Lori Armstrong | Exploring the Darker Side of Life
January 9, 2011
Writing about the darker aspects of human nature doesn’t come easily to me. Not
because my life is fluffy bunnies and rainbow sprinkles, but when I head down
that twisted path, my personality changes. While creatively rewarding to craft a
hard-edged, take no prisoners character like Mercy Gunderson, it’s all too easy
for me to fall into that worse case scenario mindset.
Yet, in some respects, delving into dark, gritty scenes are my favorite part of
the writing process because it challenges me to step out of my comfort zone.
Although I strive to make each book different, I refuse to write anything for
pure shock value. It’s tricky finding that balance between describing the act of
violence and later explaining the reason for it, without lessening the emotional
impact of it. The horror of death should be real in every circumstance, to every
character. Detailing the cast of character’s reaction to the death, be it the
heroine’s, or the victim’s family, or even the murderer’s, has always been far
more gut-wrenching for me to write than another gory scene with blood spatters
and empty shell casings. The finality of death is something no one wants to deal
with, but at some point everyone has to.
Using real life situations, rape, murder, torture, abuse, car accidents,
dangerous addictions, make for great conflict in mystery fiction. Is that
because most of us never been in an abusive relationship—intimate or familial?
Because we’ve never fired a gun or a bow at someone to save our own life or the
life of someone we love? Because I rummage through these things when I’m penning
a mystery, they almost seem to have happened to me…until I’m faced with the
reality of someone I know actually having to deal with one of those nasty issues
in their own life. And do I ever wish I could write a way out of it for them,
just like I do with my characters.
Sometimes I think writing about these bad-to-worse situations gives writers a
false sense of power, and yet, for me, that heightens the appeal. In crime
fiction, as authors, we are in control, we can fix anything, right wrongs; mete
out justice whether or not it’s legal. It’s empowering to have our characters
come out swinging, slinging insults, firing guns, making waves, solving crimes,
saving the good guys from the bad. Our fictional world is better, even if it’s
not shiny new and perfect. It’s comforting to know at the end of the book, it’s
all wrapped up—albeit not always neatly, which is why I keep coming back to this
genre, both as a reader and a writer.
Learn more about Lori
Does reading about the "darker" side help empower you? One person who comments
will get a
copy of MERCY KILL,
Lori's latest mystery.
44 comments posted.
Re: Lori Armstrong | Exploring the Darker Side of Life
Reading about the darker side makes me realize how lucky I
am to have not had to encounter that situation. It makes me
think about the fact that those people to exist and just
because I don't personally have to deal with it doesn't make
it unreal. I am just grateful that nothing like this has
ever happened to me or the ones I love.
(Leagh Christensen 12:59pm January 9, 2011)
It empowers me in the sense that I may read something the character did to alert help, stay alive, survive the post stress those kind of things that I may not have thought of. It's also a good reminder that however unfortunate it is evil is out there and we shouldn't become complacent.
(Cindi Mitchell 2:16am January 9, 2011)
I don't like the perfect happily ever after. No matter what you write or read the moment it says happily ever after it's over. Why bother the rest of the book? My life continues to happen even while in the middle of a book. When I close the book on a happily ever after there's not much more to say about the characters. It's like the happy couple standing there, gazing into each other's eyes, knowing they're secure in their love, when the phone rings and chaos erupts all around them. It feels more real.
(Christina Harrison 2:52am January 9, 2011)
I think that reading about "the dark side" is good, as most of us don't really deal with that. I think it takes true grit to be able to write it, not having lived it, and keep someone mesmerized enough to want to find out the ending. Keep up the great work!
(Joanne Reynolds 7:40am January 9, 2011)
I'm not sure it empowers me. I always enjoy reading how the author decided to bring the story to a conclusion. It is fun when the author jags off in a direction I hadn't considered. It is total escapism because it isn't my life. I love the first Mercy book. I am so excited for Mercy Kill. Congrats and keep the books coming! Have fun on your book tour!
(Jennifer Beyer 9:37am January 9, 2011)
I love stories that have strong, female characters who hold their own in male-dominated fields. This book sounds great.
(Clicia Tremblay 10:24am January 9, 2011)
The dark side is empowering, for me anyway. I love to read about strong female characters with that take no prisoners attitude. Helps me see what is possible. Gives me strength to try it in the real world.
(Teresa Hickey 10:33am January 9, 2011)
I love mysteries and thrillers, they make me feel empowered, of course it is much easier to deal with these situations in fiction than in real life. i really love this series and am looking forward to this book.
(Jeanine Lesperance 10:51am January 9, 2011)
I like that the authors can take bad situations and make soemthing better with them. That doesn't always happen i life, and it is nice to read about in books to get away from all this darn reality!
(Susan Romito 11:05am January 9, 2011)
I'm not sure it impowers me. I just like a kick ass heroine. In a book, you can sometimes read a HEA, but in real life, sometimes, there is no such thing. Reality sucks. Sometimes it is good to get lost in a mystery, even if there's no HEA and it twists off and makes you look for another book/chapter to see what will happen next.
(Esther Treib 11:42am January 9, 2011)
Another good storyline. Very exciting!!
(Maria Antunes 12:12pm January 9, 2011)
sounds very dark and intriging
(Debbi Shaw 12:12pm January 9, 2011)
I enjoy the strength and smarts a character has in dealing with darkness in a book... all of the steps to the end of that journey...
(Colleen Conklin 12:31pm January 9, 2011)
I absolutely think it's empowering. I put myself in the "what would I do?"
situation and usually come pretty close as I've been reading fiction with
strong heroine characters for a long time. I think that knowledge would
either give me the strength to do the right thing OR get me killed really
quickly if ever faced with a harrowing situation.
(Shannon Jensen 12:46pm January 9, 2011)
I like darkness in books because it makes the story more realistic. Life is full of darkness & light, hopefully a balance for each person. Dark things happen, and it makes a far more enjoyable read to see the characters face that darkness & learn/grow and move past it. If they don't then at least it allows the reader to see the motivations for that character.
(Kay Martinez 12:51pm January 9, 2011)
I like all kinds of books, but I always go back to the ones that have me sitting on the edge of my seat and thinking "what if?".
(Vickie Waldron 1:05pm January 9, 2011)
I rarely read these kinds of stories. I like happy, uplifting types of books. However, I would give this one a try.
(Joy Isley 1:27pm January 9, 2011)
I can understand the empowerment for the writer, but as a reader, no. We are at your mercy as to what happens, where the characters go, and the motivations for both! That doesn't make the suspense and/or "dark side" any less enjoyable to visit though.
(Jl Welling 2:47pm January 9, 2011)
The first Mercy book was great, and I'm looking forward to reading this one. Thanks for visiting.
(G S Moch 3:20pm January 9, 2011)
It does empower me strictly from the perspective of seeing potential life
situations though another persons eyes. In many situations it is an escape
from the turmoil of every day life. In reality the bad guy generally wins. It is
nice to read and experience the good guy being able to win. After all the good
guys are out gunned and out numbered. And when that good guy is a woman
it is even better. Can't wait for Mercy Kill. I love it when Mercy kicks ass and
(Linda Sutton 4:28pm January 9, 2011)
I believe that to solve a problem, one must first understand it. Crimes are, in essence, social A& moral problems that need solving. I was a police officer for years and never stopped asking "Why?" like a toddler. Looking for motive (or motivation) is always the first step. Sadly, many have no reason for their actions. I do believe that if all of us examined ourselves we might get to the bottom of a lot of "whys", both socially and morally. Sadly, I must say there really is evil out there in the big bad world; and it is a growing cancer.
Your books do examine the inner workings of crime & criminals and the effect on others, and are very well written'; which makes me a repeat reader. Thank you for tackling tough subjects.
(Susan Driskill 5:30pm January 9, 2011)
Would love to check this one out for myself.
(Clio Teixeira 6:03pm January 9, 2011)
Reading about the darker side is a way to satisfy my need to question things and get answers. Not really empower, but it helps me visualize the story and is kind of another take on stories that I read about in the news.
(Leni Kaye 6:14pm January 9, 2011)
I love mysteries and thrillers and enjoy trying to figure it out before the conclusion. This book sounds like the ones I enjoy reading. Thanks for the contest
(Teresa Ward 7:07pm January 9, 2011)
I so respect your dark side. I live such a safe/cushy life that I luckily have not have to face the dangers that I have read in your mystery series and your Lorelei series. I do think that reading and seeing how characters deal with these events does help me when others come to me for advice. Thank you for your vision and sharing it with us. I have pre-ordered Mercy Kills and can't wait to get it!
(Barb Hill-Kidd 7:13pm January 9, 2011)
I like reading about all types of personalities, being dark or otherwise. I am fascinated at how anyone can describe what someone else is feeling or thinking and make a gripping story out of it. This book sounds like one I will not be able to put down. Thanks for sharing your gift of storytelling with your fans.
(Jacqueline Wyllys 7:20pm January 9, 2011)
Life is not about rainbows and unicorns. Wished life is easy but it's not. The dark side just define who we are and shape us of what we will become.
Your book sound interesting especially when I love reading mystery and suspense. Hope your book has a twisted ending that will surprise the readers.
(Kai Wong 7:59pm January 9, 2011)
I wouldn't say it actually helps empower me. If anything, it helps me to understand things a little better. Depending on the detail the author gives about the person and the story, you learn a little bit more about what drives not only the perpetrator to do what they do, but the victim, if they survive, to take the steps that they do to seek justice. It truly is a darker side of life, but as "gut-wrenching" as it is, as you put it, it is a small comfort that you picked the name Mercy for your character. I'm not sure if that was on purpose, or if you just plucked the name out of the air without realizing it. That shows you needed a bit of a hug as well writing the book. Have a wonderful New Year and good luck with the book. I'll be sure to read it!!
(Peggy Roberson 8:18pm January 9, 2011)
Reading about it does not empower me. Living it does.
(Mary Preston 9:31pm January 9, 2011)
you are doing about what going on around you and that good hope the book goes to top seller and would love to read it
(Desiree Reilly 9:54pm January 9, 2011)
Reading about the "darker" side is totally mesmerizing, mainly because I lead such a sheltered life. It does empower a person in a way because they learn more about human behavior.
(Christine Schultz 10:54pm January 9, 2011)
I love mystery stories that delve into the darker side, because, fortunately, it's opposite from my daily life.
(Ginger Hinson 11:41pm January 9, 2011)
Yes, in certain cases. Unfortunately, I have dealt with alot of the dark side in my life. When I do read about it, if the author is good about writing it, then I can say, they really described it realistically. On the other hand, I just read a very popular book, that most people liked. I didn't at all. The author had it totally wrong, and I just couldn't get into the story.
(Debbie Penny 8:27am January 10, 2011)
I'm not sure reading about the "darker" side of life empowers me, but it does make me realize how good I've got it, even on those bad days. Your characters rock, and I can't wait for this book!
(Robin Lang 9:03am January 10, 2011)
Darker side is always fun to read cuz it takes you away from everyday crap of ones own life.
(Vickie Hightower 9:27am January 10, 2011)
If I were a writer I don't think I'd worry about it empowering
me as much as giving me nightmares.
(Lisa Richards 10:58am January 10, 2011)
I don't know if reading a bout the 'darker side' empowers me, but sometimes I'm just in the mood to read something dark.
(Diane Sallans 2:29pm January 10, 2011)
I don't know that Id use the word "empower", but I have been educated. I talked my mother into opening her car door with a slat from her blinds and I know never to get in a car with a stranger because the statistics of surviving is minimal.
(Anne Muller 3:55pm January 10, 2011)
I don't really think it empowers me. It certainly makes me think about the
situation and how the characters deal with it. However, often it just illustrates
how easily we can be victimized and how powerless many of us are to defend or
protect ourselves. Not a very comforting thought. Seeing the characters handle
the situation and "win" is reassuring.
(Patricia Barraclough 7:30pm January 10, 2011)
No definately it would not empower me!
(Brenda Rupp 10:24pm January 10, 2011)
I've read darker books in my time and on rare occasions still do. I'm just finishing the 5th book in Jessica Andersen's "The Final Prophecy" series about the Nightkeepers who are close to the Mayan culture which has fascinated me since my teen years. Lots of gory scenes in them, but I definitely try not to dwell on those.
(Sigrun Schulz 1:26am January 11, 2011)
Dark side stories help us to realize that things really could be a lot worse and
therefore help us to accept the reality of what is.
(Sandra Spilecki 10:08am January 11, 2011)
I've not read any of your work, but I do know a thing or two about abusive relationships and trying to get out of them.
(Joyce Bruner 3:49pm January 11, 2011)
The darker side fascinates me, draws me into a web and scares me a lot. I like reading about it to a degree, but sure wouldn't want to live even part of it.
(Alyson Widen 2:48pm January 22, 2011)
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