Torturing Characters

I love to torture my characters, it’s such fun to get back at them for all the trouble they cause me, and the huge numbers of hours of my life they demand.

But I’ve noticed a disturbing trend, especially in paranormal- romance- land, where authors are resorting to literal torture (hot irons, etc.) or degrading forced sex to torture their characters… and for the life of me I can’t figure out why they are doing this.

To me, literal torture screams “LAZY AUTHOR!!!”, and I skip those scenes because they’re boring. Been there, done that… <yawn> and I flip pages until I get to something interesting, then I never read the book again, nor do I buy another by that author.

Why do I think ‘lazy-author’ when I run across literal torture?

Because literal torture is the cliché answer to “what’s the worse thing that could happen to this character?” Literal torture as the answer to that question means the author hasn’t taken the time and energy to got into the character’s head to really find out what is the worst imaginable thing for this character.

How much more interesting it would be to find out each character’s unique answer to the question “What’s the worst that could happen?” rather than resorting to the quick and easy cliché.

For instance…

Torturing my heroine. She’s done the degrading sex bit, and lived through it, so it holds no power over her. She’s done the literal torture (a battered wife), has the scars to prove it, and again it holds no power over her.

So… I as her author, I ponder… how can I torture this character… what’s the worst thing that I can do to her? And, being one who tries to not take the lazy way out, I delve into her psyche and her history. And find something vastly amusing, truly surprising and far worse for her than any literal torture conceived…

Her parents arriving on her door-step.

How much more interest and empathy does that invoke in her as a character than literal torture? And isn’t that our jobs as writers to invoke interest and empathy?

So, how about some of you out there, quit being lazy, and maybe I’ll start reading your books again.

Besides the fact that it’s soooo much more fun to write her reaction to parents’ arrival.

Ahhh… the delights of torturing my characters. 🙂