One of the best parts of writing is creating characters, telling their stories and in doing so, pretending to be someone else. It’s like having a second life, completely in your control. One of the worst things about it is everyone who knows you assumes that in some respect, you are revealing aspects of your persona that you cover up in public. When you write melancholy, disfunction or even downright malice into your characters, does that mean that inside you feel that way on some level as well? And why is it that it’s only those darker qualities that people question? Why would someone assume that if I write about a serial killer, that I have murderous tendencies myself? Or in a more realistic scenario, if a write about a character suffering from depression or anxiety, does that mean I am revealing my inner issues too?
The short answer is: of course not! The beauty of writing is being able to step outside yourself and into someone else’s life. To use your imagination in a more than superficial way to feel what it’s like to be another person with a unique perspective and a completely different set of circumstances. When we do that we have to be prepared to go to the dark side. To find those regions of human experience that aren’t pretty or comfortable. Because really that is life these days.
I’ve said this previously: being able to shine a light in dark places in our writing is a good thing. It creates the drama a novel needs. It makes our characters believable and relatable. It gives them depth, dimension. It makes the reader invest in the character, either in hoping for their salvation or their demise. But it doesn’t make the writing a confession. It just makes us better writers.
Image via John Haim