I’ve written before about using darker emotions in my stories. I write from the heart, and my characters do to some extent reflect me; I get out what I put in. Usually, I’m pretty happy-go-lucky; I’m sometimes grumpy and irritable, but I don’t usually have (external) problems with green-eyed jealousy or flares of anger or simmering revenge. I try to be philosophical with life, understand the reasons for the emotions, and let go of things as easily as they come.
However, due to some recent situations, I’ve been revisiting some of my darker side. And there’s two situations in my writing that have been making me think about it in relation to my characters.
One is a Green Sky character, formerly a slave. She’s almost aloof, very reserved, very calm; she appears quite strong, but has an edge of “don’t see me” flinching. She made a life for herself after she was freed, fell in love, had a child, learned a trade. And now she’s being called to investigate someone’s disappearance in her ‘home’ land.
She’s been on my mind because of my own reactions to grief and to hurt. She locks herself down, shuts it all away, puts up a shell and deals with it in her own time. She’s had a lot more hurt than me – a lifetime of it – and when she first comes into the stories she’s still in protection mode. But at the point that I’m revisiting her again, she’s had time to heal; she’s had a few years of freedom and of love.
How would she react to her new status? How would she have tempered the mask to allow herself some more freedom, to allow herself to live and love? How would she have reacted to the love she has been shown by others, to the birth of her son, to her own space and place and trade? And now, walking back into the story – based on all of the above, how would she react to (mostly voluntarily) revisiting the land where she was a slave, but as a free woman?
How do I react when the ice is slowly allowed to melt, the hurt has mostly been dealt with, the pain is mostly a memory? How do I feel when the walls are slowly coming down, but I need them ready to put up again in an instant? And what would it be like to live like that for a lifetime?
And the second situation is familiar characters, and a plot development. I was considering the implications of a story that I’ve written recently, and wondering what would happen. A few incidents that I wrote in as filler and colour have stood out in the last few days – they’re not as innocuous as I originally intended, and I began to wonder what the consequences of them would be. And, thinking about it, I don’t think they would be good.
I don’t want to write a story that leaves a woman I love crying on the floor, with bruises that will fade and scars in her heart that won’t. I would like to think that my character wouldn’t do that to someone they care about. But I have to face the fact that darker emotions are there, and they do fit with what I know of the protagonist. Violence and lust are undercurrents that can rise all-too-easily to the surface. Anger and jealousy are potent, but so are hatred and revenge. Rape and abuse are a result of human emotions. For all that I don’t like it, I don’t want to think it, the darker side of humanity is as valid and realistic a plot device as altruism and love.
I don’t think I will write that story; I don’t want to. It goes down paths that I don’t want to take, and by not writing it I’m not letting it be real. But it hurts me that the story is valid, and it also stops me; it makes me pause, and think.
What I put in, I get out.
The stories are a reflection of myself. And if I don’t want to write them, maybe it’s time I have a think about my own emotions, what I’m holding on to, and the real-life story I’m telling.