I’m currently in the planning stage of the third book in the Glyphpunk series, and one of the character arcs is getting darker than anticipated. Possibly darker than I’m comfortable writing.
Reviews of some of my other stories have noted darkness where I haven’t really seen it (one review of Street of Lost Gods said it was too dark for them to continue reading, though they enjoyed what they had read, and I consider that a fairly light story).
I don’t really see much of my work as being dark (though admittedly To Hunt Monsters was intended to be darkish throughout before ending up pitch black, but I was fine with that). So when a story arc feels so dark that I’m concerned it may lose the audience (or the theoretical audience, since the first two books have yet to sell that well), it’s a concern.
Coming into it I was a bit at a loss for what the character could do in this story, though they have a viewpoint that’s probably necessary for the greater story. As I’ve considered it, and been rereading the earlier books, their story has evolved fairly organically. And then it turned dark.
Because of the characters involved, and how what I’ve established about them would play into it, it was fairly easy to establish a dramatic line for the character through the story arc.
How they’d deal with it also threw up possibilities that were so strong I can hardly not consider them, despite their darkness. And they feel dramatically stronger than the other story possibilities presenting themselves.
But as dark as they make the story, I then considered another complication that would push it over the edge into an abyss. A choice so dark, albeit as a logical extension of the preceding choice, that even considering it would probably leave no way back for the character.
Were I go down this path, they couldn’t really have a happy ending. They’d always have this knowledge hanging over them, haunting them.
This wouldn’t be darkness for shock value. It comes from thinking about the situation and the choices available to the characters. It’s who they are. But it’s also how I think they’ll respond to the situations I’d put them in, so it’s ultimately about what I want the story to do. The inclusion of the complication could change the story from dark to something far worse, potentially overshadowing the overall story and tainting the reader’s enjoyment of the work.
I’m not current sure I really want to go there, but having considered the possibility I don’t know that I can ever think of the story without it.