I have been asked on multiple occasions about writing about dark themes like rape, drug addiction, suicide, and depression. It isn’t always why do I write about them, but how I go about writing such emotional issues and what kind of toll it takes on me personally. Often when asked about this I will speak about the issue itself. Most of the ones I’ve written about to date I have some personal connection to, so the why is usually straight forward. It’s the how I go about writing it and the toll it takes on me that are a little more difficult, but I’ll my best to answer.
Writing about dark themes, well, I’m not going to pretend for a second it’s easy, but I’m also not going to say it’s hard. In fact, it’s more like a never-ending roller-coaster ride. Some days tears are streaming down my cheeks, some days I’m grinning like the Grinch, and other days I’m staring at the screen trying to figure out why. Just why.
That probably doesn’t sound like much of an answer, but it’s the truth.
When I first wrote Damaged, it wasn’t emotional at all. I might have captured a few moments here and there, but I really didn’t get to the heart of the story. In order to pull the emotions out, I did a number of things. First, I dug into my own background. Second, I put together a soundtrack and I listened to it while I wrote. This is especially true for any scenes where music was directly involved. For those scenes, I would listen to the same song over and over again. I would focus on the lyrics and how the music made me feel. Then I would put those emotions down on paper. Third, and most importantly, I listened to my characters. They would tell me if I was on the right track.
As for the toll it takes on me, that depends on how deep I had to go. I can tell you that with a few scenes in Avenged, after I wrote them, I had to take a break. I had to step away from the computer and watch T.V. or go for a walk. Something that was simple and mind-numbing. These things basically allowed me to re-boot. And the more emotional the scene, the longer I had to stay away.
Any author who writes about topics like depression, suicide, self-harm and so on knows going in that it won’t be an easy task. But we do it because we also know these topics are important. These are issues that need to be talked about, that require attention. Those who face these issues need to know they are not alone.
So we (authors) put on our boxing gloves and go to work.