Why Do We Love Dark Plots?

If the success of shows like Law & Order: SVU, Criminal Minds, and Forensic Files weren’t enough to tell you that our society loves stories about pain and suffering, then I don’t know what else will. When this topic comes up during dinner conversations, the most often explanation given is that we’re drawn toward the happy endings. The BAU, SVU, and forensic scientists always solve their cases. These stories allow us to believe, if only for a 30-60 minutes, that goodness will always prevail.

While I agree, I have three other theories.

My first memory of enjoying a story like this is watching City Confidential with my father. We always enjoyed the beginning line which would be something like “It was a small pleasant town, not a place one would expect…murder.” It was a gentle reminder that bad things sometimes happen to good people and that tragedy is distributed randomly. “The Beekeeper” and “Silver Hammer” in this week’s issue are perfect examples of the randomness of tragedy. Both explore what happens when evil enters a perfectly happy life. Will you be the type to fight back? Or will you submit? These are scenarios that have potential for endless exploration.

A second reason we’re drawn to these stories is that they’re formulaic in nature. We know that in every episode of Criminal Minds, the BAU will hunt a serial killer and likely catch them. It’s familiar. [I’d also say it’s comforting, but I don’t want to be the weirdo who says shows about serial killers are comforting.] Familiarity can’t be underrated when it comes to literature. Familiarity is why romance and mystery/crime continue to be the most read genres. Storylines and structure are familiar but the author’s own unique twists and tricks keep us entertained. “Holes” is about a driver who can travel to different realities and “Grave Mistakes” is about a driven man on the hunt for a killer. Both take you in directions you can likely already imagine but it’s the details that will keep you second guessing.

A final reason we love dark plots is because life is sometimes dark and we love a good reflection of real life. Coincidently both the third installment of The Last Dung Beetle and the second installment of Word Burials get a bit dark. Both Buck and Yehuda let us in on their pasts…it isn’t pretty but what’s a hero without a story to overcome, right?

Issue Three was hella sweet, but we hope you enjoy this darker Issue Four just as much.

Thanks for reading!