Tag Archives: truth

Going into the dark


“The space Hunt’s fiction inhabits is the dark dark itself, which, she writes, is ‘unknowable, unlit, mysterious, and disappearing.’ ‘You can have one foot in a spot that’s grounded,’ she says, ‘and one foot out there in the dark, the night, the unknown, which is so tempting, and for me is the place where mystery is sighted. I can’t not go into the unknown. Where the scary music is playing and people say, ‘Don’t go in there,’ I’m the person who says, ‘What’s in there?’ I must know.”

Lucas Loredo, interviewing Samatha Hunt (“The Dark Dark”) in Kirkus Reviews

Going into the dark, I think, is the author’s first duty. That’s where our stories come from, from truths that are greater than logical, everyday world truths because they include dreams, imaginations, ponderings, and whatever goes bump in the night.

When Hunt writes in Mr. Splitfoot, “These woods are where silence has come to lick its wounds” she’s not stating anything logic can support. But we know what she means and what she means changes us the minute we consider it and know it. Perhaps, thinking of this quote, we go into the woods, hear silence at work. and understand something knew about our world, or at least, ourselves.

The writer either has to go into the woods first and discover this “truth” or s/he has to imagine going into the woods, almost like a shamanic journey, and discover what silence does. Then s/he places this discovery into a poem, essay, or story. This is not to say that writers must think and write like Samantha Hunt (though it helps); but writers must go into the unknown one way or another. That’s where the new stories are.

Whether you literally or figuratively go into the dark woods to listen to the silence or to the occasional screams and pleas that shatter that silence, you are doing something chaotic, uncontrolled, fearful, and possibly dangerous. The greater the chaos and danger, the more spectacular–and potentially transformative–the story. No pain, no gain, as people say.

The resulting story, as author Jane Yollen says–echoing Emily Dickinson–is truth told on the slant. In other words, “All storytellers are liars. We make up things to get at the truth. The truth of the story and—if we are lucky and have revised well—the truth of the world as well.”

You have probably heard–or discovered in a physics class–that when a tuning fork is struck with a hammer, a nearby tuning fork will vibrate at the same frequency. As I once wrote in a review of a book about the blues, and why that music is so powerful, “In his 1967 inquiry into the nature of man, Man in Search of Himself, physicist Jean E. Charon writes that inasmuch as the material in the unconscious is in archetypal form, works of art communicate it via an innate knowledge shared by artist and viewer in a language which ‘awakes unconscious resonances in each of us.'”

Hunt – Wikipedia photo

When a reader finds silencing licking its wounds in a poem or story and is the kind of reader attuned to such ideas, s/he will see the truth of those words at a slant, so to speak. They will convey a truth, an idea never considered, bring forth a new way of looking at wounds and woods and silence that was–in this reader–waiting to be born. Thinking of Yollen again, this is what she calls “life in truth” rather than “truth actual.” Truth actual is the apparent logical workings of the everyday world, what we expect in credible news reports and expert testimony and scientific studies. Life in truth includes the realities behind the ever-addictive illusion of a logical world.

Darkness, the place where seeds germinate to create the flowers we will one day observe, is the same place where writers’ stories germinate. As Hunt says, writers want to go into the dark to see what’s happening there and then write a story or a poem about it. Or, maybe even a blog post.

Writers seem to learn at an early age that the ability to see in the dark is a prerequisite to telling a good story.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of Conjure Woman’s Cat and Eulalie and Washerwoman, magical novels that are on sale on Kindle on 7/21/17 – 7/23/17.





The spookiness of written truth


Some people have a built in BS detector. They can see the flaws and scams in the world’s best publicity.

Writers have a spookiness truth detector.

In her excellent book for writers, The Sister from Below: When the Muse Gets Her Way, author Naomi Ruth Lowinsky begins with one of my favorite Robert Graves quotes:

“The test of a poet’s vision,” writes Graves, “is the accuracy of his portrayal of the White Goddess. The reason why hairs stand on end, the eyes water, when one writes or reads a true poem is that a true poem is necessarily an invocation to the White Goddess.”

The experience Graves describes is similar to that spooked feeling one gets while walking down a lonely road at night and pondering what might be watching him from the dark forest, or while walking through an old house at night and thinking of yarns about it being haunted or that people were killed there or that something lurks within that isn’t human.

When a writer reads or writes the truth, the bells and whistles of his spookiness truth detector go off. Now, this detector won’t help him decide whether Mobil or Valvoline is better for his car or even whether he can get the meal his body needs on any given night at Olive Garden or Outback.

No, the spookiness truth detector is usually reserved for matters of the heat and soul, gods and goddesses, sun and moon, and for thoughts and ideas that are only too happy to go bump in the night.

When I read, I want to be spooked either by thrills and chills and excitement or by the truth of important things. When I write, I know my revisions and edits are done when my eyes water and the hairs on my arms stand on end.

If you’re a writer who is in tune with his muse—or, say, with the universe—then you may feel spooked when you read Lowinsky’s book. Truth be told, my BS detector went off while reading certain sections of Robert Graves The White Goddess. But it didn’t go off when I read The Sister from Below: When the Muse Gets Her Way.

But, I’m not here to convince you to buy the book. I’ve been feeling spooked while researching and writing my novel Sarbande and while reading through a lucky haul of good novels lately.

I’m not frightened, mind you. I just wanted to spread out the chills a bit.

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I’ve started a new web log called Sarabande’s Journey to share some of the heroine’s journey resources I’ve found while working on my novel. If you are reading about, writing about, or on such a journey, I invite you to stop by and see if anything there spooks you.