Why I Write On the Darker Side


After reading drafts of my novels, several people who know me well have told me, “It’s not what I would’ve expected you to write,” or, “It’s just… really… dark.” Fair enough. It would be silly to defend myself, because I desire and value their opinions.

So I’ve pondered whether to blog about this at all. I don’t want it to sound like excuses. But the more I thought about it, the more I simply wanted to tell you all this. I want you to know this about me. Because it seems that the real me–bubbly, happy and spontaneous–is a startling counterpoint to the words I write. There are reasons why that is, but they’re simple and nice reasons.

The truth is, what I write is a reflection of me, but it has nothing to do with who I am.

My characters are not me. They’re individuals who think for themselves. As the writer of their stories, I’m merely stepping inside their heads and trying to be true to them as I put the words down.


I love to study humanity. It’s why I watch shows like Dollhouse and Lost. When a person is pushed up against the worst possible thing that can happen to them, the deepest parts of their being are brought to light. They aren’t always good things. Not always noble and pretty. But conflict and difficulty is where we learn the most about ourselves and about others.

This is why there is ugliness, coercion, betrayal, and revenge in my books. This is why things get dark sometimes. Why every protagonist doesn’t always have a pure motive.

If I knew them in person, I don’t think I could forgive most of my characters for the things they do. I am never a fan of violence. I wouldn’t go to war with Kierstaz Orion. I would rage at the racism of the Desert People and the cold skepticism of the Drei. I could never justify anyone manipulating people for their own ends the way Trzl does. But if we live on earth, we see good and bad reflected in microchosms all around us, and we wonder why people make the decisions they do.

That’s what I do when I write. I wonder. I echo. I create dark places for my characters to go so that I can learn a little more about the light they might have in them. And yes, I’ll admit it: sometimes I put the romance in there just because.


7 thoughts on “Why I Write On the Darker Side

  1. Michelle Roberts (@michroberts90) says:

    Love this! We are not what we write. What we write is a reflection of the human condition that we observe around us!

  2. Grace Lucille says:

    I’m curious as to why you mention watching fictional shows as a way to study humanity. There’s a difference between fictional and non-fictional characters, for the simple fact that one set is real and the other set sprang from someone’s imagination. Of course, fictional characters are being created by a real-life person, and obviously have very real qualities about them. Much of their reactions could be very possible in real life. But they are still coming from someone’s imagination and are fitting into that person’s idea of who they should be and how they think they might react. And we can all attest to the fact that frequently, how we think we will react in certain situations becomes so far from how we do react when actually confronted with those situations. Fiction teaches us nothing but that author’s limited perspective. Real life teaches us… real life, without coming to us through an author’s filter.

    If one wants to study humanity, I would think that studying the real deal would be far more enlightening. I’m not implying that you don’t. I just find it odd that you would imply the viewing of such an unrealistic story as LOST as a legitimate study of humanity. I guess what I take away from LOST is that humanity really likes watching shows that make absolutely no sense, with a lot of sexual tension thrown in to keep it exciting ;) (that was supposed to be funny…)

    You know me pretty well and I’m sure you know where I’m coming from when I say all this. I don’t mean to be irritating or anything like that, just thought it was worth bringing up.


    1. Rachel O'Laughlin says:

      Bahahaha, yeah, I guess I was unclear. What I meant by “why I watch shows such as Dollhouse and Lost” was that I watch them because they ALSO study humanity. They make it very obvious that what they are about is exploring the possibilities of human action and interaction. Setting them in such a strange place with strange circumstances is done in a way that you know the characters is where it’s really happening. The plotline is just a way to provide that scope. And yes, I think TV is one of the narrowest ways to do this. BUT the fact that so many people watch makes it an easy topic to discuss, and through the differing views on the same premise expressed in one room of friends, sometimes I learn things about someone I know that I never would have learned otherwise.

      Most certainly the only way to actually study humanity is to interact with them yourself. I see fiction as many things, but one of them is the opportunity to learn about the author’s perspective. We may think we see a large sampling of humanity within our limited sphere, but if we really believe that, we’re fooling ourselves. There are many worlds of culture on this planet, many cultures within cultures, and so forth, that we never get to glimpse. I like that books allow for a broader reach.

  3. Grace Lucille says:

    PS hope that didn’t come off as, “I don’t believe in fiction at all.” Fiction is useful, but it’s always important to realize that it’s fiction, not reality.

    1. Rachel O'Laughlin says:

      No, it didn’t at all! It just showed me that my phrase was incomplete. Thanks for commenting, as always. :)
      Love you! <3

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