killing someone in writing is like stepping into fresh air after hanging around too long in a smoke-filled room. It’s a life saver.
You Know What? Sometimes it’s Just Fun
I write violence and darkness for self-preservation, but you know what? Sometimes it really is just fun to explore how deep into the darkness you’re able to go. It’s exiting to see if I can shock someone, scare them, make them cringe and put the book down for a second to gather themselves before they keep reading. It’s not a secret that a lot of writers love the idea of making readers cry and well up with various emotions. The books I love the most have done all these things to me and more, and it’s awesome.
Letting yourself go to the darkest, most twisted places in your mind and just kind of play around in there for the benefit of your creativity? Stretching your writing muscles by wreaking havoc on your poor, unsuspecting characters? Come on. That’s fun.
Dark fantasy – both reading and writing it – is both a healthy outlet, and one of those things that is enjoyable because it isn’t. Like a haunted house or a stomach-churning roller-coaster. It invigorates and excites you at the same time as it makes you want to cry and throw up. That’s why I’m so drawn to the darkness that lurks within fantasy. Not only does it save my life and help me remain a semi-functional member of society, but it’s enjoyable in a twisted sort of way.
That’s it. That’s all I have to say about Dark Fantasy and why I think it’s such an important genre to have in the world – even if I don’t strictly speaking write it myself.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m in the inspirational little town of Kutna Hora on a weekend writing retreat with my Writer’s Group, and we all have novels to write.