Friday, February 22, 2019

Unpacking in the Dark, by Katy Lee



I write suspense. Nail-biting, tension-filled, and yes, sometimes dark suspense. But dark doesn’t necessarily mean gory and brutal. In fact, it shouldn’t unless there is a valid reason for those elements to be in the story. If there isn’t, then twisted components only bring a shock factor to the story that take away from the true emotion or idea that wants to shine through the darkness. Do the situations scream uncertainty, insecurity, inner fears and guilt? Those are the true elements of a dark setting. Those will evoke feelings and aid the reader in facing those feelings, even when they may make people uncomfortable. In fact, if discomfort comes into play, there may be something there to unpack.
 
When I wrote my book Blindsided, I took on the dark world of human trafficking. My editor feared the topic wouldn’t resonate with readers because of its nefarious influence. It’s not a memory or emotion most can identify with, and when the topic or theme is obscure it becomes an unbelievable story. It will be a story that is pushed aside and seen as fake. But say a character covers her scars from the world because she believes they will make others uncomfortable . . . just as the topic of human trafficking can cause. Covering the truth only instills shame and fear and leaves a person in the shadows with no hope.

And so, when I wrote Blindsided, I broached this shadowy world of human trafficking from the visual of a bright pink silk scarf hiding the truths that cause discomfort. But once that scarf came off, the darkness was brought into the light and could now be dealt with.

This is the reason for dark novels. They help us take down those boxes on the shelves we’ve avoided. The ones filled with uncertainty, insecurity, inner fears and guilt—and sometimes even shame. They force us to face the dark corners of our life, and when we do, we can hopefully put those boxes back on the shelf empty.

One of my favorite dark novels is The Book Thief. The fact that Death is the narrator of this story, could make many shut the book on page one. It sets the stage that this story will take the reader into the uncomfortable corners of life. But a well-thought-out dark novel will also bring out so much wisdom into the light.

Do you have any dark novels that have resonated with you? I’d love to hear how they affected you, and if they had a Happily Ever After—because not all of them do. Still, don’t always be afraid of the dark, because even if they don’t have the happy ending, they should offer hope for one.

15 comments:

  1. Hi Katy,

    I love The Book Thief (although love seems an unusual word to use about such a book). In fact, I'm just about to begin reading it again with my 8th grade. Honestly, I debated reading it with with my students, but then there were some saddening examples of anti-semitic/pro-Nazi vandalism in my neighborhood, and I decided that students need to be aware of the deeper meanings behind these acts.

    I'm currently reading Kristin Hannah's book, The Nightingale, and that too deals with the darkness of war. The first chapter in that book reminded me of the opening of Gone With the Wind. The main character doesn't want to think about the impending war any more than Scarlet did. Isn't that so true of us? We don't want to think of the evil in the world. But the truth is, we live in a fallen world, and hiding our heads in the sand doesn't change that.

    Thanks for getting me thinking today.

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    1. Cate,
      I'm sorry to hear about the vandalism. The sin of this world can be depressing. BUT GOD. I go to Him more and more these days to help me process it all, because, yes, I do want to process it and not be the ostrich.

      I hope your students will come away from the story seeing the hope through the darkness. (And their role in bringing that hope to the rest of world)

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    2. I need to read both books you mentioned, Cate! Thanks for reminding me. :)

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    3. Debby, Isn't Gone with the Wind required reading for you Georgians? ;)

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  2. As an adult college student at GCU, one of my projects was on human trafficking. It is so much more prevalent, even in the USA, than anyone wants to believe or admit. I admire you for tackling such a topic in a Christian romance. Another topic that my daughter has personally lived is spousal abuse, both physical and emotional, which many would either like to ignore or believe can be fixed through marriage counseling. If I were still writing, these two dark subjects would be ones that would resonate with me to write about. I will have to read your book!

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  3. I live in the metro-Atlanta area. Regrettably, trafficking is prevalent in the city, especially when big events come to town, such as the recent Super Bowl. Prior to the game, law enforcement apprehended 69 people involved in trafficking. The town is the perfect setting with it's large airport. Johns and girls can be flown in and out easily. It's all so tragic. Thanks for addressing it in your book, Katy! I've included trafficking in my stories as well. It is all too common, whether you live in ATL or elsewhere.

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    1. Hi Debby,
      Yes, ATL is a big trafficking spot, unfortunately. I was glad to see so many arrests occurred at the Super Bowl. As it becomes more aware, these systems can be cracked. Hopefully, someday they will be destroyed and people will be free.

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  4. Hi Kelley,
    Yes, human trafficking is everywhere. Slavery is alive and well. In my own state the Dept. of Children and Families has over 400 known cases. There is a group of people and organizations that try to infiltrate the systems, but it's a never-ending job.

    Domestic violence in the family is also a tough problem to tackle. Abuse is more than physical. The emotional and manipulative aspect of it breaks a person down first, so mentally, they won't fight for themselves. It's hard to watch.

    Thank you for joining me today, and responding. And you never know, there might be a story in you still!

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  5. Have you read ROOM, by Emma Donoghue? I started it, then put it down, then started it again. It is dark and unsettling. Very unsettling. The story involves a woman held in captivity. She births a child who grows up with his whole world being that one room in which he and his mom live!

    The sad fact is that woman are held captive. The "Parade" section of the AJC newspaper ran an article on Sunday about Jaycee Dugard, who was held captive in CA. We all remember the three girls that were found in the home in Cleveland. Bad things do happy all too frequently.

    Thanks for an interesting post, Katy!

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    1. I have heard of it but have not read it. I did follow the Cleveland story closely...and even after with the girls. I pray for them that God will become real to them and offer them His peace.

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  6. I like Linda Castillo's Kate Burkholder series. It's about a former Amish woman who is a the police chief in a small town. Though sometimes Linda's series is a bit dark and disturbing, I love reading gritty suspense. Real life isn't always pretty. Whether it be human trafficking or serial killers, or drug dealers, there is true evil in the world. I love that we, as authors, can shine God's light into those dark places and maybe give hope to some.

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    1. I have one of her books but haven't read it yet. Do plan to...especially after that review. :)

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  7. Great post, Katy Lee. Sometimes we have to go to the dark places in order to find the light.

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    1. Thanks, Lenora. You said that so concisely. :)

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