I was recently asked a question that has popped up in one form or another since I was a little girl writing in my Big Chief Writing Tablets with my Black Ticonderoga Pencils. “Why do you have to write such grotesque and macabre things? Why can’t you write about puppies and rainbows?”
When I was little, I would shrug and say, “I just like to, I guess.” Then I would tune the asker out and go on with my writing. When I got to my teen years, the questions were funny and always inspired me to see if I could be more gross, more macabre, more gory. I wrote my first splatter punk short story when I was 13, after a particularly nasty fight with my stepfather. That story led me to discover the joys of creating a character that resembled some one who had made me angry and gorily killing them off. I still use that process today to keep myself out of jail! 🙂
In my twenties, I think I finally hit on the true answer. I write about the macabre and the grotesque, because even if I look out my window and see a lovely blue sky and puffy white clouds; I also see the decaying tree across the parking lot, the rusting fence surrounding the school with old playground equipment, a dead bird, a squirrel about to become something’s lunch, and a drug deal going down in the park. I can try for all I am worth to see just the sky and clouds, but I just don’t. If I set out to write a story about a puppy, he will end up being the offspring of a Hellhound. If I write about rainbows, there is a pot of gold at the end but you have to give the little man guarding it the life of the one you hold most dear to get it.
I personally think, Angelina Jolie, as Jane Smith said it best, “A story with a happy ending is just a story that hasn’t finished yet.” There really are no happy endings. Eventually, somebody dies and leaves behind the other, in a love story. The perfect parent turns into a human doing their best as we grow older. Superheroes age or falter.
People who live in the in-between land where everything is a shade of grey, all know that The Volturi came back after The Cullens and somebody died, it was inevitable. We all know that though “Moldy Voldy” was gone, evil would rear its head in another form and more lives would be lost fighting it. Or the one that used to make me cringe when I was little, how good of a leader could the Scarecrow have been and how long before some other witch somewhere out there seized control from him? And every romance novel we have ever read from Romeo and Juliet to teen romances to regency to contemporary will eventually end just like Romeo and Juliet, with separation by death.
It is not to say that I don’t enjoy the heck out of a well-written romance novel or that I do not spend hours each week watching cartoons. I like the possibility of a world where there are always happy endings. And I tried once, to write a romance novel, I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t stay perky that long. I gained a profound respect for the romance author or the children’s book author or those witty women’s lit book authors. I am just not one of them.
So, in short, I will leave them to their puppies, rainbows, and happy couples. And I will stick to my Hellhounds, evil leprechauns and toxic relationships. It is good to know your strengths and appreciate the strengths of others. If we all wrote equally well about the same things, the world of books would be very limited. Thank Heavens, we don’t.