If you’re anything like me, you’ve always been drawn to the dark and edgy side of writing. There’s something about the forbidden that just calls to us, urging us to explore the shadows.
But it’s not always easy to find good information on how to write dark and edgy fiction.
That’s why I’m excited to share this ultimate guide with you – It’s everything you need to get started on your dark and edgy writing journey.
What Is Dark and Edgy Writing?
Dark and edgy writing can be defined as a style of writing that is often thought-provoking, intense, and unsettling.
It is a type of writing used to express intense emotions and strong reactions by exploring topics such as fear, death, suffering, and despair.
Dark and edgy writing may also have elements of shock, surprise, or horror in it.
Often, dark and edgy writing is a shift in tone, word choice, and how much you buck tradition in your stories.
This can make it difficult for readers to engage with the work, but this is arguably what contributes to its effectiveness. The author is able to draw readers into their world by creating an atmosphere of suspense that keeps them on the edge of their seats.
More than just a creative choice, dark and edgy writing can act as a form of social commentary.
By expressing themes such as pain, loss, or injustice in an intense way, the writer is able to bring attention to these issues in an evocative way.
In doing so, they often challenge societal norms, which can be uncomfortable for some readers yet deeply meaningful for others.
Ultimately then, dark and edgy writing is all about creating an atmosphere of intensity and emotion that goes beyond what one might expect from more conventional styles of writing.
From engaging readers in powerful stories to challenging social conventions.
Dark and edgy writing offers up something unique and captivating for both authors and readers alike.
What’s the Difference Between Dark and Edgy Writing? (Examples)
Dark writing and edgy writing are both evocative styles of writing used to explore intense themes and emotions.
However, they differ in terms of the scope and focus of their content.
Dark writing is often characterized by a focus on themes such as death, sadness, despair, and fear. It is fully immersed in these themes in a realistic and authentic way.
Dark writing is expressed not only with themes but also through setting, description, and characters.
Meanwhile, edgy writing can also touch on these topics, it is more likely to look at subjects such as personal strength, rebellion, and justice in an intense way.
As such, dark writing often conveys a sense of hopelessness while edgy writing can be unnerving and yet empowering for readers.
For example, a dark piece of writing might explore the loss of a loved one from the point of view of someone lost in grief. This could be expressed through descriptive prose that focuses on the raw emotions associated with being bereft.
In contrast, an edgy piece might follow the story of someone overcoming adversity to fight for what is right despite all odds.
They are on the edge of darkness, touching darkness, but not fully in the dark.
Here (in edgy writing) there would be a greater emphasis on positive emotion as well as courage and resilience – which might be relayed through dynamic characters or vivid imagery.
Overall then there is a clear distinction between dark and edgy writing in terms of their respective tones and subject matter.
While they are both creative choices that can engage readers in powerful ways, they take different approaches to tackling heavy topics.
What Makes Writing Edgy?
Edgy writing is, to be plain, writing on the edge.
The edge of evil, the edge of darkness, the edge of emotionless. Yes, the edge of decency and societal norms.
Here are a few main elements of edgy writing:
- Edgy Themes. These themes can shock or surprise readers, and can be used to explore complex psychological or moral issues in a creative way. Other popular edgy themes include crime, violence, horror, and dystopia.
- Edgy Imagery. Writing with an edgy flair often involves captivating, colorful descriptions that draw your reader in. At the same time, edgy imagery is uncomfortable, knocking regularly into the taboo and unconventional. By painting vivid, edgy pictures of settings and characters, you can create a compelling atmosphere and make the story stand out.
- Edgy Voice. When writing with an edgy voice, authors can imbue the story with their own style and personality. An edgy voice is often innovative and outside the box, using strong verbs and sentence structure to express the story in a memorable way. It can be humorous or dark, it may tackle controversial topics, or it can be an experimental style of writing that is unique to the author.
- Edgy Plotline. Edgy writing involves taking risks and exploring dangerous or unfamiliar territory in your storytelling. This can involve introducing darker themes or addressing controversial topics that may shock or surprise readers and leave them wanting more.
- Edgy Characters. Characters are what bring stories to life, and when trying to write edgily, creating bold characters is key. These characters take risks, live on the edge, break the rules, and rebel against society’s norms–in short they push boundaries in order to impactfully engage with readers.
Now, let’s look at some examples of edgy writing.
Examples of Edgy Writing
One of my favorite ways to learn writing is through examples.
Here are examples of edgy writing from the categories we’ve discussed above – themes, imagery, voice, plotlines, and characters.
Examples of edgy writing:
- A story set in an alternative dystopian world where technology has taken over and humans are controlled by a single entity.
- A short story centered around a gritty anti-hero who struggles to make sense of the morally ambiguous world around them.
- A poem that explores themes of identity, self-acceptance, and the burden of societal expectations.
- A novella that follows a character as they grapple with their sexuality hidden from society’s judgemental eyes.
- An urban fantasy novel centered on a vigilante using dark magic to seek justice for victims overlooked by the law.
- A horror film about a small town terrorized by monsters beyond human comprehension.
- An experimental play that retells classic stories from unusual perspectives, with unexpected twists and turns throughout.
- A cyberpunk novel with descriptions of futuristic cities filled with technology that threatens humanity’s freedom.
- Dialogue between two characters addressing difficult topics such as death, mental illness, or disenfranchisement without presenting any easy answers or platitudes.
- A western featuring authentic discussions about the intersection between violence and justice set against spectacular landscapes filled with danger lurking around every corner.
- A thriller full of unpredictable plot twists which unravel throughout its narrative leaving readers on the edge of their seats until its explosive finale.
- An unconventional love story that confronts taboos surrounding emotion and relationships.
- Characters who challenge gender conventions and embrace nonbinary gender expression in unique ways.
- Monologues challenging society’s view on race painted through thoughtful word choice, tone, volume, and speed.
- Multi-dimensional protagonists who fight against oppression while considering others perspectives throughout their struggles.
- Unconventional settings featuring locations often forgotten or disregarded by mainstream media yet explored in depth through edgy writing styles.
- Experimental poetry embracing metaphors to explore topics such as trauma, mortality, resilience, and intimacy through surreal descriptions conveying complex emotions.
- Descriptions of dreamscapes reflecting turbulent inner turmoil presented in an imaginative manner.
- Unique voice choices entwining personal stories into abstract prose demonstrating strength despite the struggle.
Here is an even more concrete example of edgy writing:
The playground was what remained of a once thriving community – swings hung still and the ground was littered with graffiti, broken glass, and the occasional wildflower.
The two figures in the center of it all had an intensity between them that only two people on the precipice of something could have. The air around them was charged, eyes glinting with an underlying threat and words cut short as if each movement held a possible consequence.
Their conversation was sharp, rhythmic, and filled with double entendres.
Nothing was said freely yet everything still implied.They moved slowly towards one another, not speaking or touching but conveying as much through their actions than any conversation ever could.
It felt like time stood still.
Nothing else existed beyond this small corner of the ruins. Both knew there would be no winners that day, but it didn ‘t matter because in the end they would take away what they had come for – understanding who they really were beneath all the chaos.
What Makes a Story Too Edgy?
Writing can sometimes become too edgy for its own good.
When this happens, the author risks alienating not only the subject of the writing but also their readers.
They may make jokes at the expense of others and talk a bit too casually about sensitive topics, including violence and tragedy.
In addition, some writers may rely heavily on shock value when it comes to their writing, relying on dark humor and graphic descriptions that push the boundaries of what is considered acceptable.
Instead of emotional connections or clever solutions to difficult problems, edgy writing will often focus on overdramatizing situations for impact.
This can be counterproductive as readers become overwhelmed by what they’re seeing on the page and disconnect from the story altogether.
What Makes Writing Dark?
To put it bluntly, it’s a descent into the unknown – to some pretty dark places.
When reading a piece of dark writing, there is no guarantee that you will come out unscathed. It can be an uneasy experience for both the reader and writer as somber themes become dominated by uncomfortable emotions and disturbing storylines.
Dark writing involves:
- Dark Dialogue. Keep it pithy yet ominous.
- Dark Description. You could opt for the classic color palette of “black as ink” mixed with a little bleakness here and there; alternatively, why not throw in some emotionally charged sentences that drip despair?
- Dark Themes. If you want to delve into the dark themes, think racism, sexism, genocide, and environmental destruction.
- Dak Plotlines. When dealing with dark scenes and plotlines don’t be afraid to push boundaries; linger on uncomfortable moments and don’t provide a clear way out.
With dark writing, the author must be willing to venture into difficult territory while remaining true to the story’s core.
Asking honest questions is key:
- Who or what is causing all this darkness?
- What drives the character to his or her darkest moments?
- What is the darkest thought possible right now?
- What is the darkest and most evil thing this person could do?
- Can redemption be possible by the end of the story?
By creating tension between fear and hope, horror can be realized with an intensity that leaves readers riveted.
Diving deep into an infinite abyss of human emotion needs detail and specialization; seeking out words that pack a punch is essential to great storytelling.
Ultimately, writing can become quite dark when its purpose is to show human suffering from a raw and visceral perspective.
Such writing must also be profound and thought-provoking in order to stay true to its genre.
Dark writing evokes difficult questions that do not have easy answers while supplying readers with a generous dose of despair.
At its best, writing dark stories feels like standing in front of a raging storm with nothing but truth and wit beating down around you – there’s something strangely invigorating about it.
Here is a good video with tips for dark writing:
Examples of Dark Writing
If you’re looking for some examples of dark writing, look no further.
Think moody characters with mysterious pasts, dialogue dripping in sarcasm, scenes depicting life’s grimmer realities, and plotlines that twist and turn with no real resolution.
When I think of of dark writing, I usually first think of authors like Stephen King.
Here are examples of dark writing.
The man was a walking embodiment of darkness.
Everywhere he looked, the world seemed to be against him. His own thoughts felt so complex and yet not complex enough.
He had moments where he just wanted to disappear, but his reality forced him to stay. What was this? A cosmic joke?
The man had accepted his fate, but there were days when he envisioned himself punching a hole through it all and following whatever came next – good or bad, just something different from this vicious cycle.
When those ideas popped into his head, he felt like an unstoppable force but unfortunately knew that it would never be so.
She shifted in the chair, absently tracing circles on the wooden desk with her finger as her mind began to drift into a darker abyss of ideas.
She stared at the novena candle until it hypnotized her, casting moving shadows over her furrowed brow.
The heat of the flame licked up higher and higher, as if it were alive and reaching for something, just out of reach. Like her hopes and dreams.
Every dark thought seemed to leap from her brain and wrap itself around the flicker of light that flickered in front of her; each consumed by a whirlpool of nothingness, like an invitation to oblivion. It felt so relieving – almost like a brief break from reality.
The dark city streets were alive with whispers of the past and hints of what was to come.
The sky loomed threateningly, dark clouds rolling in as if to warn of some unspeakable darkness on its way. In the dead of night, no one passed these particular alleyways by choice—not even him.
He saw it coming.
He heard the vultures before they arrived, claws clicking against concrete in eerie anticipation of the feast they were about to feast upon. This was not a place anyone wanted be and he knew it, but it would be here that his fate would be decided.
“Gonna be a long, dark night,” he thought as he walked towards his destiny with a wicked smirk.
The night settled around the docks like a thick, dark blanket as the first stars began to show in the sky.
The gentle lapping of waves against the murky ocean and creaky dock pillars created an eerie ambiance. On one side, a scruffy man in all black stood motionless, his face shrouded by the hood of his coat.
He paced back and forth slowly while a figure on the other side taunted him with acidic words and wry laughter.
“You think you can keep me away forever? You lot have no power over me,” cackled the man before reaching inside his pocket to produce something that glinted in the faint starlight – it was a rusty knife.
There was something about its worn handle that almost made you feel sorry for whoever it belonged to.
What Makes a Story Too Dark?
Writing too dark can be tricky to detect. It’s not always easy to know if you’ve taken your dark story too far.
It usually arises when a story’s events and characters are doused in negative emotions – fear, sorrow, despair – with no moments of respite or levity.
This relentless gloom can easily devolve into melodrama if left unchecked.
In its most extreme form, this tone of darkness will not only sap the energy from a story but distance readers by creating an atmosphere that can feel oppressive or even unhinged.
The best way to keep your writing from becoming too dark is to balance out the angst and dread with lighter moments. Or, at the very least, give purpose and meaning to the total darkness.
Those brief windows of hope, love, kindness, or humor help provide something of a contrast that keeps readers connected.
No matter what kind of tales you’re spinning, make sure they don’t get swallowed up in too much darkness.
Is Dark and Edgy Writing Good?
Saying dark and edgy writing is ‘bad’ is like saying a cupcake is bad.
Sure, it might not be to everyone’s taste, but it’s still tasty. And dark and edgy writing can certainly be powerful and meaningful if done right. If you want to write stories that are dark and edgy, that’s great.
Be aware, though, that the devil’s in the details.
You may have grandiose plans of taking on death, war or moral conundrums at a Grand Guignol level, but these aren’t easy tasks to tackle.
Although, no form of writing should be written off. So go forth boldly with your edginess!
What Is Better: Dark or Edgy Writing?
When it comes to writing, there is no “best”.
Edgy writing might be more commercial, but that doesn’t make it inherently better. Gritty stories and darker themes can attract just as much of an audience—and sometimes even more.
That being said, neither dark or edgy writing would be the right choice for everyone.
What kind of tale you want to tell really depends on your own personal style and preference. Either way, both can be powerful forms of storytelling in the right hands.
Final Thoughts: Dark and Edgy Writing
In my mind, saying a story is grim and grittier is much the same as saying dark and edgy.
There are times to scale back the edge or darkness.
And there are certainly a time and place to push the boundaries into more complex and unsettling territory. With time and practice (and good feedback), you’ll devleop a sense of what works best for you and your audience.
- How To Write a Book About a Serial Killer (Ultimate Guide)
- What Makes Stephen King’s Writing So Good? (Explained)
- How To Write a Scream (Ultimate Guide + 20 Good Examples)
- How To Write a Funeral Scene (Ultimate Guide + 20 Examples)
Personal experience (published novels)
Fronteirsin.org (Research on horror stories)