Torture Your Protagonist Rule #20 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever


I’m dissecting the article Hunting Down the Pleonasm, by Allen Guthrie, using it as a cattle prod to search for little nasties in my manuscript.  Yep, you can join in the fun, too.  Let’s take a looksee at topic #20

20: Torture your protagonist. It’s not enough for him to be stuck up a tree. You must throw rocks at him while he figures out how to get down.

I just love this one.  Honestly, I fought this for a while in one of my novels.  I just loved that poor little MC so much.  My beta partner screamed at me to torture him, but I couldn’t.

Of course, now I have grown.  If he has to get across the street, he will have to weave in and out of umpteen explosions as the alien bear down on him, only to get to the other side to be caught in a tractor beam, and while he is immobilized, his girlfriend gets beaten up by an alien…. Okay, that’s not a real plotline of one of my books (yet-Tee hee) but you get the picture.

Easy is boring.  Never make it easy.  This goes back into adding conflict. Each time you sit down think: “How am I going to torture him/her today?”

And then don’t be all nice and wuss out.  LET HIM/HER HAVE IT!  They will forgive you after they get their happy ending.


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30 responses to “Torture Your Protagonist Rule #20 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever

  1. I have NO problem with torture. 😛

  2. I never do this enough. I think I need to go back over some of my stuff and hammer my MCs. AAAAAAAAAARGH!!! *flails*

  3. My only caveat would be, don’t make things more complicated than they need to be. To many obstacles can slow things down. If your character needs to walk across the street, sometimes it’s more economical (of time, energy, plot credibility) to just let her walk across the street.

  4. Great advice! Going to torture my MC now lol

  5. So true! The more we make them suffer, the better off they’ll be. It’s like parenting. Tough love gets them farther in life.

  6. It would be a pretty boring story if the MC didn’t get tortured at least a little! The more the merrier, I always say! lol

  7. I had my character beaten up, blown up, burned down and then killed before he finally succeeded in his quest to defeat the antagonist.
    Was that too much? 🙂
    And no, I didn’t mis-type any of the above. 😀

  8. The first story I remember writing was about two children whose parents forget them on the beach in a sort of Hansel and Gretel rip off, but with the added torture that they were never found again. So those characters are probably still floating around on that beach somewhere, because they never got any ending, happy or not 😀

  9. My characters aren’t fairy’s, aliens or dragons so I feel I’m too mean to them or the story sounds over dramatic, but I shall continue to mess. Well, it is fun, of course. 🙂

  10. As I put my characters through the wringer, I worry, ‘Is this too much?’ Chances are, no. In fact, it might not be enough!

    • My first beta partner ever accused me of being too easy on my characters. I’ve learned there are many ways to torture a character. Some are more subtle, but equally effective.

  11. Burns them…Burns them.
    I love torturing my characters, especially with dragon flames, the swishing of dragon tails, dragon breath…yeah, pretty much anything with dragons…

  12. Yessss. Throw rockses at them and blow them up!