Monday 9 August 2021

The Trials Of A Crime Writer: The Dark Side


I've always been someone who likes reading about the dark side of humanity, and that's carried over into my writing. Of course you might be thinking that makes me someone who's kinda dark in reality, and that couldn't be further from the truth. I'm a pretty positive person online, and while I have a cynical side, it rarely is shown in what I write and such. But when it comes to thinking up dastardly plots for my characters to get through, then my mind does, and always has, lend itself to the darker side of fiction.

I once got told at a con that because I write young adult, I shouldn't write about dark stuff, because otherwise I would be leading them astray. It made me laugh because I have a young adult in my life, they don't need any help in seeing the dark side of life, they can see it fine without any influence from me. On top of that, I was a young adult (though it was many moons ago now) and when I first started writing, it was those kinds of stories that drew me in as a reader, so saw that it would be a good idea to do the same as a writer.

If I draw my mind back to when I first started writing Blackout, I got told that because the plot used drugs, which isn't a spoiler, don't worry, that it wouldn't be publishable because kids would go out and do the same. Again, it made me laugh because while the internet back then wasn't the beast it is now, it was easy enough to find that kind of information and I couldn't see how a work of fiction would influence this massive amount of teens to suddenly go to do the same drugs as used in the book.

Bear in mind that I had been reading young adult, as it was back then, for the majority of my teen years. I devoured books, I loved reading, and didn't just stick to YA either, I was well known at our local library and was even the kind of teen to pick up some adult crime thrillers and lose myself in those for a long while. I don't think it's something that influenced me to the point of making me want to go out and commit murder, so why would any other book do the same?

Of course, both of these examples were people who hadn't even read my books, they just didn't agree that YA should have a crime/thriller section, and while I've always embraced the dark side of fiction in my own work, it wasn't always as common place as it is now. Going back to when I was a teen, YA was fairly new, it was something that we had, but it wasn't a huge section of the library or book store, not like it is now. I would have to skip over the really young books, and try and find my little slice of heaven in the few shelves that stocked what I'd like.

When it came time for me to cross properly into adult, I was overwhelmed with how many books I had, all these genres, and all this stuff that had kinda been closed off to me before was now wide open. While I have never really ever stopped reading YA, I did, for a time, have that feeling that it was too young for me, that I was a proper grown up now. I got over that in a few months and was back to searching that area of the book shop so that I could find something new to read.

As an adult and a writer, I can't help but feel that if we try and close off that dark side of fiction, and life, from young adults, that we're doing them a disservice. After all, the world isn't all sunshine and butterflies, there will be situations they're put in that don't match up to the majority of their peers. It was authors like Jacqueline Wilson who got me through some of the darker times in my teenagehood, because she didn't shy away from any of it. She embraced it, she made it so that children could read about divorce, and abuse, and children's homes and drug use, and all of those scary things that too many people think we need to never let the kids know about.

But they already do know, some of them live it, some of them just want to know more, and some of them need to feel seen, so I will keep writing the dark side, and my readers will keep reading them. It's part of growing up, and I don't, for one moment, believe that I am contributing to their downfall. I think I'm helping them see that I see them, that they're not alone, that while some elements of my books are out of the realm of this world, other parts help them realise that being drawn to the dark side doesn't make them a bad person.

Your mileage may, of course, vary, but those are my thoughts. Do you have any? Lemme know in the comments below!

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1 comment:

  1. I think there's miles of difference between a book that deals with a topic, and a book that glamorises or romanticises a topic.

    That's not to say that there isn't *some* room for the latter in small doses - it's just a much, *much* harder thing to strike the right balance with! <3