1. Rumwriter
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    Rumwriter Active Member

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    How to hurt a character

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Rumwriter, Jul 11, 2012.

    I fall in love with my characters and don't want to hurt them. I feel the need to protect them, and it makes the plot suffer. I know that I need to sacrifice them for the good of the story, but I just can't get past it.

    How do I get over this?
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Your characters will never reachtgheir full potential if you can't hurt them and torture them. You insult them by coddling them.

    Furthermore, you DO realize they aren't real, right?
     
  3. blandmanblind
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    blandmanblind Member

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    Take your favorite character then, and just write something terrible. Nothing that actually has to do with their story. Just a stand alone project.

    Example: The death of a loved one, an accident that causes them to lose a limb, some massive public humiliation, etc. Something far more despicable than you would actually ever need for what you're working on.

    I believe you will come to find you enjoy them even more once you see how you want them to react to that situation, and when it comes time for the pain in your real work, it should be far easier.
     
  4. vVvRapture
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    vVvRapture Member

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    You should do an exercise in which you have stories with 100 characters and you, as the author, must go into detail about each and every one of their deaths and what led up to their deaths.

    That'd help.
     
  5. Rumwriter
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    Rumwriter Active Member

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    Not real? What do you mean?
     
  6. vVvRapture
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    vVvRapture Member

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    Like, they don't exist in real life. They are imaginary. Unless the book is non-fiction.
     
  7. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I had this issue, too, but you just have to do it. I had a character I loved -- he was such a good guy and deserved to be happy. He finally had everything he ever wanted, and I had to kill his wife. He was devastated. This was the worst thing that could happen to him. I cried every time I wrote about stuff that happened after she died. It still upsets me.

    But if I didn't do this, my story would be guy finally meets great girl. They have a couple kids. Everything's great for 30 or 40 years. The end. That would be pretty boring.
     
  8. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    You'll have to get through that.

    You don't want to hurt them, so that horrible pang you feel when the bad guy lays the smackdown on the hapless character's rump, your readers will feel it too. If you readers empathize with your characters, they'll feel for the characters when bad things happen.

    Bad things are gonna happen to the characters. I'm sorry. I don't think I could ever read a story where only good things happen to a character, much less write one.

    Your characters won't hate you for it. Let them suffer, let them learn and grow.
     
  9. Complex
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    Complex Senior Member

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    I remember that... a long long time ago. Then I wrote a bleak, tragic and horrible story which made my friend protest violently... with his stomach and his lunch. He wouldn't stop cursing at me for being so evil. It all goes away with the 'first kill'. A slip down the stairs; a drunk stumbling out in front of traffic; then to murder, drugs and mayhem. Have one character kill another character.

    Or make the villain win. Turn your heroes into pin cushions, keep stabbing them with needles until they go mad with fear and pain. Then down comes the hammer. If you insist on letting them live, have the next scene with them whimpering and whining in the dark corner of a mental house. Haunted by whatever you put them through. Then comes the shouting and throwing themselves into the walls. In come the men in white lab coats, needles and belts in hand. Screaming and screaming until the sedative takes effect. The villain watching with abject horror, "So sad. So fragile. I should have put you out of your misery long ago..."

    *Evil laughter and thunder!*
     
  10. Furyvore
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    Furyvore Member

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    Why don't you just create a situation where shit REALLY hits the fan, where deaths are inevitable, and try to write your way out of that.
     
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  11. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    Why character hurting is good

    Characters are, even fictional, are people in your mind. They need to live, to breath, to struggle and to grow just like we in real life do. If that doesn't occur, there's no transformational event that leads to character growth.

    I know I sound like I'm beating a dead horse, but it's the character arc more then the plot arc that matters. Ok, the next question is: what is a character arc. A character arc is when something happens to him or her, whether it be external or internal. That event, then causes a tension inside the character that needs to be resolved. See how it ties into plot also? This arc is what drives your story. Don't be afraid to let them hurt. Heck, I killed my main character off before my novel started only for the "good" guys to bring her back. Why? Because the sudden realization she'd awoken in a hospital type bed when she knew she died provided a stressful moment. Throw in a cybernetic body and the noticeable fake skin when she awakes...it's a cruel blow to deal with for someone only 20 yrs old at the time. However, it starts an internal struggle, along with an external, that moves the story along.

    Let them live, and suffer, like real people do. It's through experiencing hurtful, even cruel things, that they become more real. Trust me: they'll thank you for it.
     
  12. vVvRapture
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    vVvRapture Member

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    Honestly, I've never had a problem with "loving" a character too much. I just treat them as imaginary characters, if I want them to die in a plot, then I kill them off, no big deal, even if I really like the character.

    Just a weird topic for me.
     
  13. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    The overall story is the thing, if you have to mentally/physically torture or kill off a couple of characters for your story, so be it.

    'You have to be cruel to be kind' to your story - that is.
     
  14. aimeekath
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    aimeekath Senior Member

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    You need to make your characters suffer, otherwise stories will probably be boring. Conflict and hardships are pretty much the whole point of writing a story, but that doesn't mean that you can't let good things happen, too.
     
  15. Complex
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    Complex Senior Member

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    There is such a thing as too much torture where you just start to spew malice and hatred for that cute secondary character with a few annoying tendencies. Its like roasting Iago from Aladdin, Gilbert Godfried's voice is just grating to the ears, but it seems fairly natural as revenge for all the torture my ears had to go through. There is a fine line between a 'looney tune' version of it, and making a cooking show on Iago foie gras starting with the force feedings. Just the experience of being force fed alone is traumatizing, but running on about the process enters the 'how to hurt a character' into 'how to traumatize the reader'.

    I just saw Deliverance on TV, its a 1970s movie known for a certain disgusting scene, but does it in a way which we know the viewers hurt just as much as the character. Mostly through the magic of ugliness and awkwardness. While I'm still in the 'gouge my eyes with acid' stage, I can understand how the traumatizing situation set the stage for the actual plot to really begin.
     
  16. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    ^ I actually didn't mind Iago from Aladdin, but I see what you mean. There's a difference from just watching him be the slapstick buttmonkey of the jokes, to watching him get slowly cooked to death while Jafar adds the sauce, spice, and seasoning. Especially when there doesn't seem to be a reason why other than "I, the writer, just want this character to suffer."
     
  17. killbill
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    killbill Contributing Member

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    On the contrary I like hurting my characters because that's the only way I feel for them, I know them, I like them, and hopefully make them liked by others.
     
  18. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Well, here's something I just came up with: You can write books for young children and put your characters there? That way, the characters won't be hurt. Well, they'll still be hurt by whatever appropriately nasty antagonist they have to deal with, but the severe emotional trauma that a young kid will have no way of knowing and understanding, you don't have to worry about that.
     
  19. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you love your characters, you'll want to give them meaning. Oftentimes, that means suffering of some sort. If it hurts you, make it so that it hurts readers too. Make them feel what you feel as best as possible, and then your character's lives will have meant something. After all, for them, being remembered will mean more than getting an easy life and being forgotten. ;)
     
  20. Darkkin
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    Darkkin Reflection of a nobody Contributor

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    People are broken, all of them, whether we know it or not. It is the faults, shortcomings, and trails we face that shape us, actually give us character. In fiction, it is the same thing. You will never know the true strength of a character mind and spirit, until you expose them to the maelstrom that is...er...life (plotline...insert noun of choice).

    Grace, true strength, is found under fire. There will be some who cannot weather the storm, no doubt a few will fall. But it is the ones who struggle, who actually connect with the readers; they are what make an ordinary plot extraordinary. I've lost characters, ones I've really enjoyed, but I've found many unexpected ones, too. Let them spread their wings and try.

    - Darkkin, the Tedious
     
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  21. Complex
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    Complex Senior Member

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    For young readers I'd stick away from some of the typical fantasy bits like murder and such, but anyone under 8 probably can handle that bully which mocks you for <generic body trait> or takes your lunch money. Its a step up from Harry Potter's dramatic last books, but then again isn't that for teens?

    Physical pain is one thing, emotional pain is another. Having some cherished teddy be ripped to shreds by a brainless dog in front of your characters eyes could make them cry, or snap. Either way they are 'hurt' in some form. No one wants to read a story about a guy reclining on a fluffy sofa, getting fed grapes and getting a milk bath before a massage. Unless you are really dramatic and comedic where he must 'forage' in the fridge for food. I've seen such absurdity done a few times, and even if I wouldn't consider it 'hurting' to make your own lunch, the drama was well worth it.

    "An opera about a man living on his own? How tragic! Wagner shall write the theme. Don't forget my cheese and magic spork!" (Really obscure pun.)
     
  22. killbill
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    killbill Contributing Member

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    This is revealing about the way you approach writing your characters. But even if you think of the characters as someone real you have created, don't be like a mother who can't think/say anything bad about her baby. You may be raising a brat dislike by others/readers.
     
  23. marcuslam
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    marcuslam Senior Member

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    I've loved other authors' characters to this extent, but never really for my own cast. With my characters, I've seen them evolve and become completely different from who they were at the start, so it's clear to me that they're not real. For example, their names might have changed, or even their genders, etc.
     
  24. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Do you mean within the story or from how you originally conceived them? My first thought was, "wow -- I've never had a character's gender change, nor have I read a story where that happened." But then I realized you probably meant from your first idea, through rewrites and revisions, to the finished novel. Then I figured I'd just ask for clarification.
     
  25. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    IDK, to me, that evolution has kind of made them real to me. Whatever changes happen along the way, by the time I got to a final product, many of my characters felt very real to me because of the changes I watched them go through.
     

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