My dark-comedy novel has a voice similar to “This is Where I Leave You” by Jonathan Tropper and “Silver Lining Playbook” by Matthew Quick. I recently gave a shout out on Twitter to Matthew Quick, as he’s got a new book coming out in July, “The Reason You’re Alive” and he liked it!
I was so excited. Both books have memorable, quirky, imperfect and real characters. I’ve waged a lifelong battle with depression, anxiety, and insomnia, so I’ve always had a bit of a dark side to me. This is because, I understand firsthand how our mental health can be tied to one’s childhood and the setbacks or circumstances dealt to us.
This is what led me to fall deeply in love with reality fiction, a genre that exploits tragedies of life through dark comedy. This is my personal definition of this fairly new genre. When done properly, dark comedy can add layers of complex, three-dimensional characters fastening imperfection with human hypocrisy and peculiar irony. You are left in tears, laughing, and in awe at how much you can relate to these everyday flawed humans that reflect our own anxieties and despair. Dramedy or otherwise drama-comedy hybrid novels, movies, TV shows often have elements of dark, off-beat, uncomfortable comedy drama as well as an adhesive of painful honesty that ties everything together.
This is my second novel. For this one, I opted to take my time on character sketches and structuring my story. It took me five months to do extensive sketches for each character. I even chose real-life actors that would play them as if it were a movie, to assist in the development. An undergraduate degree in film production and a master’s degree in television, radio, and film have helped me to visualize a story. Painting a picture of character quirks progresses the story further than the dreaded mental “in the head” narrative that better works sparingly.
Still, you need to embrace whatever works for you, as every writer is different. But, I casted each character with well-known actors whose personalities fit the character I was creating. Doing this enabled me to write the character sketch with much more precision while also inspiring me to add things I never would have otherwise.
I also plotted a decent portion of my novel and most importantly knew the ending. I actually knew the conclusion, even the title before I even began the character sketch and plotting process. Having spent a grueling five months carefully constructing my novel allowed for me to write it all in three months. Granted, I had just given birth to a baby and was breastfeeding throughout the entire time I wrote my dark comedy novel.
The Bottom Line:
I feel much better about my dark comedy novel and noticed I didn’t need to do a huge facelift during the revision process. I believe that planning ahead contributed to this by making personal edits and revisions easier. Who knows, my editor might suggest otherwise, but my sister who recently landed an agent for her YA book told me that it was a good read and didn’t require extensive editing. She also complimented me on the fact that I had taken so much time doing thorough character sketches, as she said my characters were very strong and three-dimensional and the dialogue was realistic. Regardless, I still need to impress and land an agent of my own. I plan on attending the West Coast Writing Conference at the end of January. In the meantime, I wish happy writing to all aspiring writers who are hoping to get published. We’re in this struggle together, so I try to pass along any tips that helped me. I hope you do the same.