Why do we write murder mysteries? Why would I write about a guy who investigates molestation in the church, perpetrated by living symbols of godliness, alongside the violent ending of human lives?
I have met some new people since moving to London, and when they find out what I write, they are always shocked that my work is about something so dark, and so serious - they say I seem way too happy and calm for that. I'm happy they think so (I would be a bit concerned if they said "Oh yeah, I can see that" and were not shocked at all).
The truth is, comedians are known for being depressed and tortured, but horror writers are known for being lighthearted and even jovial. A connection there, perhaps? Sure, there almost has to be, but which one follows the other?
One theory is that tortured souls cling to comedy in order to deal with the pain, and that could be so, but it doesn't seem as logical that happy people would cling to horror and murder in order to be... what? Happier? Sadder? To deal with the un-caused joy of life?
We might be tempted to think that if tortured souls turn to comedy, then the same dynamic has to be true for the other side, or we must throw them both out. I don't think so. I'm quite happy to think that Jim Carry and Robin Williams (and other hilarious guys with dark inner lives) gravitated to comedy as a means of coping.
I'm just as happy to accept a non-parallel explanation for the Stephen Kings and Neil Gaimans of the world.
I think with darker writers it is the writing itself that pulls them (us) out of dark places and times, that lifts attitudes from the negative to the lighthearted. By allowing myself to delve into the imagined mind of a sociopath, to stalk the dark streets of Miami, or Edinburgh, or some unknown fantasy world, I root around in my own darker inner thoughts and imagination, and somehow through that process the cobwebs are brushed aside, the shadows illuminated, at least for a moment, with the warm light of day. And let's not forget, the good guys (usually) win out in the end!
Rather than straining upward from a dark place, trying for a glimpse of the light before plummeting back down into shadow, the "writers of wrongs" dive down, swim into the dark waters where Leviathan dwells, only to bob back upward, lifted aloft with the buoyancy of creative action... and there we stay, bobbing along until the drive to write urges us to dark exploration once again.
So why do we write mysteries? Murders? Mayhem and all kinds of misdeeds? I think it cleans out the lurking demons of our evolutionary past; I think it truly helps to make us joyful, and positive.
Whether true or not, I am happy to accept it, and to continue on as a dedicated "writer of wrongs."
(With thanks to "Richard Castle" for the turn of phrase.)