It’s blog chain time again and I must say that I love being part of this. This round was started by Leah. Her topic was a bit…darker:
What do you do to amp up the conflict? What pins do you stick in the little voodoo dolls? How do you torture your characters???
Leah wanted to challenge us to go deeper and darker – she wanted to stretch us. Going dark can be hard for some people – forcing them to confront the shadow that exists within.
For me, it is a different story. I enjoy going dark. Not because of some morbid need or curiosity, but because I believe that it is in the exploration of the shadow that we better understand the light.
Before I explain how I do this in my stories, let me start with a quote I’ve used for inspiration in a project I’m finishing:
“Through me you enter into the city of woes,
through me you enter into eternal pain,
through me you enter the population of loss…
abandon all hope, you who enter here.”
In this project, I explore the depths of evil as I search for understanding regarding our responsibilities in the face of such darkness. Other projects have examined the paralyzing impact of fear on the human psyche and the nature – and cost – of redemption.
So, how do I go there…what do I do to my characters to explore such difficult topics and do them justice? As Carolyn said a few days ago, it starts with listening – to the voice of my characters, to people around, to the world in general. Through that process, I am able to connect to the shadow within myself.
Then, the real torture starts.
Given that I’m into the internal state of people (including my characters), it is not surprising that my form of torture works on the mind and emotions of my characters. I use the actions in the scenes to bring my characters to their own personal breaking point. I want them to be completely spent – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. They need to believe they have nothing left and no way to survive.
They must face their own annihilation.
And in that moment, they can discover their true nature and what they will really do when they reach their lowest point.
Not all of my characters handle this type of ego destruction well. And some can’t handle it at all. But the outcome helps us all understand the nature of the shadow within us.
Eckhart Tolle has said that “Evil is an extreme manifestation of human unconsciousness.” I think that is true. The journey my characters take as they confront the shadow in themselves helps them become conscious. And hopefully, if I have done my job well, the reader also becomes conscious.