Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Dark Side Continued

Gothic Forest by kuba - Dark gothic forest landscapeNot long ago, I shared a post about darkness in children's literature.  I've been thinking again about that question lately.  I've been revising a YA novel that is magical realism.  The plot is constantly out of control and elusive, but there's something about this piece that keeps pulling me back to it.  I've been bringing the existing pages to my YA critique group and mulling over their comments.  Somehow those comments recently led me to rewrite a pivotal scene into a much darker direction, opening up an almost sinister side to my protagonist, a side she's probably frightened of in herself, the destructive hatred of her parent.  Matricide comes to mind.  (Mom, if you read this, don't worry.  I love you.)

If I'm being honest, I think a lot of teens have these feelings.  So, introducing this element more explicitly into my story feels exciting, and terrifying.  Those of us who are not teens are understandably uncomfortable with a teen's capacity to do real harm to another human being.  But when I was a teen, my own dark sides terrified me and obsessed me.  So, venturing down this road with my protagonist interests me.  How do we manage to come through the other end of those huge feelings of rage and those destructive tendencies?  How do we explore them, harness them, process them?  What happens when we try to ignore them or avoid them?

In the end, I think this story will be infinitely stronger when I take it in this direction.  But I'm worried.  I'm pretty confident the teen readers will have no problem with this darker vision.  I wonder if the adult gatekeepers will be able to handle it.  I wonder, frankly, if I will be able to handle it.  Time, as Virginia Woolf would say, to strangle the angel in the house.

1 comment:

  1. With Neil Gaiman winning Newberry Awards I don't think you have a commercial worry per se, but you'll need to be careful pitching agents who have handled such. There is something of a backlash against the dark trend in kids lit, but it can be hard in that backlash to divorce the "I don't want to have to actively parent" objection from the 'This really isn't for kids' objection. Already as a parent of a 3-year-old I'm finding it hard to get across / get around some of the concepts in fairy tales. As for your own efforts, you're not a writer who shies from the ugly; just keep hold of your character as a whole and love them even as they do ugly things. Better brutal than didactic!


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