Thursday, January 26, 2012

Writing Advice: Finding Peace in the Darkness

Have you ever had a really peaceful experience? A time when, somewhere deep inside your heart and mind, you simply feel good or unafraid; and somehow you know, or at least hope, that the universe is unfolding exactly as it should? I know I've been there.

Peace can come in two different packages. First is peace because of the circumstances. This is when the sun is shining, everything is perfect, and you reflect on life with a smile on your face and the most gratitude you've ever felt. But second, second is peace in spite of the circumstances. This is when nothing is going right, you're at rock-bottom in the midst of darkness; bleeding, hurting, dying - but even so, you still hear that little voice that says, "Don't give up. Things will turn out. There's hope yet."

In this way, if we choose to, we can feel peace in the darkness. And so can our characters.

In Inheritance by Christopher Paolini, there's a fantastic scene in which Eragon realises that the world is round. He has the weight of the world on his shoulders and fate of it in his hands, and he has just flown out of a terrible storm on the back of his dragon. But despite this, when he notices the curvature of the horizon (something he has never seen before), he's wonderstuck. And he forgets all of his worries for a moment and finds peace, in awe of the world's roundness.

Or what about the scene in The Return of the King when Sam and Frodo are on the slopes of Mount Doom? Who could forget it? The pair are famished and parched, frightened and lost, and surrounded by blackness and an inhospitable landscape. They're cold and dying. But in such despair, and after all the horrors they've been through, the recall to each other life as it blissfully was back in the Shire - and not only find peace, but also the hope and courage they need to complete their quest. The result? An incredibly moving scene.

Or in The Matrix, when the machines are closing in and Trinity has every reason to run screaming. But instead, she finds peace enough to stay with Neo and even say, "I'm not afraid anymore."

Am I making sense yet?

Having your characters find peace in the darkness, usually near the climax of the story, can heighten the emotional investment of the reader. It makes the reader long further for the protagonist to achieve his or her desire, because we admire characters who can trade fear for peace, sorrow for joy. We want those kind of characters to win.

And when they do, the reader is all the more moved because of it.


  1. Thanks for this post its really interesting i bookmark your blog for future stuff like this..
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  2. Hi Nick! New follower here from Lynda's BBQ. I know the moment you're talking about and I actually just wrote about it in a scene in my thriller. I love this moment because it's revelation and calmness all wrapped into one.
    There's a line from The Hobbit that says, "there are moments that will change a person's life for all time." I wish we could capture those moments in a bottle and save them for days we don't feel so great, or donate them to patients in hospitals.

  3. Yes...I remember the taste of strawberries! It's refreshing to read your posts, and inspiring!

  4. Found you from Lynda's blog. Nice to meet you!

  5. Great post! In life, how often are we riding along without any bumps? It's what we do to find courage and peace and growth, when the going gets rough, that defines who we are.

  6. Oh, I love this Nick. I've had those moments, but never thought about putting them into the writing. Though now that I think about it, I have a moment like that in my current WIP...thanks for sharing!

    1. You hit the nail right on the head! I'm totally going to think about this when I write!

  7. You've made so many good points here Nick. Thank you :-)

  8. Pk: Hi! Thanks for stopping by and following :) You're so right about how amazing these moments are - and I wish, too, that we could save them. I suppose that's why we love character who find peace in dark times - because we want to be like them. Very thoughtful comment; thank you :) And thanks for following, too.

    Dianne: Yes, the taste of strawberries! And the sound of water, and the feel of grass. Such a great scene. Thanks for following!

    Lydia: Hi there! Thanks for coming and checking out Writing Fire :) Nice to meet you, too!

    Ruth: Thank you :) Very true - it's not often that everything is going right. But if we can find peace in spite of the circumstances, we become better people for it. Thanks for following :)

    Shallee: Thank you! These moments are amazing in life, and they can be amazing in stories, too. It's awesome that you already have one in!

    J.A.: Woohoo! Thanks :D It's great that you can take something out of it :)

    Diane: Thanks :) I'm glad you enjoyed it.

  9. Fabulous post! I love your point about the two different kinds of peace. There's something really satisfying when a character finds that kind of peace in the middle of the chaos.

  10. Thank you :) I'm glad you liked it. There is, isn't there? I think that the second type of peace is so much more powerful more it takes a lot of strength of character, and because of the contrast it creates with the surrounding circumstances. I love it when it happens in stories :)

  11. Nick. I have not been an active follower, but have been reading and enjoying your posts for quite a while. They are very inspiring.

    Because of that, our blog has nominated you for an award. Click on the link to follow.

    And yes, I agree with comment you made on your January 19, 2012, post... I will try to comment regularly.

  12. I adored that scene in The Return of the King. This is some really great advice. After all, every story has some sort of climax, right? Sometimes giving the reader a moment to breathe - or shed a tear - just makes the scene that much more intense.

    This is a long-winded way of saying "great post".

  13. good post and something to think about. Thanks.

  14. Dave: Thank you, and thanks very much for the award :) Looks like I just scraped through with 198 followers!

    Kelsey: It's hard not to adore it :) Thanks :)

    S.P.: Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it.


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