That's gotta hurt: wounding and maiming your characters


That’s gotta hurt
Why wounding, maiming, and torturing your characters is good

Mike Shepherd Moscoe, Rory Miller, Burt Kemper, Adrian Phoenix
Orycon 34 – 2012

·      It’s about realism in your characters. If they don’t get injured or heal too quickly, it’s not realistic.
·      MM:
o   Jack Devitt kills between 10 and 50 characters per book
o   Mike kills anywhere between 100 and 1000
o   John Henry kills a 1000 and up
o   It’s important that it makes sense, that it contributes to the storyline
·      AP:
o   Author of two urban fantasy series
o   Even though they are powerful characters, they are still emotionally and physically tortured and suffer.
·      RM:
o   Non-fiction writer
o   (works for police department?)
·      BK:
o   Engineer. Professionally, done force protection work, ballistics, etc. Works in the military.
o   Long term emotional, physical and spiritual damage is done to people, and that stays with them.
·      RM:
o   I tend to throw most books against the wall.
o   There’s almost no way to engage in violence that is consequence free.
o   Legs, eyes, ears, fingers, hands: they eventually no longer work the same.
o   In fiction, there is a trope that characters emerge unscathed and unscarred.
o   The patterns for warriors: they tend to keep doing what they do until they die or drink themselves to death.
·      MM:
o   Psychologically, we’re not permitted to kill humans.
o   Until your not psychologically normal.
o   There’s a small fraction that are intelligently capable of distinguish between the times when it is permitted to kill and not kill.
o   The vast majority of us don’t have the programming to do that.
·      RM:
o   Some people who go out and kill professionally, they still have strong family relationships.
·      BK:
o   Women have different adrenaline cycles than men.
·      RM: Male and females have different stress response:
o   Men get angry quicker and let go of it quicker
o   Woman get angry slower (still thinking logically longer), but stay angry or upset later. Crying is a way to release stress.
o   Because of this, women can be trained to fight cold. They can think, plan, aim better, because they are not yet in a stress response.
·      BK:
o   If you’re ambushed and you spend time thinking, you’re going to be dead.
o   If you respond automatically, because your training is instinctive,  your chances are improved. (And specifically, it’s better to turn into an ambush.)
·      MM:
o   The characters that’s just been introduced – if they die, it’s somewhat meaningless.
o   The character that’s lived through three books, that they care about, and who has to make a choice between his life and his wifes, and then dies… that’s gut wrenching.
o   As a writer, you have to make characters that you care about die: it’s got to be serious.
·      BK:
o   Sometimes you have to roll the die and decide what characters to kill. Otherwise, as a writer, you’ll keep protecting them. Roll a die to choose who to kill. Let it reflect the randomness of life. Let the other characters grow as a result.
·      RM:
o   There’s no such thing as the one punch knockout and simple recovery. Anything that will do enough damage to knock someone out will be a concussion or worse: dizzy and puking for days, or repeatedly passing out.
o   If people do pass out, they are people who weren’t ready to fight, and they just fainted from fear.
·      MM:
o   Post-traumatic stress can trigger at any point
·      BK:
o   Societal norms vary within a culture. And characters live in a culture. They don’t commit violence in a vacuum. They do it with support or without, etc. In our society, we’re traumatized by death. In other cultures, they are not.
·      Pet peeves: poorly executed or unrealistic
o   BK: explosions: there’s not normally flames. There’s just a shock wave.
o   RM: use common sense: if you get shot in the shoulder, it’s going to hit something. It’s nearly impossible for a bullet to go through without hitting something.
o   AP: Fight scenes that are fairly brutal and no one seems to get hurt. They should just be laying there and bleeding. Not getting back up.
o   MM: I loved the battle of los angelos. They got the marines right: they didn’t bunch up. They used cover, etc.
§  You get slugged in the nose, and drove the nose bone into the brain. There is no nose bone.
o   BK: Don’t single source. Use medical source, trauma sources, military sources. Double check. Read Rory Miller’s books.

Text Box: Female adrenaline curveText Box: Male adrenaline curve
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