The Shadow

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows.

One of the things I’ve contemplated often over the years is the shadow. What it is. What it means. How an artist can use it. How we as readers or viewers react to it and why it creates such intense emotions in those who read or see or hear it.

It doesn’t matter what the art – painting, dancing, writing, music, theater – the shadow has power.

The shadow haunts our dreams. That undefinable darkness or evil is far more frightening than the evil we can see or touch. That’s why movie makers don’t allow us to see the killer or the stalker until it’s too late. That’s why great horror stories don’t tell us exactly what the big evil looks like – our imagination of the shadow is far more frightening than anything we can actually see.

The shadow is individual. My shadow is different than yours and yours is different than the one that belongs to your sister or your brother. But we each have one.

One of my favorite shadow stories is the Pixar film, Monsters, Inc. That movie explores the shadow that all children know – the monster that lives under the bed or in the closet. Once we get to know that shadow monster, we’re no longer scared of it. The shadow is all about not knowing.

As a writer, I try to remember that shadow lurking in the hearts of my characters. No one is perfect, no one has lived a life without having done something they regret. Great stories – from A Tale of Two Cities to How the Grinch Stole Christmas – work because we cheer for the man who has done wrong and still turns out okay. That’s what we hope for our friends and our family, and that’s what we strive for with our characters.




3 responses to “The Shadow

  1. Excellent and compelling post! You already have me working on how I can bring my protagonist’s darker, heretofore unrevealed side into my story. As in all else, the unstated but alluded to is often the most powerful.

  2. Raymond, the books I love to read are usually the ones where the characters have a dark side – it makes the good so much more interesting.


  3. Our shadows can be the very thing that make us interesting. They’re scariest when we don’t acknowledge them … but you know that. I have been working on a series of photographs for three years now .. The Shadow Project. And until this very moment I didn’t realize I was kind of exploring the darker side of things, or perhaps the reflection of things that follows us around wherever we go – particularly when it’s bright and sunny. Hmmmmm

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