Every beloved story has an element of darkness. I can still vaguely remember the terrible scenes that played on my mind’s eye as I read through The Lord of the Rings. I can remember even more clearly the horror as I read through Harry Potter. Then I relived some of that when I saw these movies in the theater. Some of the things I have read and seen seem to be obsessed with the darkness.
Even when a story, on page or on screen, has a “good” ending, I somehow find myself feeling that the losses on the way to the conclusion are too great. Dumbledore’s death in Harry Potter, the elves leaving for the west in The Lord of The Rings, the destruction of the D’ni people in Myst. Nothing can make up for what has been lost. No matter how evil the “bad guy” was, how desperately I needed him or her to be annihilated, nothing makes up for all those I loved in the course of the story who gave or lost their lives, and sometimes, things even more valuable. Priceless even.
I desperately want to write an epic story like one of these I have enjoyed over the years. Mostly enjoyed anyway. I don’t want to copy anyone else, I want to be true to myself in my writing. And even though I feel I am a writer on par with the best out there, I am under no delusions that I could be anything more then almost as good, or maybe, just maybe, just as good. I have no designs to excel those writers who have gone before me. I will let my readers judge me, and they will have a hard time doing that if I don’t getting something written of publishable length. So that is my main focus. I am not even worried about whether or not I will be published. I just know I will be, but I have to write something that can be published first. It is this quest at which I have, so far, utterly failed.
I perceive many obstacles in my writing path, and one of the biggest, I think, is this stubborn tendency I have to leave out the darkness. I can certainly include it. I am not incapable of doing so. But I have this strange and silly desire to write something different. An adventure that is all about the thrill of exploration, just the bright, happy things. All the magical elements I loved in Harry Potter. All the positive aspects of the wondrous D’ni, their ability to create entire worlds. But I fear this is an impossible task I have set for myself. Sisyphus pushing that damn rock up the hill, never getting anywhere.
Every story I have started in this way has died at childbirth, never living more than a couple of chapters. A well respected writer and teacher of fiction writing, in a book of hers I am studying, tells me that I must have conflict. That conflict is integral to a story. Indeed I can see conflict in every story I have ever read and loved. I can’t think of a single memorable story, or even an unmemorable one, without it. Also the only stories I have been able to complete, just short ones so far, have had conflict, and darkness, within them.
It seems there must always be a “good guy” and a “bad guy.” A hero and a villain. The antagonist and the protagonist. Sprinkle in some characters with no particular allegiance to the light or dark, just pursuing their own ends, and you have a variety that fools the reader into thinking the story has more beyond good VS evil. But every tale ever told or brought to the screen, as far as I am aware anyway, has had this duality at its root. Can a story without duality even be written? If it could, would anyone read it? Be moved or transformed by it?
My heart wants to find the way, but my head, logic, dictates that I should just stick with what works. Use the same old tired formula man has used since time immemorial, start and complete something I can publish, edit it like a gem worker polishing a precious stone, and then claw and fight my way into the publishing world, which hungers for new writers of things like Harry Potter, yet at the same time does not want them. The marketplace is too crowded. Nobody buys books anymore, there is no money in it as an author, agent or publisher.
All I have to do is write a good VS evil story that captures the imagination of young and old, or at least has the potential to do so, and eventually, if I am persistent, if I have edited it enough, if I am lucky enough, someone, somewhere, will read it, be moved by it, and publish it. I am like a young man in high school playing football, hoping the man over there, hiding behind a tree, is a scout for a local professional team. Or a dancer hoping that she has moved gracefully enough to get a position in the company. As a society we make these things far more difficult than they should be. We should be able to pursue or dreams and passion without limitation. We should see a clear open path ahead of us, not a bunch of fucking hoops we have to jump through. It’s almost as if we have to pay a price to be anything other than some wage slave at some menial job somewhere.
When we tell others we want to be artists, authors, dancers, musicians or singers mostly they just laugh. Some may only shake their heads. A handful may actually silently encourage us while doing so. Even less may openly encourage us. We are treated as if what we want to do is too easy, therefore it is childish, foolish and immature to pursue it. But it is actually easier to get a job at your local McDonalad’s than it is to write a book, much less become a published author, and even less become a successful published author. We should be pushed to pursue or dreams and passions, not some unwanted position at an unwanted job, working for someone else.
I am fortunate that I have no naysaying voices surrounding me. Just a few I encounter in the written word. I struggle enough just to write something, just to find an idea and pursue it to its conclusion. This is where I find myself even now, in this moment, as I write this. I have started another story. And I will include the good VS evil duality. I will include conflict. Copious amounts of it. But still there is this fear, this worry, that this story, like all the other seemingly healthy babies before it, will die in its crib, never growing to maturity, a completed story.
Also my heart is not entirely in it, because this is not the way I want to write a story. But I have at least come to understand that it is the way it must be written, because I have to complete at least one take of publishable length, in order to have that experience of completing something, which will forever silence the whispering voices inside of me. Once I have done it I will always know I can. Nothing can shake that faith. But I have to do it first.
Then maybe, someday, I can tell the tale I want to tell. Maybe. But I doubt it. Why does the one thing I have any penchant for at all have to be so hard? Why do I dislike so much this one thing I can do so well? I don’t know. I have no answers. Maybe I will find them someday. Maybe they will be waiting for me at the end of the story my heart wants to write. If I live to see that day, maybe then I will finally understand.