Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Revamping the Dark Side

The world is coming to an end, people are trying to kill me and my friend’s seventeen year old daughter just ran off with an older man. I have another friend whose drug addict son is in rehab, but she thinks he may have killed someone. Maybe he’s the one who killed my neighbor’s daughter. I heard about this kid who woke up strapped to a chair. Someone was going to kill him and he didn’t know how he got there. It all makes the problems another friend of mine has seem small. She has this job she likes at a women’s shelter, but her husband doesn’t want her working there. He’s threatening to leave her if she doesn’t quit.

Sounds bleak, doesn’t it? Fortunately, much of this hasn’t happened yet, but it will. This is the world as seen through the eyes of Christian publishing during the next year. It has made me think about the differences between a dark story and one that isn’t.

Dark fiction is short on hope and provides no escape. Mary E. DeMuth’s novel A Slow Burn (Oct. 2009) will be about a woman searching for her daughter’s murderer. As it is a Christian worldview novel, we can assume that the woman must learn to forgive the man, rather than slitting his throat, but where’s the hope? She won’t get her daughter back. The most she can hope for is to find the man and even that seems hopeless. She can quit looking, but that will put her back in another hopeless situation.

If we wanted a similar story that isn’t so dark, we could say that a woman is on a mission. Two years ago, her daughter died. Certain that her daughter’s husband was at fault, the woman has been chasing him. He has eluded her many times. But now she has accepted Christ. Her eyes have been opened. She sees that it wasn’t his fault and she wants him to raise her grandson, but that won’t happen unless she can find him.

Notice the differences. In the first, the murderer has the upper hand and the woman’s motivation to find him is driven by the murder. She has no hope of a better situation. In the second, the woman has the upper hand, with the “murderer” on the run. Her motivation has changed from vengeance to reconciliation. If she quits, it is her son-in-law and grandson who are hurt, not her. If she succeeds, she gets back part of what she lost.