Monday, October 26, 2009

Crossing Over To The Dark Side

Monday, October 26, 2009

I recently received the November edition of Romance Writers Report published by Romance Writers of America. This month it featured a very interesting article titled Writing on the Dark Side, written by Larissa Ione. That alone was enough to suck me in.

If you get a copy of Romance Writers Report, I highly suggest you read this particular article.

So, what's considered DARK? According to Larissa...Violence. Gore. Sex. Offensive Language. Have you ever been uncomfortable when reading certain parts of a book? Ever have to put the book down because you're uncomfortable only to find that you need to pick it up later to see what happens?

Well ladies and gentleman--you just crossed over to the dark side!

These types of reads are becoming more and more popular. They test the limits, cross the line and still we beg for more. I'm a confessed darkie. (I just made that term up. Kinda funny. I think I'll keep it.) Being a darkie doesn't just mean that one enjoys to read/write about vampires, demons, shape-shifters and wizards. Sometimes the dark side is just about real issues that really happen, murder, drug addiction, mental and physical scars, all things that make us uncomfortable because we hope, pray that none of those things ever happen to us. Yet, we're drawn in. Why? Cynthia Eden's theory is this: "I think readers enjoy the darker reads because they like the elements of risk and danger--but they like knowing they are in control. No matter what happens, a reader can shut the book, take a deep breath, and come back to the scene later. You can walk on the dark side without ever having to face any real danger. It's a dark thrill, but a safe ride."

Larissa Ione goes on to explain that as a writer, you're first page needs to show what type of read the reader will be getting. If it's dark, it better show dark and you might as well throw the f-word in there right away if you are going to use it freely because there are some readers that are turned off by that word and it's only fair to let them decide if this is the story for them.

Crossing over to the dark side as a writer was an easy transition for me. My writing always tended to steer me in that direction no matter how hard I fought it. Even the contemporary I'm working on has some darker elements. In the end I decided not to fight it. Fighting it only means holding back. And holding back sucks all the potential out of me and my story.

So, I'm a confessed darkie. How about you?

SIS Barb aka Elle J Rossi


Christie Craig said...

Great post!

I think most writers have lines they don't want to cross when writing. I think readers have lines they don't want crossed in their fiction. I think where the lines fall and where you want them to fall is as individual as one's preference of ice cream flavors. Some like it really dark, some like it really light. I also think the trick for a writer is to use these lines, push them when ever possible and sometimes to even cross the lines to create suspense and make it the best book. For example, I write a light book, but my suspense is there and when called for by plot, I will cross a line. I won’t cross it by much, and I’m very careful to make sure that when the line is crossed I never step too far or stay too long in the dark side.

Really good topic.


Elle J Rossi said...

Good morning, CC!

So glad you stopped by. Ah yes, the fine line of blending light and dark. When done well, that makes for the best book, don't you think?. And when done well, I would think it grabs a much more diverse group of readers, which is what we all strive for!

Oh, and get this. I like my books dark but my ice cream...straight up vanilla!

SIS Barb aka Elle J Rossi

Beth Ciotta said...

I'm not sure I got that issue of the RWR, but it could be buried on my desk. I'll have to look.

I'm not a darkie--in my reading or writing. I'm too much of a wimp. In the past year I read two suspense novels with romantic elements by two different authors (both past faves of mine) that disappointed me. In the one story, several violent passages made me squeamish. The other story just had this underlying 'ick' feeling. Both stories were so dark overall, that I can't say I enjoyed them. But that's just me.

On the other hand, the Harlan Coben novel I just finished had several violent and darkly emotional elements that made me uncomfortable, yet I loved the book. Why? Because it was peppered with a lot of humor and wit. I think that's why I enjoy the Sookie Stackhouse series as well--dark, but sprinkled with humor. I guess for me, it's about balance. Dark and light.

Great topic, Barb/Elle!

SIS Beth

Edie Ramer said...

My books have a blend of dark and light. I like a blend in books I read, too. If it's all dark, it's too intense. I'm not enjoying it. I need a little light between the darkness.

Elle J Rossi said...


Harlan does an excellent job of mixing the light and dark elements. Have you read his Myron Bolitar series? Bren and I love them. I actually need to catch up a little on them. I believe there are a couple of books in the series I haven't read yet.

I can't say that I've ever read something that made me so squeamish it ruined the story for me, but like I said, I'm a DARKIE!

SIS Barb aka Elle J Rossi

Elle J Rossi said...


Blending is definitely not the easiest thing to do so big time kudos to you. I think that's one of the areas I struggle with most. I have to keep reminding myself to rein it back a little. But what if I didn't? What if I just go for it? Hmmm...I need to ponder that!

SIS Barb aka Elle J Rossi

BJ said...

Barb, I like dark elements in books and movies. Sometimes i think they go to far. There is a series I like but the torture scenes in them are a little to much for me. Without them the books would be great.

SIS Brandy said...

I am ok with a little "darkness" but not too much. I creep myself out enough when I am at home alone. I don't need a really dark read to send me over the edge!!!

Elle J Rossi said...


Please share the title of that series. I'd like to take a peek and see what I think of the darkness!

SIS Barb aka Elle J Rossi

Elle J Rossi said...


I think you need a big, mean dog. Come to think of it, so do I!

SIS Barb

Taylor said...

Haha I guess I've been a darkie all this time, bring on the dark!! I love crime novels, and more than plenty rely on these elements. But it's not such a bad thing, a great writer is someone who uses it to their benefit!

Elle J Rossi said...

Taylor, Taylor! Where have you been?

Why am I not surprised that you're a fellow Darkie?!?! What would a crime novel be without dark elements? I know the answer...CRAP!

SIS Barb aka Elle J Rossi

Tori Lennox said...

I'm more into happiness and light, I'm afraid. I've tried writing dark. It NEVER works. I have this one story I started years ago. The hero is slightly mad (he has good reason for this, trust me). But the heroine? Total smart-ass. And none of the other characters are all that dark either. The hero is all alone in his darkness and he sticks out like a sore thumb.

So I figure I should just stick with what I do best. Snarky heroines and banter. :)

Even my stories with shapeshifters, vampires and other so-called Creatures of the Night are fairly light and fluffy. So to speak. LOL!

Sandy said...

Elle, I'm a realistic writer. This means if it needs to be dark then it's dark. I do like some lightness in the story because that's the way real life is, light and dark.

BTW, I became a follower.

Elle J Rossi said...


Snarky heroines? I like that.

There's nothing wrong with happiness and light. I also enjoy reading those books. Thanks goodness for variety!

SIS Barb aka Elle J Rossi

Elle J Rossi said...


Could you imagine if life wasn't a mixture? Too much of anything is just, well...too much.

So happy you're following me SISters and I. Happy to have you!

SIS Barb aka Elle J Rossi

Sisters-in-Sync said...


For me, the darker the better. I agree that reading something dark allows you to cross over into another world, but safely cross back, simply by closing the book. I truly enjoy light reads too, but there is just something about the sinister that sparks my interest!

Great topic!

SIS Bren

Elle J Rossi said...

Hi Bren,

I agree...the darker the better. Except with my coffee. I still like that a little on the lighter side.

Being able to close the book makes crossing over much less dangerous.

SIS Barb

EmilyBryan said...

I sometimes like a story that's not quite safe, but gore, thank you, no. I like my historicals without cholera and my suspense without entrails please.

Elle J Rossi said...

Hi Emily!

So glad you stopped by.

So no gore, huh? No entrails either? I think that means you may fall under the "Mocha" category rather than "Darkie". LOL

SIS Barb aka Elle J Rossi

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