Character Torture 101

I’m an avid reader of fantasy and science fiction books. The last 2 years of my life have been sucked away while I played with shape shifters, vampires, heriones who can vanquish demons or raise zombies, gargoyles who can shift to the underworld. I could go on and on, I want to go on and on. Don’t worry that’s not the purpose of today’s blog.

After about a year of this reading quest, I noticed something when I was reading.  I began dissecting the novels. It wasn’t necessarily because they were terrible, some were, but it was more methodical. I suddenly starting ‘seeing’ pieces of the stores. For example: Why the author did something specific to a character and how it was supposed to affect the reader. You know that love/hate relationship you have with some characters? there’s a reason why authors create that tension. Sometimes I would even question why they did things at all, it just didnt fit. Some books were so bad I told myself I could write better than this and then would proceed to converse with myself on how the book could have been better and played it out in my imagination.

You’ll never guess what happened next. Ok you probably did but I’ll tell you anyways. Craziness descended. I began creating my own characters in my head. Then they started doing stuff! Conversations and scenes were on autopilot in my head. One day i was so irritated by the constant chatter I sat down and started writing in the hopes that if they were on paper they would quite down. After days of constant writing and episodes of running out of the shower dripping wet to a pad of paper or my computer I had over 30,ooo words and post it notes everywhere. Now you must know that those 30k were not eloquent and organized. A lot were just random scenes, character and world descriptions, gibberish….ideas. Almost all of it was crap. I was proud of every word. The love I used to have for writing came back to me again.

There was a time in my childhood when i wanted to be a writer. Later it morphed into photojournalism. By the time I went to college writing and art were last on my lists of career choices. Why? Unless your very talented or very lucky it’s difficult to make it in the biz. My father is an artist, a very good one at that. Growing up I watched him struggle on and off and knew I didnt want to go down that path. Now almost 10 years after I gave up a career in art, I now have the knowledge and tools to prevent the starving artist mentality.  There’s time and inclination to work on my hobbies again. Now I just need the talent.

One of the things I’ve been doing lately is taking online writing classes.

This site offers classes by accomplished authors:

After just a few classes I have more information then I know what to do with.  My current class taught by Linnea Sinclair is my favorite so far. My first homework she tore apart and I’m thankful for it. My editing skills are seriously lacking and honestly, I know nothing about writing. The last writing class I took was a basic English class to fill a gen. ed requirement  about 8 years ago. Linnea has provided a ton of sources for me to study and tips to keep in mind when writing. Overall she has been the most insightful with the least amount of fluff to her lectures.

Now to the point. I’m posting my first homework assignment with Linnea. This is a dream sequence I wrote for my main character in my fantasy world. I would love feed back! Did you like it, or not? Did it hold your interest? Did you want to keep reading? Either way I hope you like it.

Subs= Subhuman (vampire, shape-shifter, etc)

I was nine again. I was running away. Running as far and fast as my little legs could carry me.  Frightened beyond belief, wanting desperately to turn around and go back to our parents. We had to go back! We have to help them fight! More than once I tried to stop and turn back but Adam held my hand like a vice, dragging me farther and farther away from our mothers battles screams and closer to safety. We are twins, so why is he always stronger than me?

My father’s shouts only made me struggle harder. As usual Adam listened to our parent’s commands without question. He wasn’t going to stop until we were at a ‘safe spot’.  We ran farther and farther through the dark streets. The sounds of my mother screaming grew distant. Her voice had taken on a demented and defeated quality I had never heard before. My fear grew, choking me with grief I couldn’t define. Tears poured down my face obscuring the night before me. I had never wanted anything more then to turn around and go back to our parents but Adam wouldn’t let me go no matter how much I begged.

‘Adam please! We need to go back and help.’

‘No! We have to get to safety. They will come for us when they are done killing the subs.’ So hand in hand, we ran. Our parents’ voices diminished as we raced through narrow back alleys full of dark shadows and glowing beady eyes.

We sat in the parking lot of a convenient store. We hid in the shadows for hours as the night drained away. Why weren’t our parents here yet?  Adam held me as I cried. I wanted them to come take us away from this dirty place.

I woke up on the couch in our living room. Adam was still asleep beside me. I don’t remember when I fell asleep or how we got home. I heard uncle talking in the kitchen and bolted upright, tumbling over Adam in my hurry to get up. I ran around the corner hoping to find Ma and dad at the kitchen table; except they weren’t there. But Uncle was, his head was down on his forearm that lay on the table top. He was on the phone with someone and he was covered in blood. No, drenched. His hands, arms, even his boots. His beautiful bronze hair almost looked black with dried blood.

I don’t know how I knew they were gone but I did. Somehow my subconscious understood the battle lust caused by the need for revenge. My skin suddenly felt frozen and something snapped inside me as I launched myself at my uncle clawing and kicking all between sobs and screams. Fury ran through my veins and I didn’t know how to stop it, my body itched and ached with it. My skin would burst if I didn’t get it all out now.

I woke in a cold sweat; luckily back in my adult body. I loathe how helpless I used to be.  Every time I go hunting a bad memory turned reoccurring nightmare plagues me and I have no idea why. My parents were attacked on our way home from the movies and their death had destroyed something inside me that night. Only Adam was able to calm me down when I went into my fits of rage. Eventually fighting eased the pain inside but otherwise only my brother could help me control my fury when I snapped. Adam has always been there for me, always taking care of me when I couldn’t take care of myself.  My relationship with him has kept me glued together inside. Without him by my side I’d probably shatter. My direction, my purpose, my family would be lost with out Adam.


3 thoughts on “Character Torture 101

  1. I think it is a good start and a first draft always has many paths to choose to make the writing stronger. It is your choice where to go with your story. I imagine that your teacher will have useful suggestions. I am a writer with MFA degree but that is not the purpose of my blog 🙂

  2. I was a little lost when she woke up twice… maybe make it clearer somehow that the first “wake up” is part of the dream? Or change it to a shift in the dream, rather than the next day of the dream?

    I’m interested to keep reading! Keep up the good work 😀

  3. Thanks to you both for commenting! Rae thats exactly some of the feedback I need. To me the dream sequence reads fine and i thought the word choice when she woke up worked, thats why i need readers to tell me otherwise.
    thank you both for the advice!

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