For this blogpost, I’m going to venture into the realm of gritty and dark fantasy, and my take on when an author should back off or not. Let’s begin!

 I was thinking about the Line of Corruption, and I compared its mood to the first book I ever wrote. In the first book, it was a standard YA story. Village kid suddenly finds out he can use magic. The regular works. The only thing that set it apart from other YA books ( at least, the average ones) was the fact that I put him through the ringer. This isn’t the type of ringer where he doesn’t get the girl.

I drowned him, I gave him third degree burns, a concussion, and put him into a two week coma. It was how I imagined a real farm boy would be like against powerful magic users.

So, I took that concept to a different level in Line of Corruption. In the world of LoC, a Chosen One is chosen (hah, wonderful word choice there) every fifty to hundred years. Now, Larik was the Chosen One, but he was ordered to do the “dirty” stuff. I’m talking mass murder types of things. Before Larik dies, he decides to pass on his consciousness/personality unto his successor so he can guide him/her to do the right thing.

His successor, however, is a hot-headed mercenary. I like the idea of using dark characters and giving them the roles that normally ‘good’ characters would have. For example, in another one of my stories, several convicts are chosen to become cannon fodder for the army in an invasion of another planet. The main character is a criminal. 

So, I wonder, what is dark enough? For Line of Corruption, I set out with the idea that if there ever was a damsel in distress… she wouldn’t get rescued.

The strong get maimed, the weak don’t even register to the strong, and the wicked… well, I won’t say they’re victorious, but they sure aren’t poverty-stricken losers. That’s for sure.

However, there are lines that I don’t cross. (I think it’s important to have your own set of “morals” when it comes to writing.) For example, I would never write a scene where one of the main characters takes pleasure in harming an innocent. That’s too far, even for me. 

Also, rather ironically, I don’t actually have my characters swear very often. I counted, and the number of F-words I used tallied up to maybe around forty. Give or take a dozen.

I just invented new curses that are, in this world, much worse than the F-word. So, my books aren’t very clean, but I wouldn’t say they’re very bleak either. There’s a difference, in my opinion, from bleak and dark. Dark is the fact that the characters have questionable morals, and they may do a few things that most people would never imagine even doing. Bleak is all of the good characters dying… and everyone getting enslaved.

Like the Lord Ruler in Mistborn. Imagine reading about how he destroyed all his friends (or something) and watch him enslave the Skaa. Not too pretty, if you ask me. 

An author that, I think, handles the dark side of things quite well would be Joe Abercrombie. His characters aren’t very nice, but at the same time… they’re not all despicable 24/7. Logen Ninefingers has moments where he’s really quite nice. In the First Law trilogy, we saw Jezal improve a bit as a person. Glokta has… well, he has a great sense of humor. 

One of my favorite authors, Brent Weeks, treads the line of grittiness and darkness in the Night Angel Trilogy. At times, I felt that he may have stumbled over the line a few times, but it’s a perfect example of what I’m talking about. It’s the author’s duty to pick a line for himself, and to not cross it. It’s the reader’s job to see if s/he and the author have the same lines drawn in the sand.

So, yes. Please comment on your thoughts about darkness in books. I’m really interested to know what people think. How dark is dark enough for you? Tell me about it in the comments!

Ps: Hit the Like and Follow button if you thought this was a cool blogpost. Had fun writing about this stuff. 

~Jian

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Comments
  1. tktrian says:

    Haha, I just wrote something similar to our blog 😀 thanks for commenting! In novels barely anything shocks or disturbs me anymore, but when I invest myself into telling a dark story, I get a little uncomfy. You haven’t read the worst of Solus yet… we can send you a little more to beta-read and you can tell if we’ve done a shitty job at it 😀 the point is never to glorify darkness, but rather, challenge it.

    • J.A. Romano says:

      Yup, completely agree. : D Feel free to send me some more to beta read. I’ve been missing the adventures of Reggie and Lise. I’m sure you guys did a fantastic job. Oh, I don’t know if you got the tag, but I tagged the two of you in this meme.
      https://dullboredom.wordpress.com/2013/05/26/wip-update-tag-im-it/

      Interested to see how you two will respond to the Q’s. : )

      • tktrian says:

        Yes, thanks for it! We’ll answer the questions asap, just been a bit busy lately (work, shooting competition, paper deadlines… life gets in the way >_<) And thank you, we will send you something soon, and also, if you want us to beta-read/crit, we'll be happy to help^^

  2. C.Hill says:

    I used to not have a limit on what I could take when it comes to dark stuff. I’m practically dehumanized to the basic gritty stuff authors throw out to their characters. But last week, I was reading the second Sandman Slim and stumbled upon my line that shall never be crossed. A magician guy got off on a zombie eating his boys.

    Yeah. Sorry for the graphic-ness, but that was just disturbing. Never, ever want to read (or write) stuff like that.

    • J.A. Romano says:

      Yikes, I actually remember that. Definitely one of the things I will never write about. Richard Kadrey sure likes to push the lines, I gotta say. Don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing… All I know is that I probably wouldn’t have found another line I’d never cross if it wasn’t for his books. xD

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