Don’t fear the black crayon

One of my beta-readers offered an interesting criticism: My character’s stifled emotion in certain situations, like when he’s angry. His natural responses were muted. I had clipped the ugly moments of the new story. I’m afraid to use the black crayon.

I told him about a few readers’ criticism of my first YA novel, Duck Boy. Some called it demonic. They didn’t like the darkness. Too much black crayon. The book was far too dark for their liking.

I’m reluctant to use the black crayon because I come from a conservative Christian background. I still am a part of that scene. The bad side of faith leads me to force characters to do what they “should” do (it’s the same impulse as the religious right in the U.S.).  As an author, I have the inside info on all my characters. More info than Edward Snowden would dream about. With this info, I’m tempted to intervene (much like the NSA). Correct. Edit. Revise. Manipulate. My upbringing and morality wants to insert itself into the story. I want to leave the black crayon in the box.

It’s one of those interesting situations where some would say faith and art clash (though I don’t think they do). I know art must be art. That story only works as a democracy. I must  give the characters freedom to do what they need to do, behave the way they want to behave, and let the thing end as it will. My job is to set things in motion and follow the action. The story and its characters call for more black crayon, which I’m going to have to fix.

About Bill Bunn

Bill’s excited because his second YA novel, Kill Shot, is now available everywhere! Bill Bunn is the author of three books (soon to be four), several essays and articles. He published his first young adult novel, Duck Boy, in October 2012 ( His second book is a collection of grown-up essays and articles titled Hymns of Home, released April 1, 2013 ( In 2003, Moon Canoe, a children’s picture book was published. This book was bought and translated into French by Le Canotier, and released as Canoë Lune (2005). He is currently writing two pages a day to generate the rough draft of his next novel. Bill Bunn lives near Millarville, Alberta, Canada. He and his wife, Linda, take care of three teenagers, two dogs, two cats, and two hives of bees. Bill teaches English at Mount Royal University.
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2 Responses to Don’t fear the black crayon

  1. Wendy says:

    Something to think hard about. I feel my set of crayons is also affected by my age and I guess everyone has a background that comes through–hard to wrestle yourself isn’t it? Good practice for life. 🙂

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