Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Innermost Cave

Why do I spend so much time thinking about dark themes? It's not just me. Story tellers have always done it - dwelt in dark places. Whether it is the story of Little Red Riding Hood or the novel, Gorky Park, people get devoured by wolves of one kind or another.

In the White Angel sequel, we are going to be looking into a prison wing and discovering monstrous lives and crimes. The poet Alison Dunn, who spent several years working in prisons, told me: “In prison, every act has a reason. Every gift is a transaction. Nothing is on the level.” That is an unpleasant thought. But as soon as I heard her say this, I grabbed hold of the idea. Perfect material for the story.

Why do so many stories take us into dark places? I think they are leading us into that dark underworld where we are faced with our worst fears. And then they are leading us out again, somehow empowered by our experience. Of course, there are many stories that do not lead us back into the light. There are even some with two alternate endings. But those of you who have read my novels will know that my stories tend to be redemptive, though usually not in the way the protagonist had anticipated.

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