Why It Helps Me to Write on the Dark Side

A writer friend of mine once shared with me why she wrote the type of stories that she wrote. She first began writing while she was on extended bed rest due to a difficult pregnancy, both factors of which combined to make her severely depressed. The story that she wrote was funny and uplifting with a happily-ever-after ending because it was exactly what she needed to cheer herself up, and that’s the type of story she’s written ever since.

Every writer’s story is different (pun intended), and maybe you don’t have one specific life event that spurred you on to write the stories that you do. But I’m a firm believer that the best writers write from their hearts, and it’s useful to think about your motivation to writing what you write. Why? Because this will affect your characters’ emotions and motivations as well.

I’d like to think that my stories have uplifting messages. There is hope if my characters look for it, but my stories also always incorporate dark elements. For instance, I always have romance as a key element of the story, and while one main character is bright, the love interest is always damaged because of something dark that happened in his/her past. Even my brightest characters have something dark within their backstories. After polling some of my writer friends, I discovered that I’m not alone. Cumulatively, our characters and stories have dealt with issues such as mental illnesses, alcoholism, sexual assault, drug abuse, domestic violence, anorexia, gambling, manslaughter, child abuse, bullying, and so on.

I love writing dark stories. I don’t think I could ever pull off anything different.

Channeling darker experiences helps me connect with the emotions that my characters need when faced with similar challenges. Even if the exact experiences aren’t identical, it could still elicit the same emotions and motivations in your character. Being taunted by bullies in high school made me wish I was invisible and led me to be extremely introverted and self-reliant. I share these qualities with one of my characters who is misunderstood because of her paranormal abilities. 

Writing about darker experiences helps me understand and put them in their proper place, a place that allows me to cope with these things in real life. Conducting research on drug abuse and alcoholism for my characters helps me understand the people I love that are struggling with drug addiction and alcoholism. Helping one of my characters work through her experience with sexual assault was the only thing that helped me, fifteen years later, put my own demons to rest and allow me to find peace and forgiveness.
I write romance because I remain a hopeless (or is it hopeful?) romantic. I believe in the happily ever afters, and accordingly all of my stories have HEAs. Perhaps most of all, having that bit of darkness in my stories gives me the power to turn things around, to write for my characters those happy endings and outcomes, even when the ones from real life were not.

What about you? Why do you write what you write? 


Helen Boswell loved to get lost in the pages of a story from the time she could sound out the words. She credits her dad, an avid fiction reader, with encouraging her to read ALL OF THE BOOKS on his shelves from the time she was a teenager. An author of both YA urban fantasy and NA contemporary romance, she loves to read and write characters that come to life with their beauty, flaws, and all. She is the author of YA urban fantasies MYTHOLOGY, THE WICKED, THE ETERNAL, and NA contemporary romance LOSING ENOUGH. You can find out more about Helen at www.helenboswell.com.

2 thoughts on “Why It Helps Me to Write on the Dark Side

  1. Pingback: On Writing About Sensitive (Trigger) Topics | Thinking Through Our Fingers

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