Click the image to explore the Disaster Crimes series.

NOTICE:


DISCLOSURE:

This site uses affiliate links for Bookshop.org, an online marketplace that supports independent bookstores. Chrys Fey will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

October 03, 2016

Your Character’s Pain / Character ER



I'm a firm believer that characters should be put through hell. They should experience pain. If not physically from an injury, then mentally from whatever your character goes through.

Merely giving your characters pain and hardships isn’t enough, though. You have to follow through on it with the appropriate emotions. Pain usually brings fear, anger, or sadness.

If your character goes through any kind of physical pain, show his/her fear. Experiencing pain, especially unknown pain is very scary. Share your characters worry over what could be wrong.

If your character is pregnant, the fear should be magnified to incorporate the unborn baby. Any pain a woman endures while pregnant is utterly terrifying. Is the baby okay? Am I okay? Will I miscarry? Each of these thoughts will rattle her to her core. In whatever she does, every pang (no matter how small) should bring worry for her baby.

When someone goes through pain inflicted by someone else, such as a hurtful act or harmful words, anger is a common reaction. Let your character’s anger build and give them a release. It could be yelling or beating on a punching bag.

If the pain brings sadness, such as the loss of a child, ride the wave of grief from beginning to end. You can't dilute it. You have to bring it out in full force.



No matter what kind of pain your character faces, follow it through with fear, anger, and/or sadness


QUESTIONS: What pains have you given to your characters? What pains have you endured?

53 comments:

Tamara Narayan said...

The most painful physical things I've endured are giving birth, migraines, kidney stones, and braces. I'll keep the psychological ones to myself. Maybe they'll make good fodder for writing someday.

Pat Hatt said...

I've used pain a lot and had a bit with my crappy body too. It comes in all forms with the characters and each react to it in a different way as well, like real life.

Bish Denham said...

In writing my characters have experienced the pain of loss. Me personally, I've experienced some physical pain related to my health that I would never wish on anyone.

Christine Rains said...

Yes! We should totally put our characters through pain. I've put mine through so much. And yes, being pregnant is one I put myself through! I've broken my leg and my wrist. Ouch!

Carrie-Anne said...

My worst physical pain was being run over by a car and pinned underneath for 15-20 minutes. I've given my characters issues including broken arms, legs, shoulders, and ankles; gunshot wounds; being beaten up while pregnant; ectopic pregnancies; polio; diphtheria (known as The Strangling Angel for a reason!); and a below-elbow arm amputation.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

There has been physical pain, but I've had more fun mentally tormenting my characters.

Chrys Fey said...

I use my psychological and physical pain in my writing all the time.

Birgit said...

I have both-Yippee! You are so right that, when one writes a character, one better know about the type of pain they are experiencing. I have already informed you of some of the emotional and physical pain I experienced when I was 7. I dealt with bullying and, instead of getting angry, I went within which is never good. I suffered the pain of loss-my dad and now my mom with dementia. I also have the constant horrible toothache pain in every joint of my body due to Ehlers-Danlos. I think someone could write about that disease and link it to a circus, for example. The severe types of Ehlers-Danlos are the people who can put themselves in a tiny box because they can dislocate their shoulders and hips (I do it but by accident) or the Elastic man who can stretch his skin which is another form of Ehlers-Danlos.

Chrys Fey said...

That's good!

Chrys Fey said...

I wouldn't wish the pain I experience on anyone either, but I know many people suffer from the same awful back pain as I do.

Chrys Fey said...

lol Being pregnant is one pain I haven't put myself through.

Ouch is right!

Chrys Fey said...

I couldn't ever imagine that pain or fear.

You certainly know how to bring your characters pain.

Chrys Fey said...

Mentally tormenting characters can be quite fun. ;)

Chrys Fey said...

I know about going within. I went within, too. At times, I still do and struggle with depression.

I know you don't write, but I think that's a story that you could do. Maybe an adult "kids" book explaining what the disease is like.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I was at a workshop on character arcs this past Saturday and I was thinking about my characters' pains. interesting post.

Chrys Fey said...

Thanks, Susan!

Arlee Bird said...

The 2016 election campaign is become more mental torture than I can stand. It's enough to turn someone into a mobster--or a monster. Whatever.

Arlee Bird
Tossing It Out

nashvillecats2 said...

Most poems I write are true to life so you know what hell I've been through over the years. But I don't think I could write a poem about getting my own back on the people who havecaused such pain to me in the future.
Yvonne.

Chrys Fey said...

Well, I don't mean to write about yourself giving people pain who wronged you, but that characters should be put through pain as pain is what we all go through.

Chrys Fey said...

Ha! Very true.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

The worst I've done to my characters was a car accident, but the pain of guilt was stronger and more demoralizing.

diedre Knight said...

I've written about having Strep throat and appendicitis and even the effect of falling into a patch of Cholla cactus, but the hardest has been depicting a broken heart without bringing my own feelings into it.

Elizabeth Seckman said...

Good point. It's good for characters to suffer.

Chrys Fey said...

The pain of guilt could be worse than any physical pain.

Chrys Fey said...

I always use my feelings for broken hearts. They say if it's yours, use it.

Chrys Fey said...

It's a growing point.

Rachel Pattinson said...

I love unleashing pain on my characters mwahahaha! Ahem...generally though, it's been pain through violence or grief but in this WIP, I'm toying with the idea of a different kind of pain - I normally hate to break people up (all my sims families were happily married until the bitter end) but this time, I think I might throw a spanner or two into the works as see what happens ;). Great post, Chrys!

Chrys Fey said...

Sounds interesting. I think your characters will surprise you.

Diane Burton said...

I share your back pain, Chrys. Knee replacements were worse than labor pains. At least you have a baby to enjoy afterwards. With my characters, I try to put them through the emotional wringer. Abandonment, betrayal, deception. You are so right that that they have to feel it so the reader feels it.

Chrys Fey said...

We put our characters through so much, don't we?

Janie Junebug said...

Pain, whether emotional or physical, provides a great opportunity for showing instead of telling. A character who's in pain might tremble as she lies down on the hard bed in her prison cell before she bursts into tears. Show me that pain.

Love,
Janie

Unknown said...

Marvelous post Chris! My central characters have all experienced pain: Loss of dear loved ones, injuries from battle or terrorism causing chronic pain that even keeps them from jobs, loss of everything Including both parents - one to prison and one to suicide, and even a pain of death and resurrection that threatens constant insanity. Pain is part of what molds our character in real life and what makes our book characters believable.

Chrys Fey said...

Great point! Emotions are a perfect moment to show rather than tell. Using physical cues is something I always stress to writers.

Chrys Fey said...

My. You sure do put your characters through the wringer.

H.R. Bennett said...

While I've played with all sorts of s*** as I've written, the biggest 'pain' that I'm actually proud of has to do with Smithy (which I've been working on recently). The main character Tristan is suffering from severe anxiety and panic attacks but doesn't know it. It's reflecting my own very real problems I suffered some years back where the doctors thought it was heart episodes. No bueno.

Liz A. said...

Ah yes, pain. That's one I haven't really considered. Good reminder.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Chrys - pain comes in so many forms doesn't it - you've described it well ... as too in the comments. We can also get pain as in 'nuisance' pain ... time-wasting time etc ... just frustrating type pain ...

Cheers Hilary

sherry fundin said...

Character ER...LOL Yeah, I want my characters feeling lots of pain. Makes the story more interesting to me. Some great hits.
sherry @ fundinmental

sage said...

Until this year, pain was mostly the dental office for me, then there came that quad tendon snap on the foredeck of a sailboat--that set a new standard for pain for me and I hope to never experience it again except maybe in writing.

Chrys Fey said...

Anxiety is a tough one to master in writing, but good if done right. :)

Chrys Fey said...

Happy to remind. :)

Chrys Fey said...

That sure is another pain and a good one to include.

Chrys Fey said...

I want characters in books I read to go through hell, too. ;)

Chrys Fey said...

Only in writing is acceptable. I hope you never experience it in real life.

Mary Kirkland said...

It's always interesting to see what type of physical or emotional pain a writer is going to inflict upon their characters.

Kelly Steel said...

Awesome advice and excellent tips!

Chrys Fey said...

Thanks!

Chrys Fey said...

I agree. ;)

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

Good points. Pain is important for characters. Whether physical or mental, it makes them more interesting, wondering how they'll deal with their pain. Fear is good too.

Unknown said...

Agreed!

Chrys Fey said...

Fear is always good.

Neurotic Workaholic said...

I know what you mean. I read a novel once about a character who didn't seem to suffer enough; that is, almost everyone in the novel loved each other, and they only had minor disagreements. It was like, where was the plot?

Chrys Fey said...

A book like that would drive me to boredom.