1. Killer300
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    Killer300 Active Member

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    Amount of Pain Before Too Much?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Killer300, Dec 27, 2011.

    Basically, I remember reading that after torturing a character to much after a certain limit, not sure what, the audience becomes de-sensitized to the pain of the character, whether that is physical or emotional. So... what is that limit? Does it really exist? Or is it all dependent on how well you write what the character goes through?

    The reason I ask this is because of my attempts to write a horror story, which involves the protagonist being tortured either physically or psychologically for large chunks of it.
     
  2. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I would imagine that if the torture goes on and on, then, just like sex, after a while it becomes boring. And, of course, at a certain point the endurance of the character becomes unbelievable. Either would be the point where the audience would basically be saying, "Oh get on with it - kill him or let him go!". I would say step back and look at the torture objectively and realistically - could the character really be alive/rational at this stage, or that? Personally, if the story is mainly torture (physical or psychological), I'd be tossing it after the first few scenes.
     
  3. need to write
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    need to write Member

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    I believe that it depends on the imagination involved it the story and building it up becoming more extreme instead not going from kicking the S*** out of them then slapping them. It also helps to have side plots to draw the audience away from the torture and give them a brake and it will stop the audience getting board. Hope this is helpful and not short sited happy writing.
     
  4. Wynnd
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    Wynnd New Member

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    Adding to need to write's comment, you can also separate the scenes of torture with a description of how the victim's body reacts to the pain (such as passing out, vomiting, etc. After awhile, the human body will go into shock due to excessive amounts of distress and can even go into a coma depending on the severity)
     
  5. Killer300
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    Killer300 Active Member

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    Hmm. Well, I did say large chunks. There are, of course, periods in between. From the looks of things, I just need to space these out.

    Thanks though, and don't worry, I'm not trying to make a literary form of torture porn, that would probably be horrible.
     
  6. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    Really, I think it's the same as a pain threshold, I think. We can take a certain amount of pain, and we can take seeing a certain amount of pain, but the result is opposite; instead of passing out or whatever, we just get bored or, as you say, desensitised. We don't care at that point. It depends on what's going on, though.

    WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

    In Prison Break, Mahone's ex-wife and child get killed by some big assassin guy, and they catch him and Mahone tortures him by jabbing a needle down the length of his finger. The entire time, you're rooting for Mahone because, god damnit, this guy killed his wife and child for money. What a dick. Anyway, Mahone does his thing and it's awesome.

    SPOILERS END HERE.

    If it goes on too long, it's like kicking a dead horse. If, in The Princess Bride, Inigo killed Count Rugen and then stabbed his corpse a bunch of times, it'd make him look like a dick. Really, the torture needs to have a counter-balance of something changing. When Westley gets the 50 years of his life stolen from him, he's essentially lost to the plot and so on, and Buttercup will never see him again. That's what makes us care about it.
    When a character tortures someone for revenge, there's a point where they've gone too far and we just say, "Just- Just stop, man. Settle down." When a character tortures someone because they're the villain, it needs to be counter-balanced by something like how likely they are to be saved and how likely they are to give up.

    Rule 34. :(
     
  7. Cacian
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    Cacian Banned

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    I would say the limit should be down to your limit.
    In other words you have to ask yourself this: how much of this torture can I actually handle?
    You must apply this sort of writing to yourself in order that your descriptions do not sound contrived or made up because anyone is capable of making things up.
    For example I personally would not write this kind of literature because I know that in real life I would not wish it on myself and others.
    Something of this level of intensity I cannot imagine or make up.
     
  8. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    You have no idea what you are talking about.

    All forms of torture is well documented, I highly suggest reading about it before you commit yourself. A good place to start is Christopher Hitchen's article on his experience of being Waterboarded. The reason why I pointed out this line posted by Cacian is this is exactly what you shouldn't do. Torture is one of those things, you only really know what it's like if you have been subjected to it to it yourself; and another thing about Torture is that every person's pain limit is entirely subjective, and unless you have been pushed to it you don't know it.
     
  9. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    It may be a good place to start (I haven't read it btw) but also bear in mind the psychological difference between knowing it's an 'experience' (voluntary) and not knowing when or how it will end (and what may follow). You will definitely want to check out books/articles by actual survivors. Reading their accounts should give you a pretty good idea of when that desensitization starts.
     
  10. Cacian
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    Cacian Banned

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    and you know because?!!!
    You make decisions based on one line and yet you have not read the rest of what I was trying to say.
    The only person who qualifies to talk about torture is the person tortured themselves.
    What I mean about what I said is only write about things that you can handle yourself in other words unless you have had experience in the field of torture, mental and phyiscal or hopefully neither then you cannot possibly describe what torture is.
    Yes you must ask yourself the question:
    Am I strong enough mentally to deal with torture description and would you in real life do or say or take or even consider exposing yourself to torture the way your wish to write about it.
     
  11. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Cacian - the point I was trying to make is torture in writing is extremely hard to get right, or at least with any taste. It doesn't become how much you can imagine, or deal with, it's how well you can describe the effects of being physiologically and physically broken down; and the many ways you are psychologically damaged from such experiences. Orwell in Nineteen Eighty-Four is a good example, as is A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, but no one book really describes the effects it in full.

    I don't have first hand experience, but I know someone closely - who will remain nameless - who still wakes up some days convinced they are about to get a beating.
     
  12. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    They will of course have more of a first-hand knowldge.

    For instance, my late grandfather was held in a Soviet labour camp. Terrible things happened, and I can't quite imagine how or what it must have been like.

    Still, I think these kinds of subjects could still be relevant, in this day and age. There are lots of primary sources etc available, for someone to respectfully explore, research and then write about such topic matters even now.
     
  13. SeverinR
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    SeverinR Contributing Member

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    Torture is relevant to the individual, how much they can take depends on how the torture attacks the mind.
    If the torturer finds the weakness, the phobia, the level of torture would be alot less then a general uncomfortable condition.

    example: Someone with a fear of drowning, would not tolerate being waterboarded very much at all.

    How much pain a person can take is relevant to how the person deals with it. People can block out some pains, while others seem to drill directy into the mind.

    Every person swear they would not crack under torture "no matter what", but until they are helpless to end the torment, they will not know what it really feels like. Even those that "try" the tortures know they can end it when they want, so they will not get the full affects.
    Torture is being helpless to end the torment, be it annoying/discomfort(chinese water torture) or physical pain, or frequent stimulous of panic triggers(water boarding).

    There is a point that becomes obvious a person could not survive physically or mentally. Also unlike Sly's torture scenes, you don't leap from the torture rack to fight the whole camp one by one. Most likely you will be dragged away by your captures to recover enough to have the next session.
     
  14. Killer300
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    Killer300 Active Member

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    Hmm. Interesting, I'll need to research some things, especially if whether insects like wasps have been used as torture devices before(huge chunk of it, as this character has a borderline phobia of wasps.)
     

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