Authors Answer 54 – Torturing Our Characters

Friday the 13th, a day that brings horror and terror into people’s lives. Or is that the movie series? Our authors write a variety of genres, from supernatural to horror to fantasy to military sci-fi to children’s books. Sounds like the perfect mix to talk about torture in fiction. I mean, children are torture, aren’t they? I know, I have one. But I’m just kidding. The question is, just how many of us could torture a character?


Question 54 – It’s Friday the 13th. Horror is a popular genre. Could you torture one of your characters?

Linda G. Hill

I could. In fact, depending on which character it is, I might enjoy it. But really, we torture our characters all the time, in one way or another. It’s what makes an interesting story.

Gregory S. Close

Yes.  I don’t feel good about it, but sometimes that’s where the story goes.

One of my beta readers for In Siege of Daylight said that the Postlude was one of the most disturbing things he’d ever read.  I agreed.  I was disturbed writing it, too.  It didn’t depict torture so much as the hollowed out shell of a person that had been subjected to long term, sustained, physical and psychological torture.  The leftover human being that results from that is a little disquieting.

But hey, foreshadowing for the sequel and all that… oops.  Spoiler alert.

Caren Rich

Yes! An evil twinkle shines in her eye. I enjoy writing cruel scenes. I don’t have many per book, maybe one, but they are fun to write. There’s something freeing about exploring the darker side of human nature.

S. R. Carrillo

Disregarding the fact that I already do that with each new chapter, YES. I absolutely love torturing my characters. Demonic possession? Check. Slow descent into insanity? Check. Spectral haunting? Check. Struggles with sexuality and identity? Check and check. Wrestling with the unearthly? Double check on that. Torture’s the best – it’s what gives a story palpable tension, emotion and drive.

Elizabeth Rhodes

I’m sure I could, if the story called for it.  The closest I’ve come is in my short story “Swamp Gas,” in which a man was dumped outside in an area full of nasty nerve gases and neurotoxins that made for a painful death.

D. T. Nova

I don’t know. It would be very difficult to write, in more ways than one.

Jean Davis

Oh yes. I’ve done a lot of character torture, physical and mental. The characters I like best seem to suffer the most. That probably says something about me that I’d rather not dwell on.

Eric Wood

Yep. Though it would be out of the genre I typically write in. A children’s book with torture wouldn’t be be too popular (or a children’s book?). I did write one piece involving some domestic violence in which a character was tortured. Though, in the story, the character’s torture wasn’t described, just implied. I have difficulty writing gruesome.

Paul B. Spence

Hmm. Have you ever read one of my books? As much as it pains me, my characters get tortured and mangled all the time. Since the stories deal with people fighting what are, for all practical purposes, extradimensional daemons, horror seems a natural part of my stories.

Allen Tiffany

Sadly it has happened. 😦

…and it will again.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

Abso-freakin’-lutely. Call me a maniac if you will, but one of my favorite things to do is torture my characters. That’s part of why I love writing horror and creepy stuff; you get to just mercilessly screw with your characters around every turn.

And, okay, this is going to be hard to explain, but I love writing scenes that absolutely torture a character because I love writing emotional reactions and instinctual responses. You get the same kind of thing with a really intimate love scene, but I prefer the horrible stuff because I love writing about the sweat and the tears, the moments when the character snaps, the moments when the character digs deep to press on, the moments of abstract horror and disgust, the moments of adrenaline-fueled bravery. Torturing your characters brings out who they are. Are they a weak, pathetic waste of space, or are they the hero who will persevere no matter what happens? Torture the living hell out of them and you’ll find out.

H. Anthe Davis

Absolutely.  I’ve tortured many of them already — if not in body, then certainly in mind.  Nightmares are my joy.  I particularly like tormenting my leader-type characters by having horrible things happen to their subordinates; one or two instances of that and they begin neatly torturing themselves.  But then, I -am- writing what I would consider fantasy/horror, so it’s a necessity.  There’s some gore but I’ve always preferred the psychological angle.

Jay Dee Archer

Oh, definitely. I write science fiction, and have some fantasy stories to write. All of these contain some element of danger, death, and torture. If the story calls for it, I will torture a character or two or several. I will torture the main character, I will torture the innocent bystanders, I will torture the antagonist. No one is safe from torture.

I have read many books where main characters are tortured, both physically and mentally, and the effect is immediately apparent on me. I don’t like seeing it happen, but I can’t stop reading. I want them to break free and somehow get back at the torturer. Just look around at what’s popular on TV these days. Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead are filled with death and different ways to torture characters. For some reason, people love to watch it and suffer with their favourite characters.

So, yes, I will torture characters, but only when necessary.

How about you?

If you write, can you torture your characters? If you read, what is it about torture and death scenes that make you want to continue reading? Or does it turn you off of the story? Share your opinions in the comments below!


15 thoughts on “Authors Answer 54 – Torturing Our Characters”

  1. Just wrote a story about a man that tortures dogs. Didn’t bother me too much, but my internet searches will now always contain links to that sort of stuff.

  2. I can think of at least two for-instances: a story about a dead soul whose mind is being consistently tortured by other dead souls in that “level” of the dead lands, and one entire sf/thriller novel in which I wondered “what-if” some aliens on mars decided, after seeing how fascinated humans were by sex, to try and drive them off the planet by instilling fear in them through sexual torture and often murder as a result. I dunno, I always feel a little weird doing this to characters, but yeah I occasionally have. It depends on the situation and if it makes sense for the story.

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