On “Dark Passengers”

On Dexter (one of my favorite shows) the title character refers to the killer within as his “dark passenger”. It’s this other part, an inner part, and one he must indulge. These moments of indulgence keep him functioning, help him to maintain the facade of normalcy.

Sometimes I feel like the writer in me is a dark passenger of its own, or at least…I have a fondness for writing cruel, malicious, violent, darkly mischievous, etc. characters. My writing wants to–tries to–veer dark, twisted.

If you’ve caught any of my short stories around here, it’s pretty apparent. I love the intersection of childhood icons, of fairy tales, and violent/mischievous behavior.

It started with my homocidal Goldilocks, the one who shared a cell with my own version of Scherezade. This last round I introduced you to my dark witch Red, who liked to play with her food.

My reading, I’ll say, aligns with my writing. I love nothing more than a character with a dark passenger. Those episodes in which Superman goes BAD? Or Spiderman deals with his inner demon? Or Stefan loses himself to his buried bloodlust? My favorites.

So imagine my delight and fascination when I pick up a book called THE CHILD THIEF, a new take on none other than Peter Pan (one of my all-time favorite stories; if you have not read the original, go now, find it). In this version, Peter’s brand of play is much darker, tinged with that same frightening kind of mischief that’s been popping up in my own stories! I had a kindred spirit moment.

But it got me thinking. What is this part of me that wants to read/write characters who like to play dark games? It’s not a simple sadism, but rather a fascination with things that APPEAR to be innocent, but in fact are just the opposite. It’s all about the inner demon, the dark passenger.

It’s about DUPLICITY.

When you look at many of the paranormal trends, along with the bad boy you’ll also find the REFORMED bad boy, the one who once was naughty and is trying to regain his/her humanity/innocence. Look at Stefan in Vampire Diaries. He is the good boy with the demon inside. He has his own dark passenger.

THAT is what entices me, as a writer and as a reader: the inner demon, the creamy shell with the dark center. It’s what we see on the surface, and what sneaks through the cracks in the facade. Those moments when we catch a glimmer of malice behind a too-wide smile, moments that HINT at something lurking…there’s nothing like it. It’s indulgent to write, and that’s why I tend to keep it to the short stories more than the full-length pieces, but it’s FUN.

The more drastic the difference between internal and external, the more fascinating. The darker the demon peering out between the cracks, the closer we look to find it. We take pleasure when it shows itself, when it escapes, and we wait for it to happen again. We as readers, as viewers, as writers, cannot get enough of that buried bad.

16 thoughts on “On “Dark Passengers”

  1. Leigh says:

    *shivers* Oooh, this is like writing-craft-crack for me. I think that the ‘lurking evil within’ thing is fun for so many reasons. Like you said, it’s alluring – it’s like watching a high-speed chase. Will they make that hair-pin curve, or will they go flying off of the edge of the cliff? Also, it’s relate-able. Sure, we may not all have serial killers inside, but we have dark urges that we DO manage to suppress. It’s nice to play – to do the ‘what if’ in a safe place, like a book, and indulge in those things. And, finally, bad boys are hot. ‘Nuff said. 😉 xoxo

    • veschwab says:

      Alas, it is my writing-craft-crack, too. And yes, it’s that constant tension of keeping personalities balanced and/or in check and the awareness that they WILL slip.

  2. Susan Adrian says:

    Yep! Dark is just so fun to write.

    And I KNEW you’d like THE CHILD THIEF. 🙂

  3. I love Dexter. So. So. Much. I suspect it’s not healthy.

  4. The Never Fairy says:

    Hooray for Peter Pan!
    Were you aware of these novels?
    A story based on Barrie’s own idea for more:
    And a great ‘What if?’ adventure (but it’s not for the kids!): Click!

    • veschwab says:

      I was! I’m infatuated with all things Peter Pan. I rediscovered the original text in college and have ever since been fascinated by the notion of the eternal child. It’s so exciting/fun to see these other forms!

      • The Never Fairy says:

        Well, hooray for you! (Being a good hunter of Pan!) 😉
        I hope you liked them. They’re the only two ‘other’ Pans I’ve liked.
        Though I haven’t read “The Child Thief” – not as much into “retellings” (if that’s the word for it.)

        [Always] BELIEVE! 😀

  5. Landon says:

    I’m SO with you. This kind of stuff is my writerly drug.

  6. IanB says:

    Love Dexter.

    Also like the dark side, that forbidden fruit of evil is so delicious.

  7. Liz says:

    I so caught the Dexter reference with Red! One thing about Dexter’s duplicity is that his dark passenger is as masochistic as it is sadistic. It may appear to afford him a normal life, but if you look closer, it’s the one thing keeping him from it. I think a lot of writers can relate to that aspect of it as well. I know I sure do.

    Someone, and I can’t remember who it was, but it was a graphic novelist, once wrote an essay on moral ambiguity, and why heroes need it. He concluded that beauty of honesty was that it was steeped in mistrust, therefore to be truly honest, you can’t just show the good in people, the heroic sides of them, you also have to flip the rock and look at the bugs underneath. An example he used was that if we only knew Spiderman, we would believe him to be a villain, in the same way J. Jonah Jameson does, because he would lack sufficient motivation and internal conflict to convince readers of his sincerity. But knowing him as Peter Parker, knowing there are other things he would rather do than swoop around in spandex, knowing what he’s given up and who he’s let down, makes him relatable. Our inner demons recognize his inner demons, and that’s what makes him memorable.

    The same thing holds true for antagonists, too. IMO, the most frightening thing about Hannibal Lecter isn’t that he eats people and wears their meat suits; it’s that he’s so charming and polite, you’d never even suspect it.

    • veschwab says:

      I just want to eat up this entire comment. It is like my personal brand of crack..er cookies. I couldn’t agree more about Dexter’s sadistic/masochistic tendencies (it’s on tonight, I’m so excited).

      And wow, SUCH a great perspective on moral ambiguity. I’ve never thought of it that way, but I can certainly see the notion of honesty, of outer and inner faces.

      “Our inner demons recognize his inner demons, and that’s what makes him memorable.” YES YES YES YES.

      My senior thesis was on the Hero, Villain, and Anti. It is my favorite focus, the Anti, both in regard to the Anti-Hero, and to the Anti-Villain. That band of gray is by far the most fascinating in terms of character.

  8. thai seo says:

    nice a day Victoria E. Schwab , i look your blog , that a nice blog and useful. Great for everyone. a lot of Reading and Random content. i going to plan to read and comment your blog.

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