I always admire fiction writers that go all the way, that don't stop writing about things that may be a little uncomfortable.
I got a rare treat and exposed myself to some books that everyone else seems to have already seen, since they've been around since 2009 . I read the reviews. People either love these books or hate them. They both caused me to evaluate the way I write as I read them.
These books are by Gillian Flynn, "Sharp Objects" and "Dark Places.' What can I say about these two books? They made me uncomfortable because they delved into areas of the human psyche that people don't want to talk about. However, they were also two of the most compelling novels I have read in years. The main characters of these novels are broken women whose lives have taken a tragic and unhappy path. I do not want to tell you too much about these books, but the first line of "Dark Places" is: "I have a meanness inside of me, real as an organ. Slit me at my belly and it might slide out, meaty and dark, drop on the floor so you could stomp on it. It's the Day blood. Something is wrong with it."
You may ask why I am telling you about these books...they reminded me that sometimes novel writing is not about making sure that a novel fits some demographic or appeals to some beta-readers. Sometimes it is about telling the truth, and sometimes the truth is ugly. I loved these two characters because their lives had become a walking nightmare and they walked into that nightmare and through it, in all of their imperfection, and were victorious, but still flawed. Yes, I realize that "truth" is subjective and that not everyone has had a bad life, but I also know that not everyone has a life full of unicorns and rainbows either. We can all identify with the pains of life.
I loved these books because the characters in these books were honest, in a scary, uncomfortable way. It reminded me that, as writers, we need to deeply understand our characters and be able to articulate the way they think, good and bad. These books drew me in like I hadn't been drawn in before. I am glad I read them because they reminded me that I need to let go a little while I'm writing and be willing to go to some uncomfortable places in order to tell the story that I want to tell. They reminded me to push the limits. They reminded me to be braver.