The Darkness Within

VAB crab
One of our friends at Virginia Beach.

Last week I enjoyed my annual writing retreat at VAB, easily the most important week of my year. It’s a time of renewal and restoration in the company of a remarkable group of women. A place of centering and rediscovery. A chance to stop and breathe in the midst of our busy lives.

Ironically, I came out of the week in a dark place, not because of my VAB friends, but because of where I was with my new novel. I dedicated most of my writing hours to The Hunting Grounds, and when time came to catch the flight home, I was on the precipice of tragedy, the hammer of fate that catches up with all our characters.

It was a strange place to be after a week of rest and sunshine, of creative freedom and laughter, of strong women and heartfelt support. I’d made much more progress than I expected on the story (a good thing), and now an awful confrontation was at my protagonist’s doorstep.

I don’t know about you, but for me, a very particular mood always accompanies this stage of my writing. I become withdrawn, somewhat distracted, saddened by the pending, inescapable loss. I have to give myself extra time between scenes as I recuperate from the latest turn of events and meditate on the best approach to writing the next.

In these moments, I doubt myself more than ever as a writer. Am I making the right decision for my characters? Is this betrayal necessary? Is my use of violence justified? How will I know when I cross the line from good story telling to graphic excess?

I have always been sensitive to violence as a reader, and therefore I am, I think, sometimes overly sensitive to my use of it as in author.

But why does all this bring me down? How is writing the dark moments qualitatively different from the day-to-day struggle of any other scene? What’s the real source of my strange melancholy?

Cupid Kisses Psyche by Antonio Canova; Photo by Jorge Bittner Unna. Source: Wikimedia

Is it remorse over the fate of my characters?

Confrontation with the fact that my own imagination can spawn such terrible moments?

Or is it a too-keen awareness of the human cruelty that I feel compelled to chronicle in my works of fiction?

I vote for the third possibility. After all, that’s the one that made me misty-eyed while I was writing this post.

My characters, in the end, are fictitious. My imagination is just that – imagination. But the truth that both tend to point to in the darkest moments of my stories…Wow, that’s a tough truth to face.


So as not to end on too sad a note…

There’s still one day left on my Goodreads Giveaway for Eolyn, Book One of The Silver Web. A story full of hope, passion, and triumph! (And yes, a little bit of human cruelty…) Five signed copies are up for grabs. Enter before Wednesday, May 18th, at 11:59pm for your chance to win.


Goodreads Book Giveaway

Eolyn by Karin Rita Gastreich


by Karin Rita Gastreich

Giveaway ends May 18, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

4 thoughts on “The Darkness Within

  1. Virginia Beach? Really? Writing Retreat? Wow, I wish I had known in advance instead of after the fact. I just returned from Virginia Beach last weekend myself. I still have fond memories of the one writer’s retreat I attended at Wildacres in North Carolina. Such beautiful people, so much music, drinking and dancing the nights away with handsome men and beautiful women, little sleep, so much fun. No spouses allowed, he he he. There were a few hookups but I was a good girl, mostly.

    As for Virginia Beach I have just returned from there myself. I took a short vacation mostly to have a train trip, because I love trains. They are one of my best inspirations for writing. I took the train overnight from Winter Park Florida to Richmond, then changed to a regional train to Newport News. Stayed at the Hampton Inn and Suites there, rented a car and drove around the area. Best times were at the Norfolk Botanical Garden and at Virginia Beach. I ate lovely fish sitting at a table right on the beach at Waterby’s restaurant. I had that one day on the beach that was nice and sunny for swimming and tanning, then the rain started. Sigh. We could have met if I had known Karin!

    I also have trouble with the violent sections in my novels but I really get into them. How else can the heroine be heroic unless she has to deal with some horror to test her worth? Remember the horrible things Ur did in Maginaugh? In my fourth novel I have my heroine tortured with a days-long whipping that my beta reader said she couldn’t stand to read and said she would not want to read that part again, although she loved the rest of the book. In writing that section, I made the man who whipped her into the most evil villain in any of the pages of all my books. I hate him and wanted my readers to feel that hatred for him too. It was a dark time of writing for me. In some of my books the evil villain gets his just deserts in the end but this time, in an ironic twist, he escapes punishment and ends up rich and famous after doing a penance at a monastery. Isn’t that just how real life often happens?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Jini, I’m so sorry I missed you! But even if we’d known, we might not have overlapped; I was heading home by Saturday morning. I remember your stories definitely have dark side. It’s so interesting to hear some of your own experience with this topic. Thank you for stopping by & sharing!


  2. Oh, dear–I’ve so many things to say about this post, but not here. The one thing I will say, however, is maybe the fates had a reason for destroying your computer the moment you got home. Maybe you need more time to process this next bit, the violence and betrayal. You need to think, and think hard however uncomfortable that is. Your story is going to be all the better for this involuntary step away. I just know it.

    Liked by 1 person

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