A Writer's Guide to Torturing Characters - Part 1

Torturing characters is something that every writer has to do.  Depending on the genre and story, it may be physical or emotional.  The fact is, it is a necessary part of writing.

"But Alea," you say,"I love my characters."

Dear reader, I love my characters too.  But if the Ring of Power didn't torture Frodo's mind and body, would Lord of the Rings be as interesting as it is?  The stakes wouldn't seem as high and there would not be as much tension and excitement.  There wouldn't be as good of a reason to root for Frodo to destroy the Ring.

Here in this first part, I will go over physical injuries and the do's and don'ts that go along with them.  Just so you are aware, I am not a doctor, I am just going off of research I have done.  Please do not use this article to try and treat your own problems.  When in doubt, go to a doctor!


- DO make the physical hurts help the story along.  
          When considering harming a character, ask yourself these questions to make sure that it will help the story.  Will it cause the stakes to be higher?  Will it cause more tension?  If it is just there to hurt the character, I do not suggest adding it.

- DO research the injury.
          It is always good to make sure that your chosen injury wouldn't kill the character if it was real life.  Just because you saw it happen in a movie doesn't mean it is realistic.


-Pretty much don't not do the above things.  :)

The most common injury we see in movies in books that aren't portrayed realistically.

1. The Blow On The Head

          We see this in all kinds of action movies and a lot of books.  The characters get knocked out for a while and all they wake up with is a headache.  But what really happens when someone is hit in the head?
          Being hit in the head can cause brain injury.  A brain injury is where the brain hits against the skull and becomes bruised.  This almost always happens when someone is hit very hard on the head.  If untreated, a brain injury can result in brain damage.
          Some mild symptoms of brain injury are:
               -Brief loss of consciousness
               -Memory issues
               -Dizziness and vision problems
               -Headache and/or vomiting
               -Being sensitive to light and/or noise
          There are also some possible serious symptoms.  If these occur, a doctor is necessary or the person could die.  These symptoms include:
               -Slurred speech
               -Can't stop vomiting
               -Different sized pupils and/or abnormal eye movement
               -Weak muscles
               -Surgery if brain is bleeding
               -Rest with someone waking the person up every 2-3 hours to make sure the patient isn't in a                coma or acting abnormally.

I don't know what you plan to do to your character, but if you plan on injuring them, I highly encourage you to research the injury so that you can write it in the most realistic way possible.  If you have a friend who is a doctor, it may be helpful to talk to them about your idea and what the effects would be.


  1. This is really helpful, and funnily enough, my character actually DOES get a blow on the head... and he gets brain trauma. Sorry Morgan! It's for the best! :D

    1. I'm glad to help, Kelsey! :( Aww...I'm sorry for character! At least it's for the best.


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