04 August 2009

Afraid of the Dark?

Hi, Friends!

Last week, while thinking about the “who” behind my inspiration, my mind took an interesting turn. So the theme for this week was borne: the importance of both light and darkness in writing. Today we’re talking about darkness.

This can be a tricky subject for Christians. We know what the Bible says—that “we are children of light and need to live as children of light” (that’s in Ephesians 5, I believe), but for right now, while we are on earth, we are exposed to darkness. It’s not fun. It hurts. We ache for the day that there will be no more darkness. But for now, it’s our reality.

I truly believe, that, as writers, we have a responsibility to authenticity. If we write stories that are all light, they lose an extra dimension, as if we were walking around at high noon without a shadow. That’s the point of conflict, right? To heighten the intensity of the story? Without conflict, it’s a flat plot. Maybe interesting to those who love us, but that won’t make the bookshelves.

Which begs the question: In the world yet to come, when we write, will our stories lack conflict because there is no darkness? That’s something I often wonder. Or, because we will remember what it was like on this side of things, do you think it will still have a presence in the things we create? I’d love to know your opinions of this!

The thing about darkness is that we all understand it. We weren’t supposed to—absolutely not. But we do. We know what it means to grieve, to struggle, to battle, and to be betrayed. We know how it feels to be lied to, stolen from, and hurt by others. We understand our depravity without Christ, weakness, and fear.

And we can use that to make an incredible story.

Over the past few years, I’ve literally seen God bring Psalm 30 to life: “You take my mourning and turn it into dancing; you take my sadness and turn it into joy.” That doesn’t mean that it’s gone completely. That doesn’t mean that I forget all about what happened to me and how it made me feel. It means that God brings restoration. He makes those things new. In the darkest night, He is the one who brings the light.

Darkness is an incredible tool for a writer. It’s probably my most favorite of all, something that made my classmates and professors at my small Christian college uneasy. When they wrote about style and syntax, I wrote on insanity and death. The darker the better. Because there’s a secret, you see. The greater the darkness, the more powerful is the smallest light. When you’re in a pitch black cave, a single match will illuminate it. When you’re emotionally in that grave, the tiniest ray of hope is brighter than a midsummer’s day.

One of my greatest influences is Edgar Allan Poe. I love his stories. I love his rhythm, I love his characters, and I love how he uses darkness in his stories. And that definitely carries over into my novels. My characters battle some pretty dark things. But the thing about Poe is that in his stories, darkness wins. There is very little, if any light. Very little grace, love, and hope. His stories are profound. They resonate simply because they are so hopeless.

Here’s the secret: any darkness, no matter how deep, when infused with faith, loses its power. Darkness should never get the glory. It’s only left as a contrast, as a testament to what had been—but what is not anymore.

A story about the incredible power and love of God.

Isn’t that what we write anyway?


  1. Beautiful post, Kristen. It is amazing how good God is even in the darkest of times. I believe in our writing, we place our characters in those dark times and let them find their ways out by the grace of God. You've given me something to ponder today. Thanks.

  2. That was an amazing post. You pretty much said it all.

  3. I'm glad you pondered whether or not we'll still write stories of conflict once we reach the land of eternal light. I have often thought of this. Perhaps it even frightens me to think of a world without the dark. Not that I enjoy depression and death, but darkness adds such texture, such richness. God created the physical darkness, the opposite of light. Satan came along and perverted it into something to be feared.

    We as writers do have an obligation to truth. In order to tell the truth, we have to explore both dark and light. It's frightening, yes, to explore those regions unseen. But by doing so, we shed a little light into them, making the fear of the dark diminish and the wonder of what lies within, and the ways in which we can illuminate, brighter.


  4. Ooh, Jen, I like that--that Satan perverted even the darkness. I've never thought of it like that. But if God created evening and morning, then... eish, now that's something for me to ponder for a long time!

    I wonder about writing in the Kingdom so often, and what it will look like. I'm so intrigued by the absence of what we've known for so long and how it will be different--and how it will be the same. I don't have any conclusions yet. It's just something I think of a lot!

    Heather, I love that image of letting our readers discover God's grace. That's so beautiful--and so true!!

    I might be a dork, but I get really happy when I come online and see that there are comments to my posts! Thanks for coming, Heather, Cindy, and Jen! You made my day!

  5. First - thank you SO much for your kind words about my short story. I really appreciate the encouragment Kristen. I have another one coming out in November that I'm excited about!

    This post was beautiful. I love your line: any darkness, when infused with faith, loses its power. Darkness should never get the glory. It's only left as a contrast, as a testament to what had been - but what is not anymore.

    Wow, that's beautiful and SO true. That's exactly why I put darkness into my stories. So that when faith overcomes it, it's that much more powerful. And it's the exact same thing in real life.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  6. I'm so glad I found your blog today. I'm in the process of rewriting my novel - and adding more conflict and obstacles in one plotline.

    Ditto Katie's favorite line about darkness being the contrast. I need the hard stuff in my book - so that God's love and hope shine brighter. Not to mention, the victory is sweeter.

    Now, if only I could be as thankful for the dark stuff in my own crazy life.

  7. I hope there is some type of darkness in Heaven or my photographs are going to be terribly dull and flat. On the up side, maybe I won't have to buy any lighting gear. ;)
    I thought I was already following you, but I guess I was wrong. I'm following you now though!

  8. WOOHOOOO!!!! Thanks for following! And thanks for stopping by! We'll definitely need your expert opinion on our topic tomorrow...

    Haha! No lighting gear; that would be awesome!

    I so agree, Candee! It is difficult to be thankful for the tough things that happen to us. Sometimes, maybe I am after it's all over. Maybe. But I rarely am while I'm going through it! It's hard!

    Katie, isn't redemption so cool? That God can take what was broken, meant to hurt and destroy, and make it beautiful? That he can turn ashes into beauty. I love it! And, like you, I love writing about it!

    Thanks for coming by!