Exposing The Darkness: Writing Evil…Right – Part 2

By Jamie Dougall

The first part can be found here: Exposing The Darkness: Writing Evil…Right Part 1

 

2. The Story

Every story you write will be different from the others. Each will have its own particular set of limits. We have already established why stories need evil to generate conflict, but we haven’t stopped to ask why you are including these elements in your story. Paul makes an excellent point when he writes there is a difference between participating in the unfruitful deeds of darkness and exposing them (NASB, Eph.  5. 11-12). In writing, that difference is wrapped up in theme. writingdarknessfb

Theme keeps your use of gore and darkness in check because it puts meaning behind the events of your story. Without a theme, we risk losing our way in the darkness.  We risk forgetting our purpose and aimlessly writing evil for no other reason than to create something we hope is ‘entertaining’. As a Christian, this is a very real problem. If you are using gore and darkness solely as a draw card or as your story’s ‘energy drink’, you are not exposing the darkness. You are participating in it.

You can use your theme to set limits for your story by making your conflict, and therefore, your use of darkness, flow out of your story’s theme.

  • Establish what your theme is.

If your theme is something like “Love is powerful”, you will then consider what true love looks like in action. A loving person is sacrificial, caring for others even more than he or she cares for himself.  [Read more…]

Exposing The Darkness: Writing Evil…Right – Part 1

By Jamie Dougall

 

Since childhood, I’ve been fascinated, or perhaps obsessed, with right and wrong. Mom tells me stories about how I knew there was a right and a wrong way to do something, and would not do anything until I figured out which way was right. Now I’ve grown some since then, and I’ve realized sometimes there is more than one way to get a job done. Still, I have that same desire to get things right, and that desire redoubles when it comes to the written word. writingdarknessfb

After all, once your words are in print and in the hands of your readers, you can never change them. I’ve wrestled with questions like:

  • Is it appropriate to write violence and gore?
  • Is it evil to write evil?
  • How dark is too dark?

Many Christian writers struggle with these questions. We want to craft good stories, we want to “get it right”, but most of all we want to honor a God who hates evil. We feel stuck and kind of dirty, wondering if God is upset because our stories contain so much darkness. We stare at our notebooks or computer screen and ask, “Did I just cross the line?”

In order to truly answer these questions, we must first trace darkness to its root. Why do we include evil in our stories at all? Most would quickly respond, “Because we have to! Stories would be lame and boring without darkness and evil. Nobody would read them.”

But why?

It turns out, the answer is really simple. With the possible exception of survival and “man versus nature” genres, all stories depend upon sin, darkness, and evil to create conflict. If you have good, it seems perfectly natural to have evil come up against it. Christian and non-Christian authors are all in agreement with this idea. Though some authors might protest my word choice, their work testifies to the fact that stories rely on a moral battle to create conflict and generate plot. [Read more…]

Blurring the Lines Between Light and Darkness

By Melody Faith

Writing or reading a dark book can be a very debatable topic for Christians. How dark is too dark? How much gore is too much? It has gone back and forth for years.

Recently, I read an interview with Ted Dekker discussing the darkness in his writing. He explains why he feels the need for it. He wants a distinct difference between good and evil in his stories. He wants readers to look at evil and be repulsed by it while they look at good and see the beauty in it. I found this to be a masterful way of describing how to handle darkness in Christian stories. blurringpinterest

Today’s media and pop culture really likes to blur the lines.

Disney’s 2014 retelling of the Sleeping Beauty story, Maleficent, is an interesting example. The story portrays Maleficent as the protagonist, while King Stefan as the villain. I personally found it to be very confusing and down-right disturbing. I struggled to find a character to like, pity, or care about. I really despised all of them, even though I knew they wanted us to love Maleficent. I had a hard time pitying her. She was evil. She chose to be evil and did wicked things. None of this was addressed as wrong; you were simply pressed to pity her.

Another example for this is Tim Burton’s 1993 Nightmare Before Christmas. While I adored the music and the simple story, I was disturbed by the twisted worldview. It portrays Halloween characters, who in themselves are not evil. They simply do their job every October 30th. But for some odd reason, no one likes the Boogie man. He is bad, and they mean really bad. It struck me as so odd. Who was to say he was worse than Jack? Where was the line? Jack the Pumpkin King was the one you cared about and loved, even though he was in fact a skeleton and the King of Halloween. But the Boogie man, though he was like any other evil Halloween character, was still the evil villain. Our hero and villain were both evil characters. A cute, creative story, but a twisted perspective.
[Read more…]

Dark Christian Fiction: A Contradiction in Terms?

When you pick up a work of fiction at your local Christian bookstore, you can probably expect a couple different things in it.  You can expect it to center around Christian characters that run into some kind of a problem.   You can expect there to be either a really nice atheist or a really mean atheist who ends up converting by the book’s end.  You can expect the main conflict in the book to be challenging—but not overly so, because by the book’s end, everything will need to wrap up in a happy ending.

And it’s because of this that some of you may be doing a double-take upon reading the term: “dark Christian fiction.”  Is Christian fiction really allowed to be dark?  Doesn’t writing for the Kingdom and shining Light in our fiction mean that we want to avoid writing fiction that’s going to be really dark?darkchrisitianfictionpinterest

There can be some fair cautions that should be taking when portraying darkness in fiction that I’m going to address later on in this article.  But what I want to argue in this article is simply this: Darkness must not be excluded from Christian fiction.  We can have a lively discussion how darkness should best be portrayed and how much of it should be shown.  But a refusal to accept dark tones in fiction is problematic.  And because of this, dark Christian fiction is therefore not a contradiction in terms but one that we ought to accept not only as a valid category, but also a necessary category in the world of Christian fiction.

Darkness in Christian Literature

Let’s go back to the hypothetical bookstore that you’re perusing.  You pick up a random book off the shelf, read a couple pages, and soon discover that the book is about a man who was unjustly imprisoned for twenty years and who, upon being freed, proceeds throughout the rest of the book to take revenge on everyone who had wronged him.

Perhaps a bit shocked, you put the book down and pick up another, hoping for something better.  But in this book, the main character is a college-dropout without a real job who within the first several chapters ends up murdering his landlady with an axe for a variety of reasons and as the book progresses, goes on to fall in love with a prostitute.

Both of these books would perhaps be tough sells to make in today’s Christian market.  [Read more…]

Profile photo of Josiah DeGraaf
Josiah DeGraaf is a high school English teacher and literature nerd who fell in love with stories when he was young and hasn’t fallen out of love ever since.
He writes because he’s fascinated by human motivations. What causes otherwise-good people to make really terrible decisions in their lives? Why do some people have the strength to withstand temptation when others don’t? How do people respond to periods of intense suffering? What does it mean to be a hero?
These questions drive him as a reader, and they drive him as a writer as well as he takes normal people, puts them in crazy situations (did he mention he writes fantasy?), and then forces them to make difficult choices with their lives.
Someday, Josiah hopes to write fantasy novels with worlds as imaginative as Brandon Sanderson’s, characters as complex as Orson Scott Card’s, character arcs as dynamic as Jane Austen’s, themes as deep as Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s, and stories as entertaining as Wayne Thomas Batson’s. In the meantime, you can find him writing articles here or short stories at his website (link below) as he works toward achieving these goals.

Focused Hues: How Graphic is Too Graphic?

How graphic should one be when writing a battle scene?

When forming a beating or torture scene?

When describing the dark rituals of some fantasy druid?

These, and hundreds of related queries are valid questions. And yet, to answer inquiry with inquiry, there’s one question which can help clear up this confusion. And the answering question is this: where does your focus lie?

As Christians, when we write a story, what are we trying to focus on and portray?focusedhuespinterest

Philippians 4:8 reminds us to think on things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, and are of virtue and praise. This would include what we watch, listen to, read, and, of course, what we write. There’s trouble in every story, as well as darkness, danger, and perhaps violence, but what is your focus on? The good or the bad? The golden hope and light, or black despair and darkness? As Christians, our point shouldn’t be to get a story as dark and gory as we can without stepping over the line. The point is to glorify God though our writing, and as we take up the pen or sit down to type, we need to keep that in mind. Darkness and violence may (and, quite often, do) have their own place, but don’t write dark and gory scenes simply for their own sake or to add shock value to the story.

“Still, as every painter knows, it takes the dark shades to bring out the vividness of the light. Which brings us back to the original question of how much darkness a Christian writer should put in their story.” 

The most common question, and also the broadest, involves how much blood, gore, and violence should be shown in a book or story. Like many things which aren’t really a ‘sin issue’, different writers will have different convictions on this topic, and unfortunately there isn’t a hard line of ‘over here, everything is acceptable and good, but on this side everything is bad and wrong’. Somethings are obviously good, some are obviously unnecessary and over the top, and yet the majority of these red colored queries are tinted with gray and depend on the circumstances. It can make things a pain to figure out sometimes, but here are a few guidelines which will hopefully help.

First, don’t write something that you’d be uncomfortable reading yourself.

[Read more…]

Profile photo of Hope Ann
Hope Ann is a speculative fiction writer who lives on a small farm in northern Indiana. She has self-published three Legends of Light novellas and is the Kingdom Pen Writing Team Captain. Reading since the age of five, and introducing herself to writing at age eight, she never had a question that the author’s life was the life for her. Her goal is to write thrilling Christian fantasy and futuristic fiction — stories she longed for while growing up. After graduating from homeschool, Hope now teaches writing to several of her eight younger siblings. She loves climbing trees, archery, photography, Lord of the Rings, chocolate, and collecting shiny things she claims are useful for story inspiration. You can claim one of her stories for free at: https://authorhopeann.com/rose-of-the-night/