Good morning Story Empire readers. P. H. Solomon here with you today sharing about a recent experience, running in the dark. With the short days at this time of year, I usually end up running in the dark or just after. On one of these recent runs, I observed the things about my surroundings in the darkness that set off my imagination.
Don’t get me wrong, I was not running completely in the dark. I wore a headlamp that’s rather bright and there were a few lights to see by on the semi-desolate road on which I ran. Normally, I choose to run in a nearby subdivision where there’s more light on my running route. But this particular evening, I chose to run my regular daytime route on a little used side road that can be very dark in some places. Along the way, it struck me how many houses have been built in recent years by the number of lights coming from them. I was not in a completely desolate place. But, there were plenty of places where it was very dark and my creative mind began to discern a number of story and plot possibilities.
Obviously, the horror genre comes to mind rather quickly, but one thing that really stood out to me in the dark places was how not many decades ago there were no lights on these roads. People go out as much after dark so I was interested to see that contrast as I ran through those places where there were no lights and the road was heavily shadowed.
Additionally, experiencing this type of setting roused my creative thinking in terms of some of my own work. I considered what I might run into the dark aside from a stray dog or area wildlife. Then I considered what things my characters might run into such a situation, remembering I have a whole portion of my book that details my characters running around in a catacomb. The run reminded me how dark something like a catacomb would be without light. And what’s more, magically finding yourself in such a sudden situation. You would be lost entirely, not knowing where to go or how get out.
There is a piece of film from the Paris catacombs which purports to have been found by a cataphile to which I link here if you’re interested to see it. The film footage is of someone wandering around the Paris catacombs, seemingly becoming panicked and finally dropping the camera. My own feeling is that this footage is actually some sort of publicity stunt, but it does underscore that in the hundreds of miles underground in a largely unmapped environment it is easy be lost, injured, or worse, finding yourself entirely without light and despairing very quickly. This is setting at it’s best and what we authors are looking for to capture a reader’s imagination.
Other creative thoughts triggered in my mind as well. I thought about my own characters in that same situation, but they do have some light with which to struggle on when they find themselves in a catacomb unexpectedly. The entire thought process also opened up more of the storyline and opportunities to take advantage of using this simple setting of darkness and the unknown. Oddly, running in the dark was an excellent exercise in jostling my creativity by experiencing the setting in a reflective manner.
Immersing yourself in a setting similar to what you’re writing can be very helpful, even if it’s not entirely like where you are writing. Enough of that setting can really reveal where you may be missing opportunities to express much more of what is going on in your story.
I also remembered some years back when my daughter was in fifth grade and went to a camp where she had to do a walk in the dark, alone. The exercise was meant to teach the children to overcome their natural fears and complete the walk. They were never in danger, but they needed to learn to cope with such a setting. My daughter arrived home having a feeling of being empowered by this short exercise, understanding that darkness was not something to fear but something to work through as necessary. It’s also something to consider for your characters. What are their fears? How will such an experience affect then in the future? Will they be stronger, or will they be debilitated?
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