Learning the dark side

I find that writers are usually nice people. Nice people have a hard time understanding nasty people, let alone liking them. Let alone loving them!  You must overcome this.—by Elizabeth Sims (Tapping Your Inner Villain)

I was thrilled to attend Laura Navarre’s Sympathy for the Devil: Dark Heroes in Popular Fiction” presentation, two weeks ago. Now I am finally able to review all those notes!

Laura Navarre and Jessie
Me, Laura, and Jessie Smith

Laura (and her evil twin Nikki Navarre) presented this workshop last year at the Emerald City Writer’s Conference and I was a bit blown away by the experience and quality of this presentation. So I asked and she agreed to come to Portland and present it exclusively for our chapter. Being able to anticipate it then revisit it was awesome.  I need to learn more about the dark side.

I’ve never been good at creating villains or instilling fear, not even when I tried to do so as a mom of teen girls. I’ve read a variety of Gothic literature, thrillers, mysteries, horror novels, and loved reading them, and have reread many because I find them fascinating but not for the fear factor.

My notes from Laura’s workshop define a Dark Hero, Dark Ally, Foil, and Placeholder Villain. I even have some pointers on how to hone a dark hero. Not that I’ll ever create one like Batman, or Frankenstein, or write stories with Steinbeck or Bronte characters, themes or settings. But there are some dark points in the story I am working on now, and while I’ll never be menacing, there’s scenes that include anger, grief, loss, and fear.

Dark Heroes are tortured by inner demons, and wounds, but have a touch of humanity that makes the reader want them to be redeemed. As has happened to vampires, they’ve gone from Bram Stoker’s vision, to Ann Rice’s version, to now sparkling in the sun. But I don’t write paranormal stories so these references are marginal.

It was the Sympathy for the Devil flavor of this workshop that resonated with my need to explore the dark side. Now I’m beginning to recognize dark heroes in comedies, villains who are romantic heroes, and all kinds of new twists in my perspective. I think I’m going to like the dark side.

5 thoughts on “Learning the dark side

  1. I saw Master of Sex, the HBO series about Masters and Johnson tonight. I was prepared to snub it, but the character development was riveting. And now that you point out the traits of dark heroes, that’s exactly why I found myself glued to program, hoping for some glimpse of softening or change in the main character. Thanks for sharing your insights. The book looks interesting.


  2. In the series on TV of Buffy The Vampire Slayer there was a character named Spike played by James Marsters who became a character who fits in the dark hero category. I loved him!


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