Tuesday, July 10, 2012

torturing your characters

A common piece of advice for writers is: torture your characters. I thought I was pretty good but I'm reading a novel right now that puts my efforts to shame: Thin Air by Rachel Caine.

It starts out very dramatically:
There were worse things than being naked, freezing and alone in a forest. For instance, there was being naked, freezing, not alone, and not sure of who the hell you were. And having people depending on you.

But the plot developments are practically killing me. I don't want to give too much away and, frankly, I haven't finished it yet, but Caine has killed off Joanne's daughter (who is now 'haunting' her!) and put Joanne together with a horrific human psychopath who previously tortured her--and her sister. To make things worse, Joanne has lost all her memories, her whole identity. Making Joanne forget the psychopath so that she's nice to him after he tortured her extensively with sharp, pointy objects is pretty much the creepiest stuff I've ever read. Ugh!

I'm in awe of Ms. Caine. I couldn't even imagine such stuff much less torture my characters with it. I like my characters! I don't want to put them through worse than hell.
But... I should.

What do you think? Can a writer torture a character too much?

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