Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Infusing Dark Subjects with Light by H. L. Wegley

H. L. Wegley
When I hear the words child trafficking, words associated with darkness and evil come to mind, words like abduction, sexual abuse, slavery, and prostitution. How does one expose this evil without giving the readers a dark story? The short answer is infusing the story with light.

To accomplish this, I tried to follow a couple of simple, logical principles when constructing the plot. The first principle is, light obliterates darkness. So infuse the story with light. But what does one do during the darker moments of the story? They cannot be completely avoided, hence the second principle. Hope is the precursor to light — i.e. it opens the door for light to enter. When the story must grow darker, infuse the situation with hope.

Using the principles of hope and light, I started plotting On the Pineapple Express. During plot construction, the author has a lot of freedom. She/he can place the ugly events on stage, make them happen offstage, or prevent them from happening. I constructed my story so that the most evil aspect of human trafficking, sexual abuse, wouldn’t happen until the captive girls were sold. Instead of the evil, I created an imminent threat of evil. This worked well, heightening the suspense by providing a ticking clock against which my protagonists must work to locate the girls before they were sold.

Creating the threat of evil, and substituting it for graphic evil and violence, is a great alternative. When creating the threat of something evil, like sexual abuse, the author can choose words that paint a partial picture allowing readers to complete it with their imaginations. This is preferable to spoon-feeding horrifying, R-rated images to readers.

One way that I inject hope is to put a person of faith in the scene, a person who shares applicable truths from God’s word. Mild spoiler alert — in On the Pineapple Express, my heroine shares scripture with the captive girls showing God’s heart for the oppressed.

In the end, light must win. Goodness and justice must prevail, defeating the darkness. My heroine summed this up by saying her role became clear to her, woven into the tapestry of a story only a good God could write. I believe that’s where all of us, readers and writers, want our stories to end.

The details and statistics on human trafficking, I relegated to the epilogue, where my heroine gives a speech to concerned students and parents.

Treating the dark subject in this way, I have no reservations about giving this book to my 14-year-old granddaughter to read. She would profit from it far more than from a book filled with graphic descriptions of sex trafficking.

About the Author
About H. L. Wegley
On the Pineapple Express
by H. L. Wegley
H. L. Wegley served in the USAF as an Intelligence Analyst and a Weather Officer. In civilian life, he was a weather forecaster and a research scientist in atmospheric physics. After earning an MS in Computer Science, he developed computing systems for Boeing before retiring in the Seattle area, where he and his wife of 47 years enjoy small-group ministry, grandchildren, hiking Olympic Peninsula beaches, snorkeling Maui whenever they can, and where he writes inspirational thrillers and romantic-suspense novels.

On the Pineapple Express
In one of the most beautiful places on earth the ugliest of crimes holds young, innocent lives in its evil grip. An intercepted cell-phone call from a remote area on the Olympic Peninsula tells beautiful, brilliant NSA researcher, Jennifer Akihara, a group of girls will soon be sold into slavery by human traffickers. She enlists her fiancé, Lee Brandt, to help find the holding location and convince the FBI to intervene. With the clock ticking off the last few hours before both the sale of the girls and the arrival of a deadly storm, and with international criminals pursuing them, can Jennifer and Lee save the girls, or will their wedding plans be cancelled ... permanently?

13 comments:

  1. I like your idea to show the suspense more than the graphic details, Harry. Unfortunately, I think too many authors choose the second way and leave out the light. Your book sounds really interesting.

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  2. I liked Harry's opinion on that, too. Ramping up the suspense generates interest without taking the reader somewhere he or she doesn't want to go.

    Thanks for the comment, Sandy!

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  3. Thanks, Sandra! One rather subjective check I always apply is, I must feel good about what I am writing, then I must feel good when I re-read it, and these make me feel that I have written a good story. I know there's more to a good inspirational story than simply feelings -- plot structure, character development, conveying truth -- but if I don't feel right after writing something, it's a pretty good indicator that something needs to change, me, my writing, or both.

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  4. Harry, I like your plan. I love suspense, but not graphic details. And the fact that you can feel comfortable letting your 14 year old grandaughter read it speaks volumes.

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  5. Terri, Some writers feel compelled to be graphic. When I hear their reasons, I'm always reminded of something author Donn Taylor wrote: "We shouldn't confuse realism with literalism. Fiction is not reality. It's an artistic construct that gives the illusion of reality. We do not have to include every detail simply because it's there in real life."
    Donn is right. Therefore, we have the license to create that artistic construct any way we choose. But, we have the responsibility to choose wisely.

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  6. Hi Harry, sounds like you were able to make a very dark subject flow with God's love and hope. And I am so glad you met your goal of writing a provocative book in such a meaningful way young people can and should read it. God's blessings.

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    1. Oh, I hear you, Harry. Cuts are always painful. Sigh. But...it sure wounds like you have enough material and emotion for more stories! Wishing you luck and blessings...

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  7. Tanya, Since the original MSS was 105 K words (we pub'd it at 66 K, ouch!) there was a lot to the plot besides the trafficking -- courtship, proper conduct of an engaged couple, a redemption story, taking in a foster child, surviving a 100-year storm. There was plenty of room to shine light into the story and, in the process, to provide spiritual guidance for young people. Paring the story down so drastically was particularly painful. But, in hindsight, I think God had his hand in that, because I never would have written a story with as rich a content if I had started out intending to write a much shorter novel.

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    1. Major reduction in word count, Harry! Interesting how this made for a richer story when you had to condense. Are there scenes or sections you cut that could turn into bonus features on your website or a free short story to let new readers sample your work (and hopefully run out and buy the novel?)

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  8. This is very helpful. I'm working on a story that has a lot of sorrow, but trying to keep the light in it throughout. I don't want the reader to lose hope and quit reading because it is a story of redemption and restoration within the family.I want the reader to see that throughout the book or they may not want to read to the end. I like what you said about characters that can be used to bring light into the story.

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    1. Evelyn, Of course, we will have the "Dark Moment" in our story where all hope of the desired outcome seems gone. But, other than that, when the story gets too dark, what has worked for me is putting someone in the scene who hasn't lost hope, someone who can see light at the end of the tunnel, and who shares it. Sometimes they share the light through one of God's promises, or they just remind others in the scene of the very character and nature of God, and of the fact that this person we plant in the scene has hope for a brighter future. Even if hope isn't revived yet in your heroine or hero, hope is still there for the reader in the hopeful person you place in the scene. And hope, even in the blackest night, is the precursor to light.

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  9. Great post and information on how to use light to keep the darkness in our stories from overpowering the reader.

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  10. Lots of wisdom here on keeping the light in the darkness. I struggled with this too in my novel, Heaven's Prey (which I wouldn't let a 14-year-old read because I think the idea of my villain's crimes is too frightening. Perhaps I underrate what 14-year-olds have been exposed to!)

    I suspect the writers who put all the darkness in print in all its pain feel strongly that the world needs to know. And we probably do need to know, but as a few other comments have already said, lots of readers won't read those stories. And thus they don't learn what the writer wanted so desperately to share.

    I'm looking forward to reading On the Pineapple Express precisely because Harry has woven so much light among the darkness and kept the horror off-screen.

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