Thursday, February 9, 2012

Make them suffer

After last week's write-in, Tara and I joked on Twitter about how we were too lazy to be serial killers, which was why we'd become writers. (I had just linked this shirt, for context.) We channel our daily frustration into hurting fictional people, because it's socially unacceptable to threaten people with weapons for minor infractions.

It's not that I'm one incident of being cut off in traffic from going on a rampage, or anything. I keep my violent thoughts quite hidden in my daily life, because I'm saving them up for my characters.

And not just the bad ones, either, though I do take great satisfaction in giving characters the endings they deserve. Mostly, the saved-up violence, the harmless fantasies, and the brutal deaths I read on news sites are visited upon my protagonists. I beat them up emotionally and physically.

It's not because they exist as a proxy of the people I hate. I like my characters. It's because I like them so much that I stack the deck so heavily against them. If I don't let them shine against tremendous odds, if I don't give them a chance to show off, I'm doing them, and any potential reader, a disservice.

When I was starting out, I hated to see my characters suffer. I wanted them to be happy, and I was gentle and kind to them. But my stories lacked tension, and I was telling, rather than showing, far too much. My reader only had my word for it that my characters were strong and capable, because I never tested them.

I also read a lot of published works that never ramped up the tension, never really challenged the characters. It seemed like their victories were handed to them, and I felt cheated of a real story.

What I like about spending time with other writers is that I don't have to explain or justify the above. They understand, because they've been there, and visited the same on their own characters. I'd say it doesn't make me a violent person, but that would be a lie. I've just found a socially acceptable way of letting it out where no one real gets hurt.


  1. *snicker*
    A socially acceptable way to not bitch-slap the idiot in Walmart is to go home and plot out the demise of a stalker. At least that's what I did last week. ;)

    Great post.

    1. Heh. Thanks. Glad you enjoyed.

      I regularly plot people's demise in a fictional sense. It's quite cathartic, and I'm really glad people can't read my mind to know the horrible deaths I'm plotting for them.