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How To Write Your Darkness With David Wright

    Categories: Writing

We write to share our stories and sometimes our darker sides come to the fore. How can we stop self-censoring and deal with the fear of judgment? How do we write our truth without drowning in what arises from within? I discuss this and more with David Wright in today's interview.

In the intro, I talk about Findaway Voices adding keywords for audiobooks; the next level GPT-2 AI text generator has been released, check it out at TalkToTransformer.com and I also discuss why we need to face our discomfort at this kind of tech; plus Kris Rusch on the paradigm shift from powerless writer to powerful owner of IP; and my personal update on NaNoWriMo and more.

Today's show is sponsored by my course, How to Write a Novel: From Idea to Finished Manuscript. Is it your dream to write a novel but you just don’t know where to start?
Have you started writing only to run out of ideas?
Are you suffering from self-doubt about whether you’re good enough to write a novel?
Do you feel overwhelmed by all the information and craft books out there?
Do you want to strip everything back to basics and learn a step by step process to writing your novel?
If yes, this course might be for you. Check out my courses at www.TheCreativePenn.com/learn

David Wright is the co-author of 30+ novels spanning horror, thriller, and sci-fi. He's also a podcaster at the Story Studio podcast and one of the three co-founders of Sterling and Stone Story Studio with Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant. both of whom have been on this show several times. Dave has a nonfiction book out: Into the Darkness: Hook Your Readers Without Getting Lost in the Dark, which I am super excited about.

You can listen above or on your favorite podcast app or read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and the full transcript below.

Show Notes

  • Teaching by sharing personal experiences
  • Why writing matters, especially as an outlet for our feelings
  • What is the definition of horror and darkness?
  • Writing about dark subjects without glamorizing them
  • How the fears of a culture or a generation come up out in horror
  • Researching dark subjects without getting pulled into the darkness
  • Leaving the darkness behind after finishing writing a book
  • Making sure there are rays of hope in dark books
  • On the current environment for mature indie authors

You can find David Wright at DavidWWright.com as well as at SterlingAndStone.net.

Transcript of Interview with David Wright

Joanna Penn: David Wright is the co-author of 30 plus novels spanning horror, thriller, and sci-fi. He's also a podcaster at the Story Studio podcast and one of the three co-founders of Sterling and Stone Story Studio with Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant. both of whom have been on this show several times. Dave has a nonfiction book out: Into the Darkness: Hook Your Readers Without Getting Lost in the Dark, which I am super excited about.

Welcome back to the show, Dave.

David Wright: Thank you for having me back. I'm shocked that anybody ever asked me to return.

Joanna Penn: I think this is your third appearance on The Creative Penn in the last decade!

David Wright: That's about as often as my wife wants to see me.

Joanna Penn: We have met in person once at the Smarter Artist Summit a few years ago, which was great. And we've talked about writing dark things before but I think you have managed to avoid writing nonfiction up to this point.

Why this book and why now?

David Wright: Basically, Sean and Johnny like teaching. I don't particularly like it and they both said people want to hear stuff from you.

I'm like Nah. I think of ‘real writers’ in quotation marks like Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Clive Barker other people I grew up reading. I want to hear what they have to say about writing but not what I have to say, particularly.

Two things changed that. One was the Smarter Artist Summit that we did last year. I spoke on stage and told a rather depressing story about how there were two times in my life where I was going in the wrong direction.

Back in 1996, I was pretty much stagnating. I was working the midnight shift at a gas station. I lived in an apartment with another friend of mine and my best friend at the time, Todd, had moved on. He was out of the Navy. He was working at a bar making a ton of money and we were like best friends growing up, and he kept telling me, come on, come move with me, get out of your room. Do something with your life.

He was the one person that actually believed in me becoming a writer before anybody. He's like, ‘you're going to be the next Stephen King.' So he kept asking me to come. I always had excuses not to. I was stuck in a rut, like I said.

The thing about it is when I met Todd he was like this nerdy, dorky kid, and he got picked on and I sort of stuck up for him. We had this dynamic where I was kind of cool and he was kind of the dorky one. And when he came back to visit me in February of ‘96, he had totally changed.

First of all, he looked like a male model now rather than a skinny geek. And also he just had confidence and charisma and he wanted to go to clubs and meet women and stuff. Just a completely different person to me. We were both like these geeky dorks playing Dungeons and Dragons and now he's this cool dude.

When he was criticizing me, he was trying to bring me up, but I saw it as him putting me down, like he was looking down on me and it really annoyed the crap out of me. He left to go back home in February. We had this argument and he was like, “What if you want to waste your life?”

I was just so mad at him. I didn't even walk him downstairs to go home and I didn't think much about it because we would go months without talking especially when he was in the Navy. And it never really meant anything. When we saw each other was just reuniting old friends and we picked up right where we left off. Not a big deal and I figured okay, this should go away. We’ll forget about it, not a big deal.

I never called to apologize and never really thought much of it and then on April 2nd I got a call from his aunt who I never even met, I don't even know how she got my number, and she told me that he had died in a car accident.

And that pretty much destroyed me for quite a while and I was just full of regret for all the things that wouldn't happen now. We had so many plans, we're going to rule the world. And then everything just changed.

I became depressed and I just fell into this darkness and if he thought I was in a bad place before, I was really in a bad place then, and it took me a long time to come out of it.

And what happened was two years ago, I went to the Smarter Artists Summit that we were doing every year for a while and Sean and Johnny and after every conference or summit, we would have a dinner we talked about how it went, where we are and what we want to do the next year.

Sean likes to think about these things. I'm just kind of this chaotic mess and I just go wherever you point me. So we were talking and Sean's like, ‘you're really not keeping up your end of the things.' It was kind of the conversation I had with Todd.

And he's like, ‘you're worse than when we met. You're missing deadlines. It took a year to write this one book.' Just a lot of the things that needed to be pointed out to me that I wasn't picking up on.

It reminded me a lot of the moment with Todd. I have a choice here. There's two paths I can go. One of them is to stay myself, live with my fear and anxiety and just let it rule me or I can take a chance on myself.

This time I made a different choice.

I already saw the other choice. I didn’t think Sean was going to die if I get rejected him, but it just reminded me of where I was and where I needed to be and it was a wake-up call. And a year later was this year, at the summit February, and I went on stage and told that story and since then I've done really well. I'm writing a lot more. I lost a bunch of weight. I’m down under 300 for the first time in forever. For comparison sake, I topped out at almost 400 at one point and for a long time I've been hovering around 340. And right now I'm down to 272.

Joanna Penn: Congratulations. I know that's a big thing.

David Wright: So I told the story on stage in and talked about this. I talked a little bit about bullying and the stuff I dealt with and I don’t remember why I was talking about it. It just kind of came up.

Afterward, all these people came up to me and they thanked me for sharing. They found me. I was off to the side, and when other people were speaking they would come up to me and tell me how much it meant that I shared and how they had similar situations. They had a similar point in their life or they were bullied.

One guy was this really alpha-male sort of guy. The kind of guy you think never had a problem in his life that he couldn't kick its ass and he came up and he told me he went through the same stuff.

I was like, wow. I was just shocked by how many people had similar experiences to me.

Sean basically said, yeah, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, all those people, they can write a nonfiction book, but they can't write your story and connect with the people that you connect with in your life.

Joanna Penn: It's a really good illustration because you started off by saying ‘I don't like teaching' but what you've done in the book, there are some writing tips. But your point is that you're sharing your experience.

There's a lot of what I would call memoir in this book, which I think is the only way now, to write nonfiction. You can't just say ‘do this, do that.' I think your idea of what teaching is was probably wrong.

What Sean knows about you, and what I have recognized in you, is that you teach people by sharing your stories.

David Wright: Yes, but there's a negative voice inside of me. The kid that was picked on who sat in the back of the class and that kid that nobody wants to hear what you have to say. Nobody cares, just move on. That’s hard to get over.

Joanna Penn: Of course and many people don't get over it.

One of the quotes from the book, which I've read and it is fantastic. You say, “It might very well be necessary for my well-being to right dark books.” You’ve hinted at Todd's death and you've mentioned bullying.

How has writing actually helped you through this? How has it helped you make those changes or helped you deal with life?

David Wright: I think it offers a catharsis and a way to deal with feelings that are beyond my power beyond my control. The world is an interesting place and horrible things happen all the time and it's really hard to wrap your head around how it can make any sense at all. And it doesn't. Really, it's random chaos and it's hard.

I also deal with OCD and anxiety and that's a big part of my headspace that makes life even more hard because I tend to ruminate on horrible things and I need some outlet. When I was younger reading stories transported me. They were like an escape out of the real world and into this other world where things made a little more sense. Sometimes the good people won in the end, and I needed that. Even if it's fiction, I needed it.

I needed it to get through and now writing is about dealing with dark things, but also trying to find hope. Trying to find the light in the darkness to hold onto. For me, I just find writing about it helps me to see the good things in the world as well.

Joanna Penn: I know what you mean. Let's come back to a definition of ‘dark,' because I read horror, but I don't watch horror movies. I find that they do affect me in ways. Whereas I devour horror novels, but only specific types of horror novels.
You mentioned Dean Koontz. Have you read his latest Jane Hawk series?

David Wright: No, I’ve heard of it. I haven't read him in a while. It’s hard for me to read horror stuff while also writing it.

Joanna Penn: Fair enough, but my point I guess is Jane Hawk could be called thrillers or sci-fi/horror.

To me, horror is fighting darkness with a ray of hope.

But a lot of people seem to think that horror is torture porn and lots of gore, which is not what I like at all. I know there's a lot of death, to be fair, but, torture porn to me is not the definition of horror.

Maybe you could talk about what writing darkness means to you? What does the genre ‘horror' mean?

David Wright: First of all, I never really cared for a lot of horror movies that do fall into that torture porn category. They're titillating for shock value and that doesn't really do anything for me. There are no real characters you can root for so I don't really enjoy that stuff. It's just too bleak and dismal.

I tend to write about the things that scared me and when I was younger, I would write about monsters and supernatural threats, but when I had a kid that changed me. You get new fears when you have a child. You worry about your kid for one and you see the world a little bit differently. You also see things you never really thought about as dangerous.

So I tend to write about things that scare the hell out of me; bullying is something from my own youth but kidnapping and all the horrible things that you see in the news. You think about a little bit differently when you're a parent.

I write a bunch of different stuff. I mean pretty much anything that it's ever terrified me, the thrillers are more straight up in that area, somebody being kidnapped there’s murder, obviously.

But the sci-fi supernatural stuff, we have monsters creeping in and stuff like that. But typically anything that affects me in some way that I don't want to think about, I force myself to think about.

Joanna Penn: It’s interesting because I really came up against that when I wrote my novel Desecration, which I call a crime thriller, but it has some aspects of horror in and it does have dark stuff in and I came up against my own fear. I'm quite a happy little soul! I know you were quite surprised when I told you about some of the things I write.

David Wright: Our dinner conversation was with one of my favorites ever actually.

Joanna Penn: I do have a dark side even though I'm quite this sunny happy person, so the fear of judgment, I still come up against it all the time.

How do we not self-censor? Is there a line we shouldn't cross or should we just let it all go?

David Wright: I think the line is different for everybody. I get what you're saying about not wanting to be judged because I’ve met people, and they say, ‘you write horror? Wow, okay, something wrong with you.' They think the absolute worst, like you enjoy watching bodies being ripped apart or something like that, and I'm actually pretty damn squeamish with stuff like that.

I think the line is, we're not celebrating. For instance, we have a series called No Justice, which is like a vigilante thriller series and there are some pretty dark subjects in there. There's a child abduction, rape and stuff like that and we tell it from the hero and the villains POV because we want you to be in their heads. It's a fine line where you want to write about a child abductor in a way that someone can be in their head but also not like you’re glamorizing it like yes, I'm pro child murderer.

For me, I always want to write the villain in a way that you can almost see why they are the good guy in their own story or the good girl. You don't agree with what they're doing, but you know why.

You see what happened in their life that led them to that way. That, to me, is important for really good fiction. And books and movies and TV are doing that a lot more these days where the villain is more shades of grey and you know what they what and what they are versus how their life could have been different. But you know something really bad happened and it turned them into the monster that they are.

I like to do that but not in a way that glamorizes it. I think that's a tough one because right now that movie The Joker's coming out and the news is currently worried about well, is that going to cause other incel guys that idolize The Joker to go out and shoot up places and stuff because that happens a lot way too often.

It's tricky to make art in this day where you want to write about something and bring it to light but not in a way that glamorizes it and gives people something to aspire to or motivates them to do something horrible.

I don't know if I've explained it well at all but it is a fine line. I think it's don't glamorize it. I don't know that that's my feeling on it.

Joanna Penn: Maybe it does come from the sense of what we want to explore as authors and we're all different people, right?

All of my dark stuff is all about coping with death and what's on the other side of death and beating monsters and I quite like monsters and demons and banishing demons and stuff. It's weird because we all come back to the same themes over and over again.

There's a joke on your Story Studio podcast that children in jeopardy are the dark trope that you just can't avoid.

David Wright: That comes very much from when I had a kid. It's something I never really thought about before and then suddenly I was terrified about all the horrible things that can happen.

Joanna Penn: Right now as we as we talk, there’s climate change and extinction rebellion is a fear amongst young people and for all of us, but there is a lot of anxiety amongst young people, of course, because we’ll probably be dead and they'll be dealing with a lot of this stuff.

I almost think there's then there is going to be a resurgence in the environmental horror genre, which we saw around the millennium. Do you remember we had a lot of extinction movies and climate change things coming up then?

I feel like that's going to come back and as generations deal with what is in their culture right now that comes up in horror.

David Wright: That's interesting to me because in America anyway, things are so polarized between right-wing and left-wing and while I see what you're saying, I think half the people would see that as some kind of liberal agenda. ‘Oh, you're putting climate change in my horror movie. Well, no, it's not real and I refuse to see it.' And they are one-starring movies before they even come out.

Everything is so polarized that I don't know that these things have the power, at least here, to become a huge thing anymore without half the country just decrying it is nonsense and ridiculing it and destroying it before it can even do well in a movie theater.

Joanna Penn: What about something like AI? AI is artificial intelligence, in case anyone doesn't know, and it has come up in what could be called sci-fi, but actually, a lot of those movies do swing into horror. I know you guys have written these out of Sterling and Stone as well.

So, I mean maybe that's a fear that is a kind of collective worry.

David Wright: That's something everybody can be afraid of. Our robot overlords.

Joanna Penn: We write about dark things in order to understand how you're going to deal with them or facing your fear without really facing it. That kind of catharsis.

David Wright: I talk a bit about this in the book, my obsession with things like slavery and the Holocaust. When I first learned about those when I was young, I was a very happy-go-lucky naive child a lot like Sean is today and when I first heard about slavery, in the TV miniseries Roots, it horrified me. And I had to know everything I could because I wanted to know how can people be so awful. What triggers them to do that?

For some of my stuff, it is trying to understand why people do the things they do. Monsters aren't born in a vacuum, they’re created. What happened to turn someone into a monster? Society overlooks things that are happening right beneath our noses.

The Holocaust went on and there were a lot of willing accomplices to that and how does that happen? What the hell happens? I've always tried to understand these things and for me, horror is part of that and not just horror, but writing dark fiction thrillers. Even in our sci-fi I'm always dealing with some dark subject matter trying to understand either outside forces or internal ones in motivating people to become what they are.

And also the other side, like how does a person overcome the darkness either within or outside of them. How do they extinguish that? How do they protect the people in their lives? So it's all kind of related.

Joanna Penn: I'm similar in that way and many of my books have a lot of religious history and Inquisition stuff or dark things. It's interesting because I have to research these things and learn how could that have happened? And why, to a point.

I am a total research nut and we actually just were in Lisbon, Portugal, and I stood in the square where they burnt all the Jews and it was horrific to stand there in modern Lisbon and this is something I'll be writing about so I'm researching it.

How do we research things or try and write authentic characters and authentic villains, but also stop ourselves from getting really depressed or falling down into darkness?

David Wright: That can be difficult. I think one of the things that depressed me most I was writing a book called Crash. It's the story about a man that lost his child in a car crash but he can't remember it and he's obsessed with trying to recover his memory. He drives around taking photos of car crashes trying to trigger his own memories and there's like a supernatural sort of element to it where he sees something in the photos and that's like the cool part of the story.

But when I was researching it I lost my best friend in a car accident. I've been on the scene in enough car accidents. I was skipping school in high school and I was walking and this girl was driving really fast and failed to turn and she smashed into a pole and I was the first person there. Luckily she was okay. Another time, me and my friend were first on the scene where this guy's truck was obliterated by these giant cement sewage pipes he was carrying and he was crushed. I went to the door to see if I could help him and all I saw was blood coming out of it.

But I didn't take note of the things you would need to remember to write the book. So I went online and I went to some website where there was a video of this car crash somewhere in Europe. It was like 40 cars and it was just somebody walking around with a camera walking up to the people that were dying in their cars and they weren't helping them or anything.

I was just so horrified by it and it still is that thing that stays in your head and you wish you had never seen it. It was just that I was trying to make my story authentic and I just saw this, and there's a person dying and they're just looking down at them and then they walk onto the next one.

Who is filming this? Are they a journalist? Why aren't they helping? I didn't get it and it disturbed the hell out of me.

But to answer your question, I have to take a walk. I can't do anything with that other than put it in my story and try to process it and try to find some ray of hope somewhere in the story. But the real-world stuff, the real world bad stuff that you come up with in your research and you see in the news and all of that, it's hard. I have to take a walk and clear my mind. Otherwise, it really weighs me down.

Joanna Penn: It’s very hard for Americans because you have TV news everywhere, but I haven't watched TV in news and years. We don't have it in our bars and things like you do in America.

David Wright: It's not a sport?!

Joanna Penn: No, it does seem like that over there.

David Wright: It’s Gladiator.

Joanna Penn: It's kind of crazy but I was wondering because I find that if there's something I want to tackle and I tackle it and then I finished the book and I do feel like okay, I finished that book and although the themes might come up again, I feel like part of it is left in the pages of that book.

Does that happen to you?

David Wright: Yes, usually. What you said if you write about it, you're getting it down on the page. A lot of times when I write something, I'm getting it out and it's out of my head. Sometimes it's a joke, and I don't remember my own story.

That does help me and I've heard from readers that stuff I've written has helped them get through tough times and that means a lot to me. I would hate to write a book that was just so dark it stuck in someone's head and made them miserable and depressed. So I try not to do really bleak endings. Short stories are a little different, you can do whatever.

Joanna Penn: Yes.

David Wright: But with a novel or a series you don't want it to end with everybody dying and like why did I waste my time on this?

Joanna Penn: I agree with you and I’m very much focused on that ray of hope and I think Jonathan Maberry whose books I love, horror writer, thriller writer. He said his books are not about the monsters, they're about the people who fight the monsters, whether that's a human or whatever.

In the book, you write, “There should always be a flower pushing through the cracked sidewalk.”

How do we make sure there are rays of hope in our books?

David Wright: You look for the things that survived the darkness, the things that bring us together. A lot of times, when horrible things happen in people's lives they rally around each other and they help each other or maybe they find some connection they didn't have before, estranged friends, lovers, siblings or whatever.

I think darkness in the world can bring us together if we allow it and that has to mean something.

Joanna Penn: I agree. I think we have to have that ray of hope and I feel like by winning in the book it almost acts like a talisman in the real world to say look my character or whatever. The character has won in the way that winning is in this particular book, whatever that means and that's the triumph. You can go through this but you can survive or hopefully, someone does.

David Wright: When I said when I was younger and was dealing with bullying and just a miserable existence as a child and teenager that the books did show me, even if they were fiction, that someone wrote this book and they probably had a bad time too. Or the characters in them are maybe based on some people somehow in their own life or whatever.

It just gave me a sense of hope that other people out there have been through similar things and they found a way through. To me that that means a lot because we tend to get isolated but the more connected we are, the more isolated we feel and sometimes it just helps to know that somebody else has been through this and they got through this somehow and that maybe you can get through it too.

Joanna Penn: Absolutely. And I did just want to mention reading your book and I know a bit about your story and you have gone through some really awful things and I was thinking about my life and I've been through some stuff, but I haven't been through what you have.

I wanted to say to anyone who's listening and they're like my life is great, but I still like horror, that's fine too!

My mum always says to me, ‘what did I do to you?' And I'm like Mum, it's not you. I've been called an old soul. There are pictures of me as a very young child looking really old because as long as I can remember from my earliest memories, I thought about death and dying and the veil being thin and being on the other side of it. I was just obsessed with this.

David Wright: You were a blast at children's birthday parties!

Joanna Penn: I never went. I'm an introvert. I don't want to go to parties!

I just say that to my mum like, ‘Mom, it's not you.' It's just the thing in my head. It's fine. So she doesn't like to read some of my darker books.

I do want to switch gears because we're almost out of time. I want to switch to you as a writer at this point in time. You've obviously been co-writing now for pretty much a decade. And you and Sean and Johnny are still podcasting at the Story Studio Podcast, and we've known each other online now for 10 years.

I wondered if you could talk about your thoughts right now as a mature indie in a space that has seen crazy change in the last ten years.

David Wright: It's ever-shifting. I hate to put a pin on anything. It's changes tomorrow. I think all of us indies, we've stepped up our game. We're becoming more professional.

Audiobooks are really taking off and TV rights, movie rights, all of that stuff. That is where the future is. People always read obviously. But finding other places to put your stories and connect with people, that's a big thing personally for us.

We focused on the Smarter Artist thing and doing the seminars and teaching and all that stuff and that was never really my thing. Sean and Johnny, they love that. They like sharing their knowledge with the world.

Now we’ve shifted gears. We want to focus more on fiction. That's what we've been doing. Most of our income comes from fiction. Now, we invite other people into our studio and instead of doing courses and seminars and stuff like that we're just releasing our stuff as Stone Table books. Stone Tablet books are the smaller ones.

That's what the Into the Darkness one is. It's one of them. So we're still sharing the information we have, but I think before we let it take over more of our space than we wanted to. We want to focus more on fiction and we course-corrected in did that because I certainly don't like to spend all of my time teaching. I would way more like to just write my stories and the other stuff do it in smaller increments.

That's why I did this one book and maybe I'll do another book in another 10 years.

Joanna Penn: We mentioned screenwriting and it's something I know you've been interested in for a long time and you love movies.

Are you turning your own books into scripts?

David Wright: We sold Crash a couple of years ago and I think it's being made into a movie. I don't know. If it happens it does. If not, then I don't know, I guess we get the rights back after however many years.

In-house we are producing a lot of scripts. We've got different people that we’re in talks with and different stuff in either in production pre-production. I don't know how much it's out there and how much I can say so but that is a huge focus for us because we have so many stories.

We're storytellers, all of us, and we want to take that to the next level. I've always wanted to write TV. Movies will be fine. But I wanted to write for TV. That's where my heart space is. And I don't think I will feel like content until I have a TV show that is out there.

We've got several lines in the water.

Joanna Penn: Did you write the adaptation of Crash as a screenplay?

David Wright: No, I was involved in it. Sean and somebody else wrote that and I was involved and I went over it afterward because I’m not well versed in scriptwriting. I've worked on a few with Sean but he's way better at that than I am. So if I need to I will but mostly I focus on the story and in writing the books.

Joanna Penn: I think that's fantastic and I agree with you. I think it's so funny because I did some screenwriting courses and I wrote a script that was for my Map of Shadows book, which is dark fantasy, but it's actually a split world and it's got this massive universe and I pitched it to an agent and he said it's really great, but it'll cost about a hundred and twenty million to get made. So no one's going to make that. His number one suggestion was can you please write just a small horror movie? Because that's where everyone starts

So it's interesting because what you've said about Crash, I haven't read that one but it doesn't sound like big-budget. It sounds like it could be quite small budget.

We never think about budget with books, but you have to think about it if you want TV/film.

David Wright: Actually I did. The first series we did… well, we actually did Available Darkness first that doesn't kind of count. Yesterday's Gone was our first serial that we did and that's a huge budget. Whoever makes it it's going to spend a billion dollars. It's our hottest series but it's like our Game of Thrones. Whoever buys it is probably going to have to spend a lot of money on it.

So after that Sean and I both started thinking, let's think about location. Let's think about what the budget actually would be in most of our books and since then have been with the thought of this could be done for less money.

Our WhiteSpace series all takes place on a small island off of Washington state so that has very much been in my mind. A lot of our writing, that's one of the only forward-thinking things I think that I've done.

Joanna Penn: It’s funny because I've got a list of things I want to write next year and everything's big budget. I’m like, stop it! What is wrong with you? But then we watched a movie on Friday night, I just love big movies with lots of explosions.

David Wright: I think for me though part of it is I like those movies every now and then but there's so many. If you take a movie like Independence Day, a big alien invasion movie or you take the movie Signs by M Night Shyamalan, a much smaller movie about alien invasion and I cared a hell of a lot more about those characters. I don't remember anybody in Independence Day.

Joanna Penn: Will Smith, surely.

David Wright: I don't remember his character. I don't remember anything about him, but I remember everything about that character in Signs. Everyone's got different likes. I like a smaller cast of characters that I can care more deeply about and that's the stuff I write. Some of it’s big popcorn movie, definitely, but I prefer the smaller set, the more in-depth of the characters' stories and I think those translate to TV better than movies, at least, you know from a production standpoint.

Joanna Penn: I think that’s a great place to stop because it is about who you are as a writer and what you want to create in your lifetime. I'm glad that you decided to create Into the Darkness. I think it's a really useful book.

So tell people where they can find you and your books and your podcast and everything you do online.

David Wright: DavidWWright.com. That's my blog.

For Into the Darkness, SterlingAndStone.net/Darkness

And for everything else for like our podcast and everything, SterlingAndStone.net/stonetable.

Joanna Penn: Brilliant. Well, thanks so much for your time Dave. That was great.

David Wright: Thank you for having me. I hope to see you again in another few years!

Joanna Penn:

View Comments (10)

  • Great interview. I was hoping to hear your side of the las Vegas conference. It would be nice to hear another opinion besides Kris's. I haven't heard too many people talk about it.

    • I'll add some comments as they come up naturally in discussions - but I have a lot to process. It was more of a mindset shift conference, rather than specific To Do items.

  • Another great episode of my favourite podcast about writing! Interesting insight from David here. I'd recommend trying some Kratom for anxiety, David, it seems to have quite a calming and mentally clarifying effect on me.

  • Funny about the AI generated text - within seconds of you sharing the website, I paused the podcast and clicked over to check it out. To me, this is a tool in the making, and frankly good fun. It is definitely still a work in progress, since all it really was doing was grabbing snippets of relevant text off the web and pasting it a bit at a time.

    When I restarted the podcast, it wasn't long until you mentioned some people being uncomfortable with AI, or even fearful. I sat back in my chair and wondered why I'm in my 50s (what some people call "getting old") and run like a moth to test out tech advances to see "How it's going." (I think my SciFi roots are showing. ;-) )

    Hearing David Wright talking about his new book is great, too. Been a fan since SPP ep 15 or so. Thanks for having him on the show!

  • Another Great Podcast, plenty to consider, particularly with respect to incorporating one's inner demons as a means of writing therapy. As an aspiring writer, I also appreciated your reminder that the Indy Writing scene is still in its infancy. Thanks.

  • Good episode. I was thinking about your questions relating to guilt. I think one source of guilt is that AI generating a book means the author is not expressing their own thoughts from the inside out. As an author matures in their craft, the work to bring their book into the world also changes their brain function and memory. They are the engine of germination and creation. Does AI generated content mean the author cedes this important work?

    Generated books shift the type of work the author does. Used in one way, the gen book can inspire, reflecting back the author's concepts, style, and expression. Maybe like a collaborator. It does open up the possibility of more rapid IP development. At the other extreme, the persona of author fades and gen books just enable regurgitation of ideas to enable more, but similar books to be created. The author becomes just an IP purveyor.

    For writers who heal through their writing, AI generated content can still provde a cathartic experience if used in a cycle of inspiration, percolation, creation, and review. It gets trickier and authors will have to choose where their balance of self or AI generated story creation lies.

    • I agree that AI generated books can potentially become "regurgitation of ideas to enable more," but that is definitely already happening with many genre books, textbooks and other books by trad pub and indie authors who serve a particular niche. Two examples in trad pub are Harlequin romances and the For Dummies series of non-fiction books, both of which have incredibly stringent rules around what the author can do - it's more of a fill in the blanks exercise. Note, neither of these are AI generated at the time of writing this :) But won't books like that be easily replaced by AI writers?
      For authors who write for creative reasons, then of course, we will never stop creating, and may use the AI generation as a collaborative partner — but I suspect there are a lot of publishing businesses who will replace formulaic writers with AI, as sports and financial journalism is already doing with things like Heliograf etc.

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