Helping Your Characters Navigate the Darkness


pexels-photo-25996-mediumIf you ask kids what they’re most afraid of, I’d bet a lot of them would say, “the dark.” This isn’t an uncommon theme—the dark is a constant we must face on a daily basis, and it can be quite scary when we aren’t prepared for it.

But here’s the thing: we don’t have to be afraid of the dark. And if you’re a writer, you can’t be afraid of the dark. Our stories (both real and fictional) hinge on how we or our characters navigate through darkness. It’s the choices we make when faced with our own darkness and the darkness of others that help shape our character—for better or for worse.

As much as I have a desire for being in well-lit spaces at all times, I’ve discovered something important as I’ve aged and learned more about the world and writing and myself: You have to understand darkness in order to be able to fully appreciate the light. Without the contrast between the two, the light doesn’t weigh as much.

In stories, having the struggle between the two is absolutely essential. It doesn’t always have to be an epic battle between good and evil, but the fight against the dark needs to happen. There’s a reason we use terms like “the Dark Moment” and “the Dark Night of the Soul” when talking about crucial plot moments. We have to wade into the darkness and contend with it in order to move forward in our stories and our lives.

Now, I’m not saying that it’s a good idea to move into the darkness and live there. But I might recommend these three things:


1. Set up camp in the darkness for a little while.

See what it feels like. Take note.


2. Learn about how it operates.

Fear of something often stems from not understanding it, and by not shying away from your darkness or the darkness in your story you can learn how you and your characters react and respond to it.


3. Learn what the best ways are to look it in the face and come out stronger.

I can promise you that it’ll make your stories more impactful, and your characters richer.

If you do decide to have a little camp out, make sure to pitch your tent somewhere you can see the stars. They’re a great reminder that we aren’t alone in the darkness, and that the light is never far away.




This is Dana, signing off!

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