Writing from the Dark Side, Part 2

Yesterday, I interrogated the scenario my dark side put forth (which involved moonlight and walking in on someone disrobing) and found out it was not about me at all, but was inside the psyche of Jeanne Beaumont, the heroine of Gaia’s Hands.  Jeanne felt disturbed by the dream because — oh, hell, let me just show you the passage: 

A silver beam from the moonrise sliced through the darkness of her room. In shadows bled of color, Josh stood, the light falling across his face. He tugged his t-shirt off, the beam illuminating a slender chest and burying itself in his dark hair.
“Why are you here?” Jeanne asked, feeling her voice shake.
He met her gaze, his youthful face serious. “For you.”
Jeanne muttered. “I don’t need you,” and turned toward the door to flee.
“You misunderstand.” A smile flitted across his face; the light showing a dimple incongruous to the moment. “It’s my need.”
“No,” Jeanne shook her head, grasping for the door frame to steady herself. “If you haven’t noticed, I’m old enough to be your mother. If I’d started late. This is impossible.”
“If it’s happening, it’s not impossible.” Josh held a hand out —
Jeanne bolted upright from her bed, squinting at her clock’s luminous numbers in the dark. 3:00 AM, the perfect time to have a haunting dream. Josh? She took a panicked breath. And her?
If it’s happening, it’s not impossible, she recalled from the dream.
If it’s happening …
What the hell was happening to her that she began to dream about Josh, that quirky young man she had become friends with?
She knew. He had become more than that quirky young man to her.
He had become compelling to her, and she tried to deny it. “I don’t need you,” she had told him.
But perhaps she did, and he would reject her instead.
My subconscious informed me that, in editing Gaia’s hands, I had lost an important aspect of it, the tension (in part sexual, in part fear of rejection) between Jeanne and Josh. 

Let’s see Josh’s point of view:

Josh wanted. It seemed a perpetual state for him, so much so that he wondered whether he wanted to be Jeanne’s friend or to bed her. Or both. Or everything. He leaned close to his notepad and wrote automatically, ignoring the lock of hair that habitually fell out of place.

I want to be reckless; he wrote. I want to kiss her with everybody watching in the middle of the cafe. I want to take her clothes off in a room where there are thoughts of only us. I want to know her twenty-five years down the road, even though she’ll be seventy-five to my 47 years.
I should care about the age difference, but it doesn’t bother me. It probably bothers her. I would be her child’s age, if she’d chosen to have children. She’s never married. Maybe she didn’t want to get married.
In my most intimate fantasies, she waits for me. In reality, she holds me at arm’s length, and I don’t know if it’s for now or forever.
I want a guarantee where there are no guarantees.
The vision came to him, the garden in its fullness, and Jeanne standing within, naked. All bountiful curves and sags like an ancient goddess. Does one dare to approach a goddess? He walked toward Jeanne in the garden, slowly and deliberately, each footstep pounding in his ears. He reached out –
The vision drifted out of his grasp.

Why does this come from my dark side? It’s a reflection of how I struggle with my age and face the invisibility that women “of a certain age” (I hate that phrase!) experience. The book is, in part, a biological fantasy about outliers — Jeanne, despite her age, represents a fertility goddess with her preternaturally prolific gardens, and Josh, despite his youth, makes a convincing god of the hunt with the inevitability of his pursuit. That’s in addition to the fantasy elements of Josh’s visions and Jeanne’s preternaturally prolific gardens.
I have to edit this book, bring back to it the tension between the two protagonists, add it to the other tensions and menaces. This is my job, to make these fantasies real and complex.

Writing from the Dark Side

I stood face to face with my dark side last night. I felt a sense of panic, as I always do when facing that mirror, clutching my hair and chanting “this is not me”.

My dark side deals in visions of obsessive seduction, sticky strands of need and betrayal in silent midnight rooms bled of color. It revels in its story: my inevitable fall, my contemplation of suicide. 

All of us have a dark side which stands counter to who we believe we are. If we deny it, if we romanticize it, we may fall to it because it demands that we pay attention to it. What we need to do is to accept our dark side because it’s part of us. 

I accept my dark side, the sulky drama queen in the mirror, but I do not let it run my life. I have built a satisfying life in the golden light of autumn, with a humorous husband and five cats. 

Me, coffee, and cat. This is a good life.

Sometimes I write from my dark side — half-elven children who want to kill their elven fathers, succubi with a pang of conscience, a young man who can kill by touch. I write these with my light side, though, framing these characters in dilemma, in conflict. 

Darkness must contrast with light to be appreciated. If the writing contains nothing but darkness, it ceases to be dark and is merely mechanical, a factory of death and gore. The light must be there to be taken away, so that we grieve for the individual trapped in their circumstances. 

I look at my dark reflection, the person I most fear, because she has the capacity to ruin my life. I nod, knowing that if I try to annihilate her, I become her. She leans over my shoulder as I write, helping me to add her darkness to my bright words.

Playing with the Dark Side

The dark side of our imaginations exist to remind us that many of our fantasies should not be fulfilled.

I left a tantalizing remark about the dark side of my imagination at the end of last night’s post, the type that begs for a response: “What about the dark side of your imagination?”
To be honest, the dark side of my imagination doesn’t like talking about the dark side of my imagination, because it envisions someone taking these notes and applying them to the dark side of seduction, something obsessive and manipulative and successful in a way that, in real life, I would call the police on.
In writing, the dark side of my imagination gets released. It imagines a dying world of lethal competition for scarce commodities like clean water (Voyageurs); a cold, vicious being crushing an unsuccessful henchman so badly that DNA analysis is the only way to identify him (Gaia’s Hands); a near-immortal being bidding his protege and lover to hold his heart in its pericardial sac (Mythos); a crazed militia leader aiming at a courageous old lady with dispassionate media crews filming without interceding (Apocalypse). 
The darkness in these moments comes from the conflict of emotions and actions — we aren’t supposed to rejoice in having a hole punched in our chest or kill others with cold satisfaction or watch a murder with our only reaction professional pride at having captured the story. Writers feel their own conflicts — in real life we would reject the possessive girlfriend, abhor the poisoner and his method, get grossed out at the righteous punishment of the rapist by crushing his testicles (or as an old friend once put it, castration by “a brick, an anvil, and some duct tape.” My friend had a very dark side.)
We don’t want to witness any of these things in real life. But we writers put them in books to exorcize the demons from our minds, to get justice in the end for the executors of these deeds, and to allow us to go back to our happier fantasies of sitting in the perfect bookshop.