My latest novel is my first psychological thriller called Storyland. It combines elements of horror, mystery, suspense and the supernatural into a tale about the past coming into the present and the damage it can do. It’s got elements of a detective story, a ghost story, and other forms of fiction that becomes very personal, very internal, and, by doing so, even more, terrifying than the novels I have written with other-dimensional monsters or vicious dogs eating people.
How do we, as authors, face down the darkness when it knocks on our mental doors and demands to be given a voice? Storyland takes some very dark turns, especially near the end, and the reader is compelled down very dark corridors and the characters are forced to face some truly horrifying truths.
How does a writer deal with this?
The world is darkness
The world is a dark place. The common analogy is to look up at the night sky. There is more darkness than light, so is the darkness winning? No, goes the answer (and yes this was in the first season of True Detective), at one time it was nothing but darkness. This means the pinpoints of light are getting brighter.
Of course, the world is very dark and it seems to be getting darker. The truth, I think, is that the world has always been dark. There was never a time when the world was bright and rosy and filled with sunshine and unicorns. There was just not an internet or handheld computers or 24-hour news sources to shine in all of the dark areas at all hours of the day and every week of the year. It seems darker, but that’s just because the lights we shine around us is brighter and wider.
Fictional darkness helps us deal
I am a firm believer that horror novels and dark movies and other things do not encourage people to go further into the darkness. A violent video game or movie does not lead to someone deciding to commit murder. It may push someone with violent tendencies to explore them, but Storyland is not likely to turn a relatively normal person into some psycho-killer. I feel that frightening ourselves with horror, thrillers and suspense stories like Storyland help us cope with the darkness in the world. They are some more bright points of light like the ones we see up in the night sky.
Every time we do something that makes our hearts beat faster reminds us how glorious it is to be alive. This includes thrilling things like jumping out of airplanes or riding a roller coaster. Some of us, however, prefer to get our thrills in the world of fiction by reading horror, watching horror or reading about the darkness.
A celebration of light
Reading about the darkness, watching the darkness, helps us to celebrate the light. We recognize the good parts of the world. We realize how great it is to be alive. The fictional darkness helps us deal with the real-life darkness, and find a way into the sunshine.
Horror has its place and those of us who write about it, or film it or create art about it, help the rest of the world deal with the blackness and recognize the brightness.
Storyland is a terrifying thriller and suspense novel available now for Kindle and in print editions at Amazon.