Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Writing 101: Being a Sadist

Have you ever tortured a man until he broke down and cried? Killed a person and watched them die? You have if you’re like a lot of authors, because sometimes being a writer means being a sadist. If you write books, you’re going to end up doing a lot of terrible things -- all on the page, of course.


Characters in books start to feel a little like friends, don’t they? I know Anne Shirley well. I would feel totally at home sitting with her in a turn-of-the-century Canadian kitchen, drinking raspberry cordial. For authors who create those characters, the connection is even stronger. And it’s really hard to make terrible things happen to those characters, to allow those characters to feel the pain of it all. But you have to. When you’re writing, you need to get sadistic.

It isn’t going to be easy. Most people don’t like watching other people cry, and most people don’t really want to inflict pain upon others. So when you're killing a character, it’s going to get sad. You might start thinking about how you can't write for that character anymore. You may even start to feel empathy for the readers, and start to worrying about them. I do that.

You’ve got to push all that aside. It’s okay if you’re crying all over the keys while you’re writing. I do that, too. But you’ve got your outline. You’ve got your plan. You know why this terrible thing has to happen, and you have to make it happen. So put characters in pain, and make them feel it. Record it all on the page, and be sadistic. After it’s written, it’s done. Now you’re on to the next scene.

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