Bear with me, this is off the top of my head
My friend Nina sometimes says at the critique table, “Is this what you want to put in the world?”
She says it in reference to stories that work on a craft level, may have tight plotting and good prose, but purport a theme or morality that only seem to say, “people suck.”
Is this what you want to put in the world?
Don’t get me wrong. I love noir. I’m currently reading an excellent comic called “100 Bullets” by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso. It’s well written and has an epic arc. But, yeah, basically people suck.
And that darkness serves a purpose. From it I learn about my own weakness. I am cautioned to be conscious and to strive for integrity.
I take my noir in small doses. There’s only so much darkness i want to heap on myself at a time. I’ve heard the argument that we read for survival skills, that darkness is part of the real world.
I agree, but i also think if we put all our attention on darkness, we don’t see the whole picture. If we exclude what is wonderful and bright and significant in life, aren’t we just as blind as if we live with rose-colored glasses?
My friend Dee used to say, “I’m not asking you to put on rose-colored glasses, i’m asking you to take off the shit-colored ones.”
Anyway, i’m thinking about Nina’s question. What do i want to put out in the world.
It’s true, i want to lean into the blade, open a vein on the page, i want to write the painful scary things that keep me up at night. But i also want to write things that invoke people’s sense of wonder, give people hope. I want to change things.
So far, i’ve written about torture, rape, murder. I’ve written about child abuse and loss and fear. [NOTE: i’m talking about over my whole career, not just in my current novel.] But i feel like i’m always trying to find that place in fiction where i honestly put out something real and visceral and painful, while still looking for the place where people grow and learn, where people try their best.
I want to write truth, and i think real truth is a fine balance between pain and grace.
I don’t think i’ll ever write a straight noir piece myself.
I just don’t think people suck.
Anyway, back to the novel….