By now everyone here has to know that my imagination tends to the dark. Although that may be a tad understated, since even in the fluffiest, silliest thing I’ve ever written (Knights in Tarnished Armor, for those who are wondering) there’s a really broad streak of darkness under all the fluff.
So how does someone that dark get to be all Human-Wavey and superversive?
To start with I refuse to write horror. If I tried I’d either drive myself insane or go so grimdark it would make Lumley look like a wimp. Yes, that Lumley. Yes, that vampire series. This is why I Do Not Do Horror. My imagination goes there all by itself. I don’t bloody well need to wallow in it.
Instead, I deliberately aim for the lighter side of things. I focus on the characters and how they deal with whatever crapsack world my imagination decided to throw them into – and mostly my characters are fighters. They get beaten flat and pick up and keep trying. They have hope, even if they have to make it themselves out of leftover straw.
Um. Oh, dear. That does rather echo a lot of how I feel and act about my own life. It’s not crapsack, but there have been times. And I do keep on picking myself up after I’ve been knocked flat and wading back into whatever the hell I’m fighting for. And hoping. And… Shit. I didn’t think I was that bloody autobiographical.
Oh, well. Writing does that to a person. Since my usual method is something along the lines of “sit in front of keyboard, try to put conscious mind on hold and let the story do it’s think”, I tend to find my subconscious leaving me pointed messages in what I write. Sneaky bastard makes them fit the story, too, so they’re not obviously Messages From Bob.
The conscious side of thing is largely shaping and the later editing phase where I catch as many of the klutzy phrasings and other weird grammar glitches that find their way into what I write (because yeah, I have a rather distinct voice that tends to drop several favorite phrases in all the bloody time, then I have to go and find the damn things and make sure I don’t have a dozen or more on every page).
So anyway. Leaving that little diversion aside, it’s a human trait to find things to enjoy no matter how much things have gone to shit. For evidence, babies are still born in places like North Korea, Zimbabwe, the middle of war zones, you name it. Weddings still happen. People live their lives as best they can.
So naturally, characters in the lowest pit of Hell are going to do the same things. When they’re not fighting for their lives or whatever, they’ll have the normal kind of responses to life, the universe, and everything. They’ll make friends, catch up with old friends, bicker, relax, and do normal people things. And that, even if everything else is bleak and grim and dark, is where the hope lives.
A character can be struggling along with his soul eaten, everyone he’s ever loved murdered brutally before his eyes, and if you leave him with the possibility that things will improve and he’ll find a happy place (no, not that happy place. That’s for the porn. Which I do not write. Because every time I try to write anything erotica-ish my brain goes “oh god that’s so silly” and switches off. Damn it. The stuff sells by the buck-load) it’s going to feel like a happy ending (no, not… Oh bugger it. Think what you will. You will anyway).
The other technique I use is – as I mentioned before – keeping the tone light. Which is how the Hello Kitty gay bondage scene in ConVent happened. Seriously gruesome sacrifice, check. Victims clearly suffered rather a lot before dying, check. Hysterically funny (or so I’ve been told by people I trust), er… wait, what?
The thing is, this works. I’m certainly not the only author to use it (Pratchett does, quite a lot. So do Sarah, and Dave, and Amanda, and…). It pisses off the self-righteous brand of Feminist Glittery Hoo Haas something fierce, which is an added bonus. They don’t like people making jokes about Things That Should Be Serious (which is a big reason why most of the Interchangeable Feminist Authors write gray goo – if you try to take Things That Should Be Serious seriously, you either get gray goo or grimdark). The thing is, humans cope with big scary frightening things by making jokes. It helps us wrap our heads around them and accept them. Why else would there be so many jokes about X dies and… It’s a way we tell ourselves that things will probably be okay when we die. Even though death is probably the biggest scariest thing out there, at least on a personal level.
So, yeah, when the Big Bad is trying to destroy the universe, someone is going to make off-color jokes about this being the Big Bad’s way of compensating for something. And that is how a really broad streak of darkness doesn’t stop me writing human wavy and superversive things.