For me to equivocate of the darkness in my writing is very hypocritical, considering I could argue that the deeper meaning of The Horde is “the underlying death that slowly creeps on those who do not use their lives.”
Considering my story is a self described surreal scifi horror piece, I sometimes recoil from the description of it as dark. I think this is mostly because of the comedy segments featuring discount milk and eggs.
At the same time I feel my story will, in the end, be affirming. It isn’t a fun filled romp like Candy From Strangers by Mark Coggins nor is it a series of character based hijinks like Quarter Share by Nathan Lowell. My story is gruesome and attempts to rip away the coverings to get to the soft underflesh of what is really happening beneath the layers of denial my heroes wrap themselves in.
But in a way, the further I get in the various books I read, they also make those attempts. Ishmael from Quater Share refuses an ordinary life. August Riordan from Candy From Strangers won’t accept lies and placations. Even Philippa Ballantine’s trickster Puck from Chasing The Bard often attempts to rip away Sive’s attempts to hide the truth from herself.
So the question is, if these authors can do it without the gore, why does the revelation of the truth come with the ickiness of, say, chapter 8 with the layer by layer peeling back of someone’s hand to find the weakness inside it?
The difference I see is that Ishmael, August, and Puck are truth-seekers. They won’t let the other characters live in denial. Dealing with them can be painful, sometimes, for the people around them who try to avoid the actuality of the situations they find themselves in.
My narrator Terry is so deeply in denial that the roots won’t be fully exposed until the third and final book of the Horde trilogy and will leave lasting consequences for the rest of the Storyteller Chronicles series.
My major protagonist Bridan is seekin the tools to deny that things from his past even ever happened, he may have accepted them in an academic sense but he is still seeking to systematically eradicate them. (Readers will learn much more about him in the current story arc)
My other major characters are running to survive or kept in the dark or puppets of darker masters or liars enslaved by their own needs. Even the characters who claim to be truth seekers aren’t able to take the emotional pain that comes with dealing the truth.
So instead, they will endure the pain that denial and misunderstanding causes- both to themselves and others- until the damage done is so much that they can no longer stand to let the pain continue.
Sive and Pip, from Chasing the Bard and Quarter Share respectively, have a painful transition to accepting reality but it is still a step in their story and they make progress relatively quickly. So far the other characters in Candy From Strangers haven’t even tried to swallow the bitterness of the real but I’m sure they’ll get their chance.
Reading them helps me figure out both what the Horde is and what the Horde is not. Ultimately, their stories may involve the quest for truth but they go about it in a fundamentally different ways. They are stories with characters who ultimately want to know what is real.
In the Horde, right now, the characters do not want the truth but the truth wants to be known and it is going to force its way into their lives repeatedly till they accept it. That doesn’t necessarily justify the gruesomeness that keeps popping up, but it does help me understand why I have it in there and why it has a deeper importance than simply shocking horrific violence.