A Writer’s Dark Half

This weekend, I finished reading Stephen King’s The Dark Half, which was published in 1989. This one was about a writer whose pen name comes to life and runs amok, murdering people in a grisly fashion. I liked the premise of the living pseudonym, but I didn’t care for all the gore. I feel like The Dark Half was one of the bloodier King novels I’ve read.

The book had some interesting musings on the nature of writing. An author essentially lives in two worlds: the fictional world of his or her own creation and the real world. Strangely enough, the fictional world can seem just as real as the real world, but the difficulty of writing is to make the fiction real enough that the reader can be captivated by your fantasy, too.

Writers also have a kind of “third eye,” if you will, as the protagonist of the book did. Perhaps this third eye allows writers to look inward to distill their deepest thoughts and emotions in way that others can relate to, or perhaps the “third eye” is a kind of intuition about life or a different way of looking at the world.

It was also interesting how the protagonist realized that there was a part of him that didn’t want to kill his evil “dark half.” A part of him enjoyed writing as the pseudonym and getting to vicariously do terrible things to people. The book ended with a secondary character musing on how, although the pseudonym was dead, there would always be a  part of the writer that was deranged. Because this “deranged” part of the writer would always exist, part of him would always be separate from his loved ones, because this is the part of the writer that can envision (and even revel in creating) horrible things, even if those horrible things are fictional.

So it all goes back to that darker part of human nature in general. We hear about terrible events like the tragedy in Orlando or the Holocaust or 9/11 and we believe that we could never be perpetrators of such horror. The truth is, most of us will likely never be. But we all have a dark, fallen side, and it is good to acknowledge that every now and then. In a way, it can keep us in touch with reality. Even more so, writers need to be sure that they are staying bound to the real world even when the fictional world seems more appealing at times.

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