When I was just entering high school I briefly played with the idea of becoming a writer. No that’s not right. I wanted to be a novelist or screenwriter. I wanted to try and tell interesting and hopefully evocative stories that took you on a kind of internal journey. I found that the characters weren’t as important to me as was the struggle and the overcoming of some kind of uncertainty. I usually didn’t like "good guys" in stories as they were often portrayed as simple boy-scouts while the "bad guys" were far more interesting and complex characters. This was the start of me looking into my penchant for descriptive language that leans to the unhappy shades of gray.
I didn’t want to write anything that had lines in it like "Entering the meadow she breathed in the air perfumed by the tiny blue flowers still wet from the morning dew. She closed her eyes and raising her face felt the sun gently warm her skin; melting the cold and now ever distant memories of Tom’s betrayal. A light breeze brushed the hair off her shoulder and Holly knew that this was not just a new day but the chance she had prayed for to start her life again."
Blech! No let’s try that again. "Night closed about her like a crawling evil thing. Exhausted and chilled to the bone, no … to the heart, Holly trudged through the bog. Legs aching, heart racing, jumping at every snapping twig, constant looks over her shoulder in despair – how did it come to this? It was only a matter of time until the dogs would find her trail and then what? The gallows? Or would Tom just shoot her where she stood – starving, frightened and alone? The rain hid her tears."
Oh yeah! There we go. Ok, ok I’m dramatic and all that but let’s be serious here: certain words have more emotional impact than others even their opposites. Which hits you harder, bliss or despair? Personally I find the most powerful aspect of dark imagery be it written of visual to be the uncertainty. What the heck is gonna happen? If we are talking about totally bright/happy stuff then you are kind of finished … "and the End!" ya know?
My favorite images are ones where there is some kind of mystery. Something hanging, left unfinished or un-described. I see the world, and life in general, as a very large set of personal journeys through the unknown. Nothing is certain only uncertainty. I find it romantic and far more interesting to delve into the soft shadows of life – the intertwining of light/knowledge and dark/doubt than the crisp bright "happy-happy!" world that we are constantly sold as reality. It’s like the blues: even an upbeat blues tune has a little dissonance in it to remind us that even on a beautiful warm sunny day we still can scuff our new shoes.