Five Ways To Explore Your Shadow Self For Dark Writing Inspiration

Jul 9, 2021 | Advice

Although the sun is making brief appearances, I decided to root around in the darker parts of myself this week to find some inspiration. What I didn’t realise was that it was already A Thing. I was searching for a suitable picture to use in my workshop that showed someone casting a shadow and I found a whole load of stuff related to shadow theory and how you can use it in journalling and writing. One particularly useful piece explained all the sides of the theory and how you can use it in your writing.

After emerging from my Internet black hole, I got to thinking about a few ways that exploring the shadowy sides of ourselves might help to inspire and enrich our writing. Try to the following activities to explore your own shadow self.

Search under the surface for those hidden things…

1. Search for The Unsettling

It’s hard not to go for the obvious (graveyards, howling) when you think about shadowy things. But to find something truly dark, you need to think about things that unsettle you. Give yourself a moment to think about what you might find unnerving about the following five things: 1. An object. 2. A place. 3. A personality trait. 4. A sound. 5. An animal. You might be surprised with what you come up with!

2. Explore Your Shadows

Once you’ve found something, have a go at expanding it. Choose one of the five things you thought of and do some freewriting or a short piece of description or action. Try not to let your conscious mind interrupt too much and see what comes out.

Your darker corners can lead to passionate writing

3. Confront Your Demons

Often the darker things about ourselves are the places to go for inspiration. If something terrifies you, makes you incredibly angry or creeps you out, it’s likely you’ll be able to write something very moving about it. Either using the list from above or based on the things that get you the most worked up, have a go at planning out a story that explores the ideas behind your darker feelings. You’re guaranteed to be passionate about writing it.

4. Enrich Your Characters

If writing rounded characters is something you find difficult, spend some time getting to know their dark side. Maybe you’ve got an antagonist that does something awful and you can’t get some empathy for them, or it could be that your side characters are just too nice. Write a monologue from their point of view, defending their actions and showing them in a different light, to help find the shred of humanity in your character. Write journal entries from the point of view of your minor characters where they confess the things they are most ashamed of. You’ll find them leaping off the page in no time.

Seeing the darker side of your characters can help them come to life

5. Go Dark Or Go Home

While we might have the urge to stay away from our shadow selves, embracing them can be a cathartic and positive experience. If you’re going to go dark, go all the way. The next time you find a story or some writing going off into the deep end, just go with it. See where it goes and what comes out. In all likelihood you’ll vent something that’s been hiding away or perhaps reveal something that’s been troubling you. And who knows, you might just get a delicious, dark story out of it too.

Do you find there are dark forces at work in your writing? I’d love to hear about them! Let me know @sarahtinsleyuk

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