Writers are told to torture their characters. Which sounds like a Catch 22, doesn’t it? Here is your book – your baby – that you have slaved over, revised, pampered and revised again. This is your creation. Your masterpiece. And you are supposed to torture it?
If your hero or heroine is going to have a character arc, you have to provide some sort of stimulus for that arc to take place. A story about a woman finding love and getting married is fine and dandy, but add in a jealous ex-girlfriend, disapproving in-laws and a secret in the hero’s past and the story grows, becomes richer. The heroine has to fight for her happily-ever-after and while she might end up with a few bruises, she is so much stronger for that fight.
The degree to which we torment our characters is entirely up to us, of course. A woman in love facing disapproving in-laws might be considered more of a slap to the face than actual torment. But what if the in-laws disliked the heroine so much they had her framed for a crime? And she winds up in jail? Suddenly you’ve got sucker punch to the gut torment.
It’s not always easy to poke and prod at our characters. To expose their weaknesses. Have them cry into their pillows. But it makes them three dimensional and relatable, which is what a good story should have.
I hate to torment my characters. Can’t stand it. I’ve written scenes with tears leaking down my face and a knot in my stomach. And usually I have to stay up until I’ve written the next scene so my heroine is feeling better before I can go to sleep.
In the end though, my story and my characters are all the better for it.
How do you torment your characters?