Monday, August 3, 2015

Why Do We Like Dark Stories?


I love, love dark stories. I love horror. I love those authors that aren’t afraid to go there. The pure good guys are boring. I need an anti-hero- a character with some sass and some questionable morals. Throw in some gore, set the story in a fantasy world and I am there. Dark is not always bad. I find that fascinating.

As you might know, I'm writing a dark world building book called Building Dark Worlds.  I'm researching the appeal of dark fiction so I can write a section on it for the book. Here's what I've come up with so far.

Update: Building Dark Worlds is now available. 

Confronting our Fears
Books are safe. We can experience monsters, the apocalypse, serial killers (our worst fears) without the threat of death—although a beloved character’s death can bring a reader to tears. You read books about a haunted house. How many people would actually go into a rumored haunted house? I like ghost stories. I have no desire to see a ghost. I don't want to be terrorized by demons. Why do you think most aliens in books and movies are bad- taking over the world, enslaving humans. The unknown is scary.

A Dose of Reality
A happily-ever-ending is good every once in a while. That’s not how life works. Books show us the world. Everyone has some darkness in them. The world is not perfect. Horror movies rarely have happy endings. In this apocalyptic book I just read, the character travels across the world in hopes of finding his family. In the end, he didn't find them.

A character going through the same things the reader is going through—low-self-esteem, abusive relationships— makes the reader feel like they’re not alone. It shows them they can survive. A zombie apocalypse story is rarely about the zombies. It’s about people trying to survive even when terrible on top of terrible happens.

Going back to my first point, we can experience the dark side of the world from the comfort of our homes. We experience another’s life through books.

Why do fantasy books have to be realistic? We want to feel like we can really walk between platforms 9 and 10 at King's Cross Station and catch the Hogwarts Express. You want people to believe your made-up world could actually exist. You want people to see themselves in your characters.


Exhilaration
Reading a dark story is like riding a roller coaster. We enjoy being scared. It’s a rush of adrenaline. Nothing gets the heart going like watching a character you like running from a wave as tall as the Statue of Liberty. You’re traveling with a character you’ve grow to love and the author puts them in an impossible situation. You're right there feeling their pain and anger. You race through the pages- sometimes skipping paragraphs. Will your favorite character live or die? Will they get there in time to save the child. You need to know. Dark creates a situation where characters can fail. They can lose a battle. They can die.

Why do you enjoy dark stories?