Writing the Dark Side


Flaubert once said that we should be ordinary in our lives so that we may be violent and wild in our imaginations. This class is designed for that purpose—to allow your dark side to run wild. What is the purpose of fiction if not to unlock the secrets of the human heart. To paraphrase the crime writer Kate Atkinson, we write these stories not in order to solve the puzzle of crimes but to solve the problem of being alive. From the Bible to Brett Easton Ellis, murder has intrigued. Mysteries perplex. And human behavior can be stranger than anything that you could make up. In this course, you get to dip into your own Jeckyl and Hyde. But, while the content of this course is to probe the darkness, the primary goal—and, in some ways, the only goal—is the writing. We will write stories and workshop them. Prompts will be designed and discussions will focus on character, plot, language. The writing is essential, because we wouldn’t read Ray Bradbury or Joyce Carol Oates as we do if they weren’t written by great writers. We’ll read tales from the dark side, starting with Cain and Abel and then on to Shakespeare’s MacBeth, Poe, Sir Conan Doyle’s Sherlock, Kafka, John Fowles, Joyce Carol Oates, Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, and mystery writers such as Raymond Chandler, Agatha Christie, and Kate Atkinson. We will perhaps read James Ellroy’s Black Dahlia, along with the memoir that he wrote about the murder of his own mother, My Dark Places. We’ll dip into the world of “noir” and write stories from our own dark places while learning the essentials of fiction writing. Not for the faint hearted. You will compile a collection of your stories by the year’s end. Prerequisite: Previous fiction-writing experience.