Writing Dark Fiction, Guest Post by TE Carter

Today I have a special guest for you! At my last book signing, I met TE Carter, the author of the upcoming over I Stop Somewhere. The two of us got to talking about our experiences writing dark fiction, so I asked her to write a blog post on her experiences and some of what she dealt with to write her debut novel. Learn about my experiences writing dark fiction by watching the YouTube video, or read the blog post by TE Carter’s to see what she has to say about the subject.

About TE Carter:

TE Carter was born in New England and has pretty much lived in New England her entire life (minus a few years in high school). She still lives in New England with her husband and their two cats.

When she’s not writing, she can usually be found reading classic literature, playing Xbox, organizing her comic collection, or binge-watching baking competitions.

Find her online at:Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

About the Book:

I STOP SOMEWHERE will be released on 2/27/18 from Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan in the US and on 5 April 2018 from Simon & Schuster in the UK.

US Purchase Links!

UK Purchase Links!

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Ellie Frias disappeared long before she vanished.

Tormented throughout middle school, Ellie begins her freshman year with a new look: she doesn’t need to be popular; she just needs to blend in with the wallpaper.

But when the unthinkable happens, Ellie finds herself trapped after a brutal assault. She wasn’t the first victim and now she watches it happen again and again. She tries to hold on to her happier memories in order to get past the cold days, waiting for someone to find her.

The problem is, no one searches for a girl they never noticed in the first place.

Writing Dark Fiction, feat. TE Carter

There’s that old bit of writing advice that you should write what you know. I’ve always taken this to mean less that you should write only what you’ve experienced, but more that you should focus on the topics and ideas that are relevant to you personally. I strongly believe in this advice, but I also think it’s sometimes misunderstood. I don’t think JK Rowling “knows” young wizards; instead, she was writing a region she knows, with themes that mattered to her.

For me, what’s always been present in books is a place where I could feel like I belonged. I didn’t have that in my life outside of reading for the most part. Because I’ve long struggled with anxiety and depression, I tend to have a very hard time connecting to people, but I never felt that way with fictional characters. On the page, there were people who saw the world the way I did and, in their thoughts, they reflected back some of the feelings I was struggling to express. This drove me to reading and, as a result, writing.

What I know is that there’s comfort in addressing the darkness we sometimes feel by saying it aloud and facing it head on. So, I’ve used that in my own writing, focusing primarily on YA contemporary with a darker edge. It’s cathartic and has allowed me to voice what I’ve kept inside for most of my life, but at the same time, when you do face these things directly, it can take a lot out of you.

Another famous bit of writer advice is to write every day. Because of the content I write, I’ve never been able to do this. I need a lot of time to recharge, so I can go months without writing. I suppose I’m never actually “not writing,” because I live in a way that means I’m always observing, making note of things in the world, seeing patterns in behavior. All of this goes into my work, but as far as sitting down and putting words to paper, I probably only write about 3-4 months a year. When I’m actively working on a book or edits, I’m invested in that world 100%, and I sometimes write for 10-12 hours in a day. I write quickly as well during those periods, but after writing draws that much energy from me, I need a break. Generally, I step aside from the writing for a bit, go back for edits and revisions, and once the book is finished, I can go several months without thinking about the next story. It’s the only way to keep myself from getting too deeply invested in the darkness of the things I tackle in my novels and to leading to further depression.

What I think this demonstrates is that every writer has to find the advice that works for them – and also has to know when to say no, that doesn’t apply to me. The literary world is full of so much wonderful variety that it’s expected writers come from various places and thought processes. All writers should embrace what works for them, and put aside any doubts that their system isn’t the right one if it’s improving their own process!

2 thoughts on “Writing Dark Fiction, Guest Post by TE Carter

  1. Very interesting post. I always find it useful to read how authors become emotionally invested in their characters and themes. I think it is a good way of making a piece of writing believable, engaging readers and making them care about characters.

    I must be a bit of an odd ball. I am completely comfortable writing dark things, such as a woman who is tortured by her serial killer lover who ties her up in a locked concrete box and slowly fills it with water, letting her hover on the edge of death for several hours and taunting her. Or the happy reminiscences of a man returning to the place where he murdered and mutilated a woman as if it was a place he visited during a summer holiday. I can switch from those things to coffee with friends and a laugh like turning a switch on and off. I’m fully invested in the dark material while I am writing it, but there is no emotional hangover from it. I’m also quite happy to watch an autopsy while eating pizza. I will sit alone in a cemetery for fun. Maybe I have a problem with my empathy button.

    The feeling I get from this post is, if you access the dark side of your persona to write the things people don’t normally want to think about, there is a cost to it. I ask, is there only a cost to it if you have your own unresolved or hidden darkness? Food for thought.

  2. UGH, I wrote a whole comment and it got eaten by WP, as my comments always do (I get stuck in this login loop), but anyway, I was saying that this was a great post, and I think talking about the need to recharge, especially when doing such weighty work, is a good thing, because so many writers (especially new/young writers) take the whole “write every day” thing to heart, even when it doesn’t benefit the work, their process, or their mental health.

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