stories are meant to be dangerous

when i wrote my novel, i didn't set out to write a gritty story of a girl who faces some of society's biggest monsters. i honestly set out to write the story of a girl we mentored, and then the characters took on a life of their own. soon, i was in the middle of a story messier than my comfort level.

i struggled a lot with this. being an english major and lover of literature, i believe in hard stories. but i didn't know if i was ready for my hard stories. i forgot my voice - the one scripted into my DNA. i forgot the days spent penning questionable poetry darker than your average middle schooler and how these words and phrases brought me a sense of hope.

it's a dichotomy, really. a juxtaposition one we need to embrace.

i just finished reading delirium, a young adult novel about a society all-too-familiar that outlaws love. in order to fight this disease of emotion, the government initiates a program where at the age of 18 people undergo a "cure" which equates to brain surgery.

they're left as zombies - void of feeling, hope, despair or pain. the people spend their days clinging to the religion of science and refuse to question the censored books and outdated words of love.

love brings death, they say.

in order to avoid pain, they take away the good.

writing my novel was hard. i still haven't really talked about it with my therapist. there were moments where russ would walk in the room and see me in a puddle of tears, typing away at my keyboard. "it's time for a break." he'd say, and i'd pull myself away from the screen and collapse into his arms. the pain of my character was too real - too raw - too dark.

in fact, i ran away for awhile. in order to avoid those scars, i shoved the manuscript into a file on my computer and forgot about it.

it wasn't until i heard andrew klavan speak at the story conference that i began to understand -

the world needs hard stories.

i came home and pushed through the words. i went to therapy and started rummaging through my own moments of darkness - the areas i'd rather forget. i started believing i was worth rescue and the themes of my life - however bleak - also spoke of divine protection.

slowly, my story began to take shape. the darkness faded. my tears were replaced with a small smile and a breath of relief.

and when it was over, when i wrote the last sentence and sent it off to my publisher, it wasn't the darkness that stayed with me but the hope - the beauty in the midst of despair.

i've heard a lot of fuss about the hunger games lately. i've heard some people hesitate going to see the movie or refuse to read the books simply because it's violent and immoral.

here's what i believe :: without the darkness you will not see the light. without messiness you will not know true beauty.

throughout history, literature has been the one consistent reading of society. writers are natural truth-tellers, even if they write fiction, and there's something inherently wise about listening for the themes of a story.

so instead of focusing on the violence, pay attention to the sacrifice of a teen girl who takes the place of her younger sister. instead of griping about the immorality, consider the similarities between collins' panem and the world in which we live. there's messages to be heard, you know. and even most important :: embrace the discomfort. this story is not meant for teddy bears and lollipops and rainbows. you should leave unsettled.

hopefully, you may begin to understand that in order for a story to be truly effective, there has to be a moment of darkness.

and if you still don't believe me, remember the Story of redemption :: the gritty and blood soaked cross, the sword piercing His flesh, the ripping of the veil.

maybe then, you'll understand :: stories are meant to be dangerous.


Posted on March 26, 2012 .