I'm mentioned it before, but I was struck again last night by a real tension within in myself when it comes to my writing. If you've read anything at all that I've written, you know that my writings tend (only tend?) toward the dark. I work with pretty extreme evils as my material. I do it pretty well, I think.
This is not an easy thing for me to come to grips with.
Real evil sickens my stomach. Often literally. I've brushed against it on the ambulance crew a few times. I spent my days engaged with it when I was doing forensic anthropology. Back then, it was always very important to me that I not sterilize myself to the horrors that I was working with, because I didn't want to minimize what the victims had gone through and their families would be going through for the rest of their lives.
And yet, I write about it. I hope to someday make my living writing about it.
That doesn't always sit well within myself. When I hear news about workplace shootings and the real loss of innocent life, it becomes harder for me to play games with fictional innocents. When I think about some of the victims in the lab who were not simply killed but so brutalized that their very humanity was hardly recognizable any longer, it becomes harder to destroy the personhood of the characters I create. When I have an ambulance run with someone who is both intoxicated and criminally insane, it becomes a challenge for me to justify creating unbalanced characters.
Any other writers out there struggle with questions like this in their writing? Crime / horror writers with similar questions? YA writers who write about teens doing things they don't want their own sons or daughters doing? Historical fiction writers who have to keep entertaining a series of events that was likely not entertaining to the individuals living through it? Anyone else?
I'd love to hear your own thoughts on how you manage it.