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.