Saturday, March 22, 2008

Craft, Torturing your characters or developing inner conflcit

It has been pointed out to me in several recent talks I've given that I have built a reputaion for torturing my characters. When someone comments upon it I pause and think. "Well I did skin Zane alive in Whirlwind. And he deserved it too. He's been nothing but a trouble maker for six books." When writing that I had to think long and hard about acutally doing it. I knew it was graphic and would be a horrible experience for anyone to go through. Then I decided yep, just go for it. You can do it. He's your character. You can do what ever you want.

My editor said that I gave her nightmares while she was reading Rising Wind. There were some graphic examples of torture used by the Shawnee in the book taken straight from acutal accounts. My hero, Connor, in Rising Wind did not get tortured. I even had a chance to give him a lashing and I rescinded it. I figured Connor was torturing himself enough. Or I was torturing him.

The method of torture I used on Connor was self doubt. Through out the entire story his biggest fear was he would be captured and tortured. And when it happen he would show fear. I also set the story up so that in the prologue (see last weeks post) it showed Connor's father dying bravely at Culloden. In the first chapter he talks about his mother also dying bravely when hung by English soldiers for wearing the plaid. Thus I've set up Connor's internal conflict. His own form of self torture.

Star Shadows is the story of Elle and Boone but it also introduces Zander who loses his memory in the first half of the book and then becomes an assasin. He has no recall of learned boundaries from his youth so therefore he does not know why or how he has become a killer. All he knows is kill or be killed. He knows he hates what he is but it is also impossible for him to die. Plenty of self loathing and internal conflict going on in his mind. I also added a torture scene where he is tied down and raped by a woman that he later kills. Zander is set up to torture himself with all he has done when he finally regains his memory. I know this is why every one who has read Star Shadows is asking for Zander's book.

Its not about the torture. Its not about the internal conflict. Its about experiencing the journey as the characters examine themselves as they come up against their greatest fears and how they conquer those fears.

Character is what rises to the top when put under extreme pressure. We all would like to think that we would react "heroically" when we are put into life or death situations. But until we acutally experience it we do not know how we will act.

I guess you can say that is our own form of self toture. Our own self doubt.

Linnea? I loved to hear what you have to say about Kel-Patten and his interal conflict.

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