Tag Archives: suspense

Fiction Has No Room for Comfort?

I think that every novel I have ever read has given me a feeling of tension. Every chapter, at least in most cases, has had some kind of conflict. I simply cannot recall a relaxing book.

In a comfortable, relaxing book, nothing really happens. In the genres I read, there’s always a sense of danger, tension, or friction. Failure is catastrophic. Death is a great possibility. I wouldn’t say there’s always conflict, though.

The beginning of a book will occasionally start out happily, but conflict comes very soon. Lord of the Rings and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe are a couple examples. But usually, books start in the middle of conflict.

The ending is usually the only place in a novel that is calm and relaxing. The danger has passed and the conflict resolved. I find that’s usually true, unless it’s part of a series or trilogy.

What do you think of this? Is conflict always necessary? Have you ever read a novel that’s mostly free of conflict? Looking forward to your comments.

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!

That Scene Is too Intense!

Have you ever read a book and reached a scene that was too intense for you to keep reading? I don’t mean intense action. What I mean is that the scene evokes an intense emotional response.

At the moment, the book I’m reading is nearing the end (finally!) and it’s gotten to a point when many things have come together and it’s an almost impossible situation to succeed. I’ve read books in the past in which a favourite character of mine has died in the final scenes, and I found it so intense that I had to put the book down for a while before I could continue. In a way, that’s the kind of feeling I’m getting now with this book. I want to know what happens, but I’m also afraid that one of my favourite characters is about to die.

I’m thinking about whether I should finish the book tonight or not. Or should I wait until tomorrow? I’ll see.

Have you felt this way before? Let me know in the comments. And please, no spoilers.

Revealing the Antagonist’s Plan

Every writer needs to decide how to reveal the antagonists plans, intentions, and motivation.  How much should be revealed?  When?

In some cases, the reader gets to see everything.  We can find out what the antagonist wants and what they plan to do.  We know more than the protagonist.

In other cases, we know as much as the protagonist, and everything is revealed as they learn about it.  There’s much more mystery.

Both cases have their advantages and disadvantages.  The first type doesn’t give us much to think about.  We know what’s going on.  However, we don’t know the outcome.  There can be a kind of suspense in this case, especially if the antagonist has a similar level of power as the protagonist.  They could be evenly matched, so we see a great struggle to overcome each other.  We understand the dangers that the protagonist must meet, and we may even know the weaknesses of the antagonist.  This kind of story can be frustrating because we tend to criticise the protagonist.  We know what could be done, but we can’t affect the story.

On the other hand, the slow reveal can create a great amount of suspense and mystery.  We don’t get to see the antagonist’s motivations, thoughts, or even know what they’re capable of.  We only know what the protagonist knows.  It’s as if we’re part of their team or group as a kind of observer.  We don’t know how powerful the enemy is, nor do we know what they’re capable of.  Anything could happen.  One disadvantage is that we have no idea if the enemy has a limit.  They could have immense powers that are never shown until the last minute, making us wonder if the writer is just making things up just to create more suspense.

I’ve read books with both kinds of approaches, and they both work.  Superhero stories almost always reveal everything to the reader.  We can anticipate a great struggle, and that’s what we want.  On the other hand, a crime story has us in the shoes of the police or other investigator, and we know just as much as they do.  It makes us think.

So, what do you prefer?