When do we stop listening to well meaning but hindering advice? Sometimes, these gently phrased words delivered so charitably linger inside us festering and killing our creativity. They are deceptively cruel and make us question ourselves; make us second guess our innate intuition about our craft.
This may have happened to you by a well meaning friend or relative. It’s even worse when it’s a mentor – someone you believe in, who has already succeeded as a writer. Because if they’ve been published then they must know what they’re doing; they know it all. Right?
I say no. I say that it is the writer, the creator of his literary work, who is the only person who truly knows himself, his craft, his passion and where it may lead him. And although, the well meaning person with the ill fitting advice had only good intentions, their vision of literature often differs from the person they’re trying to help.
For example, when it comes to Horror in literature many people cringe and wonder why anyone would write such dark fantasy. Instead, it would be better if they focused more on poetic prose or perhaps romance. This is especially so if the writer is female, because of course women are such romantics. Detective stories are good too as well as historical fiction. Now that is definitely more palatable.
Well, I say phooey! Let’s write Horror Fantasy and delight in all the deliciously macabre and gothic flavors of a scandalously grotesque world in which the story explores the dark and malevolent side of humanity. Replete with graphic violence, blood and gore in which the participants are not only killed but at times eaten. Whether the story is fraught with sexuality or not is not necessary for me to enjoy the story but sometimes it adds a certain spice to an already horridly obscene plot.
Readers love horror just as much now as they did a century ago. A quick search of Merriam-Webster’s dictionary will show the definition of horror as: 1. A painful and intense fear, dread, or dismay. 2. The quality of inspiring horror: repulsive, horrible or dismal quality of character.
Another Google search turned out the following quotes from H.P. Lovecraft and Joyce Carol Oates, two notable authors.
"The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown." ~ H. P. Lovecraft
"This predilection for art that promises we will be frightened by it, shaken by it, at times repulsed by it seems to be as deeply imprinted in the human psyche as the counter-impulse toward daylight, rationality, scientific skepticism, truth and the "real." ... And this is the forbidden truth, the unspeakable taboo--that evil is not always repellent but frequently attractive; that it has the power to make of us not simply victims, as nature and accident do, but active accomplices." ~ Joyce Carol Oates
I recently read a post by Magaly from Pagan Culture about the “advice” from her former professor. I had issues with certain words he said like: “They are a simple crowd,” (he framed the audience with a wave of his withered hand.) I felt this was an arrogant statement. To me my readers or anyone who will sit and listen to one of my readings (namely my friends at this point) are like gold. They are not simple. They have imagination. They fall deep into the world I’ve created and use all their senses to enjoy the experience. I have the utmost respect for them.
Another statement he made was: “It is perhaps even easy to write these things, I wouldn’t know. I’ve never tried it.” To me (perhaps because I can be highly emotional at times) this was an insult. Easy? I thought he was an experienced writer? Even famously published authors struggle with the word, with putting the story together. How dare he, insinuate that because it is dark fiction that it was easy? Was he implying that this was the only reason why she was able to write it? Then he adds that he wouldn’t know because he’s never tried it.
How dare he have the gall to give advice on something he knows nothing about? I was so angry. He continued by stating that “…lead a more intellectual audience to think you are wicked and mark you as something you’re not.” And what exactly is he trying to say here? Most of you are familiar with the usual meaning of the word wicked – as in devilish or naughty. But wicked can also mean amoral, scandalous, corrupt, indecent, or depraved. Perhaps because he’s an old timer he’s more familiar with the latter definitions of that word and in his mind is trying to protect her because he knows Magaly isn’t any of those things.
Magaly handled it well. She was calm, controlled and true to herself. And I praise her for her integrity. I’ve read her writing. She’s imaginative, innovative, she loves the dark, the macabre and the realism of her writing proves that in this sense she is Wicked!
And since I’m a writer of dark fiction then that makes me Wicked too!