Get Me Off This Rollercoaster!

svance_4X6_72dpi~ By Sarah Vance-Tompkins 

When I’m reading a romance novel, the dark night of the soul is one of my favorite parts of the story. I want it to get really bleak. I want the hero to be chained to the walls in the bowels of a blackened dungeon. I want the heroine to be trapped in the tallest tower with no way out. I want all hope to be lost. I want all these things knowing that I can count on a happily-ever-after ending.

Yet in my real life, when I’m writing a romance, I try to avoid personal dark-night-of-the-soul moments at all costs. I don’t want to buy a ticket for the dark night of the soul rollercoaster. I plot and plan to put my characters on that thrill ride every time I begin a new story, and please keep your hands inside the ride at all times, but I want my reality to be ‘E-Ticket’-free. I prefer my own journey to be a gentle boat ride, like ‘It’s A Small World’ at Disneyland, only without that annoying earworm of a song.

While I’m on the slow boat ride portion of my life, my writing is smooth sailing. In fact, it’s a little like a sunset cocktail cruises… only there’s no sunset and no cocktails. I can crank out words like a machine. But let’s face it, the gentle boat ride is the shortest ride at the amusement park of life.

No matter how hard I try to avoid it, I end up buying a ticket and climbing aboard life’s version of Big Thunder Mountain. It’s inevitable. Sure, it’s all fun and games and Instagram selfies going up the hill, but the minute I’m going down, my writing goes into complete upheaval. My word count grinds to a halt. At the first sign of strife I have a hard time even sharing the same room as my computer.

For the last few weeks, I have been screaming on the rollercoaster. It wasn’t one big catastrophe that put me on this ride; it was a series of little events that didn’t seem to matter much until suddenly I’m dropping sixteen stories at what feels like the speed of light. And I’m scared to death because I know I can’t count on a happily-ever-after-ending in real life.

I was in mid-free-fall when I realized that just as I could slip into a story someone else had written when my reality was too much to bear, I could also slip away into a story of my own. Why not? Either way, I was using my imagination to comfort and protect me. And guess what? My word count increased overnight. Instead of avoiding my computer, I was looking to it for comfort. Yes, at first I had a hard time maintaining my concentration for a long period of time. And it took me more time to leave the upset of my reality behind and be able to slip into my story, but eventually I managed to get there and write.

No matter how scary my current thrill ride is, I’m determined to get back on board the sunset cocktail cruise. It’s five o’clock somewhere.

 Sarah Vance-Tompkins received an MFA in Film Production from the University of Southern California and went on to work in feature film development at Lightstorm Entertainment, The Ladd Company and USA Films, among others. Prior to film school, she wrote and produced radio and television commercials. She has worked as a reporter for a weekly entertainment trade publication, as well as a freelance journalist and movie reviewer. She has been paid to write obituaries, press releases, the directions for use on personal lubricant bottles, and descriptions of engagement rings for an online jewelry store. She works in social media marketing. Email her at

9 thoughts on “Get Me Off This Rollercoaster!”

  1. Hi Sarah!
    Great post! Wow, I am reading my story! That roller coaster keeps barreling on, it never stops. It seems that the more I lookout for those bumps to try to avoid them, they come back with a vengeance! I’ve been there, way down in that deep dark dungeon of helplessness. Then I think of my handsome hero sitting and waiting for me to roll myself out of the ‘uuugh’ I cling to. My beautiful heroine who waits to have that passionate encounter with the love of her life… What am I doing to them? Then I look up and there is that crazy moon up there winking at me to rise and embrace its wonder – to travel to the island and experience that ‘fiery winds of romance, island style’. And here I am inching to completion! Yeah Sarah – thanks for bringing me to my senses! Lol!

  2. I’ll do anything, (meaning I will drink copiously), to avoid confronting conflict in my personal life. It sounds like you’ve got some you can’t avoid, and I’m sorry to hear it. On the other hand, your coping mechanism–put the angst toward your art–sounds both healthy and productive.

    Hope you’re sailing smoothly soon.

  3. It is 5 o’clock some where and you’re right on with this. Why not crawl into my bed with my lap top and use my own story to get out of the thrill ride that life can become. You are BRILLIANT!

    Thank you for sharing your dark night thriller ride and here’s to making our own happily for nows come true.

  4. Hah! I’m writing that moment right now. I love writing dark night of the soul moments. My most difficult scenes to write are always the last scene in the book. Because then I have to write, “The End”. And that is tough.

    Nice blog post!

  5. I’ve been on that roller coaster ride. It’s funny how we like to protect our characters and not put them through the horrendous stuff, but that is what makes for good story. Make your heroine suffer, and then suffer some more, and then when she’s just a mass of quivering jello throw something else her way. Ha ha.

  6. What a way with words you have, my dear! Loved this raw and wonderful post. Sorry to hear about the hellride in the personal life, and so proud of you for finding a way to write your way through it. Inspiring!

  7. Hi Sarah!
    I avoid conflict in my personal life at all cost. I hate confrontation. But somehow, when we write our books we have to turn into drama queens, and thrive on the toughest, darkest, most-messed up situations we can create for our poor unsuspecting characters. Keep plowing through that book, maybe one day we’ll all get used to it.

    As for now, please sign me up for that sunset cocktail cruise.

  8. Hi Sarah!
    Great post today. I’m struggling with my dark night of soul moment in my current wip…It’s a lot different than when you are going through it personally though. I hope all goes well for you. Hope to see you Sunday!

  9. Nice post, Sarah. I’m glad you were able to get something out of the hard times. I hope your roller coaster will drop you in the lazy river soon, so you can float and relax. 🙂

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