The Backdrop of Darkness and Turmoil by Stephanie Nickel

A light, fun, airy, romantic story makes for a great read, but I’ve rediscovered the three-dimensional effect of including darkness and turmoil in my writing.

I entered a contest years ago that won second place. I admit I was confused as to why the Crossings Book Club was sending me a check for $100—until I read the memo line. I’d forgotten entering the contest. I’d also forgotten which piece I had entered.

I found the short story and gave it to my mom. “That was sad,” she said. And yes, it was.

There is a richness to love magnified by loss. And that’s what served as the inspiration for the piece I wrote for the Write to Done Flash Fiction Contest. (Thankfully, I sent it to a few trusted fellow writers and am getting some great suggestions on how to make it better. Seems my protagonist is completely unsympathetic and unlikeable. Perhaps she is a tad too dark. Sigh!)

Even after I tweak this story, it won’t be wrapped in a pretty package. No big, bright bows to tie everything together.  I want it to be raw and real.

In The Slumber of Christianity: Awakening a Passion for Heaven on Earth, Ted Dekker says, ““We Christian writers must paint evil with the blackest of brushes, not to sow fear, but to call out the monsters to be scattered by our light.”

No matter what your religious persuasion, I’m sure you realize it’s hard to recognize the light without some concept of just how deep the darkness.

What is joy without gut-wrenching sorrow?

What is elation without emptiness?

What is hope without despair?

When I wrote “Shattered Hope,” my 440-word flash fiction piece based on my novel “Becca’s Journey” it gave me a whole new perception on how I want to rework the entire manuscript. Granted, it will take longer to write. It will take more soul searching, more connecting with my characters and making them relatable if not actually likeable, more bleeding on the page. But in the end, I’m sure it will be worth it.

I very much like the Paul Gallico quote, which long-precedes a similar one attributed to Ernest Hemingway. It reads like this: “It is only when you open your veins and bleed onto the page a little that you establish contact with your reader.”

As many of you know, I’m all about relationship, about establishing contact with my readers—and others whose lives intersect my own in various ways.

Here is a brief quote from my flash fiction entry. What do you think? Have I established contact? Is the darkness deep enough, the turmoil palpable enough, to act as a backdrop to the glimmer of hope I sought to include?

“And then it happened, the horrific high pitched whine I’d only heard on television. The straight blue line raced across the monitor. The nurse slipped in, flipped the switch, and disappeared without a word . . . the DNR order taunting me.

“Now I couldn’t tell him forgiveness and love were starting to take hold—but they were.”

How do you incorporate darkness and turmoil in your writing?

~*~

Stephanie Nickel

2 comments

  1. Fascinating post. Thank you, Stephanie. I’m printing it out to reflect further. What is the darkness within? Despair, the loss of hope? In the snippet here, the narrator (she?) recognizes instantly what she is losing in the same moment she second guesses that DNR, but I’m not so sure she has hope, unless what she is feeling is more than she’s allowed herself to feel before? I really like your idea of writing a flash fiction to capture the essence of the story.

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