Facing the Darkness in DARKLANDS
One of the moments I find most interesting in a story is the dark night of the soul. Usually coming shortly before the climax, it's the moment when things look bleakest. The protagonist has experienced increasingly devastating setbacks and, now that the situation seems hopeless, is facing almost certain failure. Whatever goal drives the story—finding love, winning the prize, saving the world—appears to be irrevocably out of reach.
For the protagonist, the dark night of the soul is a time of both reflection and preparation: looking back at how things got to this state and looking ahead at the disaster that appears to be looming. The reason I love this moment is that it strips away the protagonist's illusions, excuses, and defenses, letting readers see what's at the character's core. When everything appears to be slipping away, people think about who they are, what (and whom) they truly value, what they regret, what they'd give to make things right. It's a moment that gives characters real depth.
In my Deadtown urban fantasy series, shapeshifter Victory Vaughn battles demons both real and figurative. She carries a heavy load of guilt. Ten years ago, when Vicky was eighteen and eager to prove her skills as a demon fighter, she summoned the Hellion that killed her father and left its mark on her. Now, she still blames herself for her father's death.
DARKLANDS, the fourth book in the series, is where Vicky must face the darkness inside herself. To keep an old enemy from regaining his full powers, Vicky travels to the Darklands, the realm of the dead. I based the Darklands on the Welsh otherworld, Annwn, but it's more than a place. Venturing into the Darklands forces Vicky to confront things she'd rather avoid: Her guilt over her father's death. The mark she bears that links her to a Hellion. The near-uncontrollable rages caused by her demon mark. The vulnerability and uncertainty she feels in her relationship. Her fear that she's not ready for the role fate may ask her to play in the coming war between demons and humans.
For Vicky, a journey into the Darklands can only end in one of two ways: failure or growth.
The Darklands aren't unremitting darkness. Vicky also has moments of joy and humor there. She finds support as well as challenges. She has both triumphs and defeats. And she comes out a different person than when she went in.
The Darklands are both a place and a state of mind. Traveling through them, Vicky journeys into another realm, but also deep into herself.
What "dark nights of the soul" have impressed you in stories? Do you have a favorite book or movie where the main character faced the darkness before moving forward into the story's climax? What do characters learn in their darkest moments?