When writing, there is an inherent need to torment your characters in one way or another. Even in children’s books there has to be some kind of conflict, something that makes the character upset or uncomfortable. Otherwise you don’t really have a story…you’re just writing about someone with a perfectly normal and happy life. And sorry, that’s just boring. Whether it’s in books, movies, video games, or other forms of media, people want conflict because that’s what makes it interesting, and when dealing with conflict, what you’re really doing is tormenting your character.
Just think about Harry Potter. How interesting would Harry’s character have been if he had been raised by a kind and loving aunt and uncle who gave him everything he ever wanted, rather than the cruel and unusual Dursleys who made him sleep in a cupboard under the stairs? Would you have been able to root for him as thoroughly if he’d been a natural talent, learning every spell right away and becoming a master wizard with no effort at all, rather than being the kind of student you can relate to…one who struggles through some classes and is constantly dealing with piles of homework he has no time to finish? Would the books have been as enjoyable if Harry had been able to defeat Voldemort thoroughly and with little effort, constantly saving everyone, rather than having to struggle to survive and regularly deal with death all around him?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you are ridiculously easy to please and I’m not sure I’d want to read a book written by you.
So we’ve established that there needs to be conflict, and that the usual way to create conflict is to torment your characters. Here’s the thing though…I believe that the level of torment you inflict on your characters says something about you. What it says, I’m not entirely sure. All I know for sure is that I torture the ever-living hell out of my characters. A zombie story is obviously going to obtain all manner of horror, but the characters in my other stories deal with some pretty awful stuff as well. In the fantasy I’ve had on hold for a while now my main character starts the story downtrodden and depressed. She then goes on to get kidnapped, stabbed, tortured, emotionally beaten up on multiple occasions, psychologically tortured, and even more. I put this poor girl through the ringer and back again a dozen times, throwing more and more at her to the point where any real person in real life would have simply gone insane.
What the hell does that say about me? 😛