Tags:
  1. k.little90
    Offline

    k.little90 Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2009
    Messages:
    239
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    Smalltown, USA

    Hurting MCs

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by k.little90, Jul 9, 2009.

    I love hurting my main characters in my stories. I know its probably kind of weird... but I just can't help it! I feel it helps the reader sympathize and really get attached to the character.
    So here is my question:
    How much is too much to hurt a main character?
    The story I'm writing now has a female main character, but then it also has a very strong and involved male character that I also consider to be a main character. Even though the story isn't directly about him, he plays a very large role in it. I got bored yesterday while writing, was thinking about how I really just wanted to free write, and wrote a piece in which this male character gets very hurt. I mean I was super mean to this character. We're talking dislocated shoulder, broken hand, leg, and major concussion. I'm going into the medical field, so I was able to correctly relate his injuries to his accident, but I'm just wondering if doing all that to him is going to be too much for the reader? I let one of my close friends read it, and he said that although he liked it and thought it would be a good addition to my story, he thought that I had gone a little over the top. What do you guys think? How much can I get away with hurting my character without loosing the reader?
     
  2. Kirvee
    Offline

    Kirvee Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2009
    Messages:
    232
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    Michigan
    Oh don't worry, I plan on doing the same kind of thing to my male MC in my demon story, except it's going to be many times more worse than what you're doing to yours.

    But for your question, as long as you don't go so far as to logically kill your character (by "logically" I mean having him sustain injuries so bad that he would naturally die from them). Like, make him suffer damage and injury that would be really bad (by your story's standards), but make sure it's something he can at least kinda recover from. Or for suspense, you could think up a way for him to get so hurt that it's really questionable if he'll live or die.
     
  3. Anders Backlund
    Offline

    Anders Backlund Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2009
    Messages:
    244
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Land of Lagom
    I mostly hurt my characters when it helps the story or adds drama. Like everything else, lasting wounds are basically plot points.

    I tend to prefer hurting my characters emotionally, though. Traumas are much more interesting to me then physical injuries, because they effect the psychology of the character in a deeper way.

    Anyway, I'd say you can hurt your character as much as you feel you need to hurt him for it to serve your purpose. However, if it's too random and doesn't bring something to the story aside from shock value, your reader might go: "Where the heck did that come from?" Worse, you can come across as fishing for easy sympathy.

    So, give him whatever injuries you want, but make the injuries meaningful.
     
  4. ApocRK
    Offline

    ApocRK Member

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2009
    Messages:
    14
    Likes Received:
    0
    Take it to the extreme if you want, it shows that the characters are not invincible. I have read a series where the main character loses his hand.
     
  5. Dr. Doctor
    Offline

    Dr. Doctor Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2009
    Messages:
    411
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Florida
    Star Wars? ;)

    Your characters are not real people. You shouldn't worry about hurting them if that's the way the story has to go. If you want to write it, go ahead and do it. If you're worried about losing the reader, well...make the story good enough to where they can't possibly turn away. You will always find people who are willing to read through anything you write, no matter how many others turn it down or don't finish it. The world is a vast place with many different kinds of people and tastes.
     
  6. cybrxkhan
    Offline

    cybrxkhan Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2009
    Messages:
    423
    Likes Received:
    13
    Being able to hurt your MCs is a great thing. Lots of writers, me included, find it extremely difficult to hurt the imaginative people we cherish and love... So it's excellent that you can hurt them. Hurt them as much as necessary, but remember, don't make the violence just plain old boring violence, or else it'd start looking more like a plot device than a real good, nice plot and character development.
     
  7. ApocRK
    Offline

    ApocRK Member

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2009
    Messages:
    14
    Likes Received:
    0
    Naw, Wheel of time.
    I thought it a bit unnecessary in star wars because they just went a little bit without it and then went got a cool robot hand :p
     
  8. wiggons
    Offline

    wiggons Member

    Joined:
    May 26, 2009
    Messages:
    67
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Australia
    Oh my, you should see what ive done to some of my mc's........i feel like a terrible person for doing it!
     
  9. Irish87
    Offline

    Irish87 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2009
    Messages:
    228
    Likes Received:
    11
    Location:
    California
    While I agree with what most people have said in response, I have a strong fascination with authors who purposefully give their main character a bit of a free ride and then, out of nowhere, they are beaten down horribly and you suddenly realize your hero is not a hero at all. He's just like you. In terms of movies, my favorite portrayal of this is Jack Nicholson in Chinatown. The scene where the guy cuts his nose with the knife still makes me giggle in horrific glee.

    God we writers are such terrible people at times.
     
  10. TheFedoraPirate
    Offline

    TheFedoraPirate Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2007
    Messages:
    205
    Likes Received:
    1
    It's a good thing to be able/willing to put your MC to trial, that conflict is why we're reading after all, however, I wouldn't rely on it as way of making the reader sympathise with your MC.

    When I pick up your book your MC is a stranger to me, worse off a fictional stranger, unless I already have reason to like or sympathise with your MC the pain they feel isn't going to have a strong emotional effect.

    As for being too cruel, it depends on how you end the MCs story. People are sadists but they like hope, how much pain he goes through probably won't matter so long as in the end his "spirit" isn't crushed or the pain he felt manages to have some sort of meaning (i.e. hero dies horribly while inspiring the people of a dystopia to fight the government). If it feels like a shaggy dog story of wanton cruelty and you aren't trying to make some sort of existentialist point readers aren't likely to appreciate it.
     
  11. k.little90
    Offline

    k.little90 Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2009
    Messages:
    239
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    Smalltown, USA
    I never thought of that... thank you for telling me! I am the kind of writer who loves to hurt Mcs to show how strong they really are. I wasn't origionally planning on hurting this character, but my imagination kind of took me in that direction and I liked the idea of it. I've been toying with two different endings, one that's sad, slightly dissatisfying, but in which you learn a great lesson, and the other which is happy and fulfilling. Now I know that if I injure my Mc I need to probably go with the happy ending, or atleast a happier one.
    In regards to getting to know the character so as to feel something when they fall on hard times, I totally know what you mean. Now that I have this idea, I think I'm going to put it more towards the end of the book. Thank you all for your suggestions and advice! Anyone else that has any comments on this subject please feel free to add more!
     
  12. ManhattanMss
    Offline

    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 14, 2009
    Messages:
    626
    Likes Received:
    14
    By "hurting" your characters, I assume you mean giving them struggles and pain to deal with? Isn't that what fictional characters are for? I mean there are all kinds of struggles--pain is just one of them (remember the character who woke up as a cockroach?). How interesting or well done that is has to do with your writing. If you had a reader say it was a bit much, then I'd take that to mean there might be things you need to work on it in some way.

    I will admit, though, that I've never had the experience of wanting to hurt my characters. I'm usually wanting to help them get out of the mess or the pain that they're in. So, there could be a fundamental difference in how you approach your writing--character development, in particular--which could easily show up in your writing as a particular quality, maybe even too much something-or-other (too cold and calculating or too distant or maybe your reader can't empathize, or something like that). But I don't think it's possible to answer your hypothetical question. Sounds to me like your friend's reaction would be a lot more useful in terms of understanding what you need to do with your story. It's not the concept; it's the writing (and ultimately the reading) that matters.
     
  13. Show
    Offline

    Show Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2008
    Messages:
    1,495
    Likes Received:
    30
    As long as you make it realistic, I don't think hurting a character a lot is bad.
     
  14. Anders Backlund
    Offline

    Anders Backlund Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2009
    Messages:
    244
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Land of Lagom
    Tenel Ka losing her arm >>> Luke losing his arm.

    Non of that robotic prosthesis nonsense! :p

    I comfort myself with the thought that they usually come out of it even stronger then before.

    Plus, you know, violence is awesome. XD
     
  15. starseed
    Offline

    starseed Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Apr 23, 2009
    Messages:
    293
    Likes Received:
    2
    I could never brutally hurt my MC. I love him!
    He does get emotionally hurt and deals with pain like anyone else, but the urge to hurt him.. no. I have never felt the urge to physically harm any of my characters.
     
  16. Kirvee
    Offline

    Kirvee Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2009
    Messages:
    232
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    Michigan
    My character goes through physical pain, emotional pain and mental pain and struggle/trauma.

    But most likely I'm going to think of other things for him to go through that will make me seem like a cruel author.
     
  17. fantasywriter
    Offline

    fantasywriter Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2008
    Messages:
    954
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Oklahoma
    You have to have a purpose for hurting your MC. If you don't have a purpose, why write it? Yes, it does make the reader sympathize a bit, but you can go overboard. I mean, a broken leg is no big deal, and it can add to the story. If you're writing a comedy and your main character breaks a leg, it can be used to add humor. If you're writing fantasy and your character falls and breaks a leg, it incites a different type of emotion. If you decide to completely mutilate a character for no particular reason, then you've got a problem, unless it relates to the theme or plot of your story. Do you see my point?
     
  18. Operaghost
    Offline

    Operaghost Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2009
    Messages:
    217
    Likes Received:
    0
    I persoanlly think there is nothing wrong with hurting your characters, after all life isn't always a bed of roses, and it it furthers the story then go ahead. I have even killed off my main characters before to further the plot. (this is used often in horror, look at psycho for instance, where the main character is killed off very early on)
     
  19. ArckAngel
    Offline

    ArckAngel Member

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2008
    Messages:
    65
    Likes Received:
    0
    Going too far? You had the guy beaten up. That's a cup of tea. Kill off his entire family, have him build up an artificial family, and turn him into a sadistic evil bastard in order to protect them from 'the good guys,' then you can talk to me about going too far with hurting your characters. :p
     
  20. NerfGunWarHero
    Offline

    NerfGunWarHero New Member

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2009
    Messages:
    6
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    New Hampshire
    Don't feel badly, without a little pain, where is the conflict. Whether it be emotional or physical. Sometimes the pain is vital to the plot line. Although I do remember reading a lot of V.C. Andrews at one point in time and because of all the excessive pain the characters went through, over and over and over, I stopped reading them because it was just too depressing. Find a good balance.
     
  21. Edward
    Offline

    Edward Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 8, 2007
    Messages:
    312
    Likes Received:
    5
    Location:
    Virginia
    At one point my main character was going to have spent the night with the woman he loves before the final battle, and after killing the Big Bad for the second time (he got better), he was going to collapse shortly after the whole "is it over..." moment. He, unfortunately, doesn't get better.
    Then his lover is pregnant with his twins, and she has to go through the same things that the main character's "sister" did, where she has to raise a child while the other peasants in the villages she goes to all shun her for being an unwed mother.

    Though that time the actual main character got off pretty light. Then there are the story ideas where people either have to choose between the rest of their lives in desolation, or to take their own lives to atone for their sins or failures.

    And that's not even mentioning the times where I have characters go through torture. Once there was a character who was raped, had her superpowers erupt just in time to tear her attacker limb from limb until he looked like a bowl of chili, and then a few weeks later had to relive it when a physic vampire impersonated an ally, made her relive it, and generally spider-to-the-fly'd her to commit suicide by letting him out of his holding cell so he could eat her. Don't worry, she was rescued by the impersonated ally.

    And there was the one who was a JUSTICE loving modern fantasy paladin who had to make morally grey choices and see her allies hurt to the point where she probably would have fallen on her sword or swallowed a handful of pills by the time she was 20.


    Generally, I'd say that unless the character is dead, you haven't hurt them enough.
    And if they are dead, you didn't hurt them enough. And don't bother with physical pain either, emotional is so much better.
    But then again, you probably shouldn't listen to me.
     
  22. Gigi_GNR
    Offline

    Gigi_GNR Guys, come on. WAFFLE-O. Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2009
    Messages:
    12,143
    Likes Received:
    250
    Location:
    Milwaukee, WI
    I do the same thing, except it's mentally hurting them. Making them go insane, see things that aren't there, talk to people who aren't real. That and killing off their loved ones, twisting the would-be happy ending into something sad. I can't help it either. :D
     
  23. Edward
    Offline

    Edward Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 8, 2007
    Messages:
    312
    Likes Received:
    5
    Location:
    Virginia
    Bittersweet endings are the best.
     
  24. g1ng3rsnap9ed
    Offline

    g1ng3rsnap9ed Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Mar 8, 2009
    Messages:
    204
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    A small town called Pox...
    Never hesitate to "hurt" your Main Character. They're supposed to be like real people, right, and who have you ever met in life that has never had a single bad thing happen to them? If the story calls for your MC getting a little harshed up, then feel free to do so. :cool:
     
  25. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    I'd take it a bit further than that. No one wants to read a story about an ordinary person living an ordinary life, and not facing challenges.

    Crises are central to plot. So hurt your characters. Rip out their still beating hearts and trample on them. Poison them, infect them with dread diseases, stab them and maim them. But never fall in love with them. They aren't real, even though you strive to make them appear real to your readers. They exist only to deliver your story, to act it out.

    If you don't make them suffer, you are disrespecting them. You are keeping them sequestered from their potential. Give them the freedom to crash and burn, and to become glorious martyrs.

    YOU try living in the shadow of overprotective parents forever, and see how YOU like it!
     

Share This Page