How Dark is Too Dark?

Vargo Gothic Tarot Magician detail

So I’m steaming along with the vampire novel, kind of wrapping things up and bringing things to a close, and thinking now about the revisions ahead of me. There are parts of the story that will be getting an extreme makeover, and some of that will involve upping the horror quotient by several degrees. All my reading lately on vampire lore, history and literature, even a recently acquired Tarot deck, is all starting to dovetail together.

Isn’t it funny how just when you need something, it appears? As you all probably know, I’m a Tarot collector, and bizarrely an erroneous message on a Tarot forum to which I belong lead me to, I think, just the angle I’m looking for. This thread on the forum was actually posted last October, and yet I only noticed it today. Long story short, after some quick conversation I have discovered a source of materials that could take this book to a whole new level. I could go into some really weird (in the truest sense of the word), macabre, occult stuff.  (Please note: If you are a member of an oath-bound society, the materials I’m talking about are openly published and available to anyone who wants to pay for them.)

The quandary then, is how far to take it? How much of this should I add, before it becomes off-putting to the average reader? I think a dose of it could  add some depth, uniqueness and authenticity to the story, but will it stray too far into the left-hand path for the average person? Still, I’m more interested in this book being classified as “horror” than risking it fall into a “chick lit” or “romance” designation so it will be taking some darker turns.

So what I need to know is, how much weirdness does the average person find acceptable? I guess if I’m trying to appeal to horror fans, the darker the better. But it can’t, and won’t, be simply horror for the sake of horror. It’s one aspect of the story, but not the whole thing. I’d like to think it’s more complicated than that, as real life is.

28 thoughts on “How Dark is Too Dark?

  1. Do what you feel is right for the story.

    I love this quote from Ben Browder (actor from Farscape). Regarding some of their more controversial eps, he said, “If you try to please everyone, you end up with mediocrity.”

    Go as dark as the story calls for. Sure, some will love it. Others hate it. Others might just shrug. But that’s true of all aspects of any novel.

    I have a scene in the novel that I’m querying that bothered my parents. They loved everything in the novel but THAT scene. They just found it too disturbing for their tastes. They did say it was beautifully written, though. LOL


    1. Good quote from Browder. The thing is, most of what I’d be including would be pretty familiar and comfortable to me, and I’m afraid my perspective on what constitutes “freaky and weird” is different from most people’s. My weird-o-meter has a higher setting than most 😉 But what the hell, Dennis Wheatley was there before me.

      I’m eager to read this novel of yours, hoping to see it in print soon! 🙂


  2. Thank you! Likewise, regarding your novel. 🙂

    “I’m afraid my perspective on what constitutes “freaky and weird” is different from most people’s. My weird-o-meter has a higher setting than most.”

    DD, what you mentioned above should definitely help you as a horror writer! 🙂


  3. I think the current trends of Vampire books have really caused the problem you are facing. I think you there is a need for Vampire novels to go back to the Gothic/Horror genre better suited for the subject.

    But if you want to get published you may not want to go too dark and keep some elements of chick lit in it.

    Personally I think the darker the better. 🙂


    1. Argh. Well, you’ve kind of met my vampire now, and he’s not the creepy/stalkery type like Dracula. Ok, maybe he’s a little stalkery. His friend is worse (not Gaston, another one) Heh. But that’s something else. I think you’re right about needing to keep some ‘chick lit’ elements in there, I think women are the biggest fans of the vampire stuff.


  4. Like staking a claim? ahaha, nah, I don’t think that’s it. Maybe it’s like ZZ Top said, “Every girl’s crazy ’bout a sharp-dressed man.” Never seen a schleppy vampire 😉


  5. See, you’re worried about being too dark, and I’m always too ridiculous – now you’ve got me thinking about your vampire’s schlubby Uncle Mort – he goes around in ill-fitting black Dockers, and a chintzy polyester cape.


  6. ROFLMAO!!! ::: wiping tears:::

    Polyester?? He’d be immediately drummed out of the Vampire Guild. 😉 I’m seeing a cross between Grandpa Munster, and Mel Brooks.


  7. Uncle Mort has a touch of the twitchy Joe Pesci in him, as well. He sez you can’t find a good all-night drycleaner anymore, so he switched to polyester. His widow’s peak has dandruff.

    Re: your story, I concur w/Chazz – the darker the better, if that’s how you’re feeling it. Just give the story a little time to “cure” after you wrap it up, then go back & re-read to make sure the darkness/tension has been building all along – I know as a reader, the only time that sort of thing bothers me is when it pops up outta nowhere, for shock or gimmick value (I’m thinking of S. King’s “Pet Semetary,” where he starts piling on cheap shots like the little boy’s casket falling over at the wake – C’mon, that’s not horror, it’s melodrama: of COURSE a child’s funeral is going to be upsetting!) I mean, look at Anne Rice – her stories were quite dark and creepy, and it didn’t alienate her (predominantly female) readers at all. I read Interview w/the Vampire and remember thinking it was pretty good, except for the end, when she tried to get a little “sensitive” and Lestat turned into a big ol’ whiner. I’ll take darkness over weakness any day, which BTW may be why some women go for that type; what’s the point in loving (or loving to hate) an amoral immortal bloodsucking bad boy, unless he’s bad to the bone, all the way to the finish?!


  8. LOL love the dandruff comment. 🙂

    Amoral… well, he’s not quite one of “The Lost Boys,” but if you’re on his good side, you’re safe. I may have to have you guys beta read the book when the time comes.


  9. I love the dark stuff. I’m not a fan of graphic violence for the sake of graphic violence but I do like the darker psychological horror.

    Personally, I think the point of fiction is to be subversive to some extent.

    We can get safe and ordinary in our everyday lives. We spend our lives learning to fit in and be “normal” and that’s necessary for our survival in society.

    So, IMHO, that’s what fiction is for to some degree. To take us into those dark, shadowy places of our psyche. To let us explore those realms, traverse through them and then return, having survived it, back to our normal, everyday lives.


  10. I’m not a fan of the slasher stuff either. Blood and gore just disgust. I prefer a well-crafted spooky story to something that’s simple graphic violence. Although there is violence in my story, it’s not belabored, and over quickly. Maybe too quickly. Those are some of the scenes that will get the most re-working.

    You make some good points about using our fiction to explore things beyond our everyday lives. And yet, I’m still hesitant to bring in too much of the stuff I’m looking into now.


      1. Yes I do love Shaun of The Dead. I was more thinking of those B Grade horror movies. Like there is a movie called Dead & Breakfast which is so lame its awesome. I think its a cross between Shasher, Comedy, Musical


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