There are times that I thank the powers that be that I'm too valuable to my authors to torture. Right, guys? Uh...guys? Today on my Halloween Blog Bash, the fab Diana Pharaoh Francis (author of the Path, Crosspointe and Horngate Witches series) is here today to talk about torture...of characters, or so she says. Enjoy!
12 Steps to Exciting Torture Program by Diana Pharaoh Francis
Hello. My name is Diana Pharaoh Francis and I like to torture people. I like to flay their skin from their flesh, let critters eat them alive, burn them, let them putrefy so their flesh is rotting on their bones and they know it, cut them, freeze them, bruise them, bleed them. I’m a writer. And I torture characters.
For your own good. Yes you, gentle reader. I do it all for you.
Are you a writer looking to get a start on torturing your own characters? I offer you this twelve step guide to proper character torture.
1. Know your characters. Know what will make them feel the most pain—emotional stuff? Physical stuff? Mental? I know that thinking about someone messing with my eyes makes me cringe. What makes yours cringe? Find their soft spot, their weakness, and drill into it. If they have more than one, do more than one.
2. Get a villain who is willing to go the distance if you’re going to have someone doing the torture. You’re reader needs to believe that the torturer will in fact try to squeeze all the pain out of your character that can possibly be managed.
3. If it’s not a villain, better make the scene believable. Did mother nature take a sudden dislike to your character and dump her down in a ravine with a billion snakes and spiders? Are they crawling and squirming all over her, sliding into her ears and creeping through her hair? Are they puncturing her skin in delicate little burning bites that putrefy and swell? Are delicately dancing over her eyes and up her pant legs? Does she start to pant with the pain and find them invading her mouth?
4. If it’s not a villain, is it a situation? Is he suffering mentally watching something happen that he can never be part of? Is the love of his life going at it with another man in front of him? Is his mother publically saying she wishes he was never born? Is his sister killing herself with drugs and begging for money? Did his sister break into his house and kill his wife and sons because she was desperate for money? Is he going to have to hunt down and kill his own sister in return? (Ah, the sweet smell of torture—ain’t it grand?)
5. Make it last. Torture is no fun if it’s over with quickly. I mean, anybody can take pain for a short while. It’s the long drawn out pain that really hurts.
6. If you can, dovetail the emotional with the physical. It hurts a lot more when you are getting into their minds as well as their bodies.
7. Don’t go the easy route. Yeah, you can do the pull off the fingernails thing, yanking the teeth, or the cattleprod to the balls, but those are so cliché and easy. Same with rape. Those are too easy to fall back on, unoriginal, and they usually backfire with your reader. Especially rape.
8. Another form of torture is to attack what the character loves most. Dogs, cats, children, lovers . . . though if you have a pet/child torturer, you damned well better kill him with a lot of pain and violence. Such people, even fictional ones, deserve it. So sayeth I.
9. Make it worth the torture. I mean, you can’t be gratuitous. The torture scene has to have point in the story. Your reader has to care what happens to your characters and fear for them. So you’ll have to learn to beat up on the character you love the most.
10. Be careful of asking friends/family/acquaintances about how best to perform torturous activities. It makes them nervous. Really really nervous and you’ll encounter reactions like them backing toward a door, faces pale as they ask, “Um, why do you want to know how to pop someone’s eyeball out without smooshing it?” (hey, read my books. You’ll see why. Path of Honor).
11. Make your torture really real. Get the sounds, smells, tastes, textures and images right. I mean, did you know that when you’re eye pops out it itches horribly? Details like that lend realism that makes the scene truly come alive. (Oh, and when the guy doing it to you has bad breath, it’s all the worse for the poor victim. Just saying.).
12. Just when things look their bleakest, Make Them Worse.
Now that you have your twelve steps, time for you to go off and do a little torture of your own. And remember, have fun!