Thursday, February 2, 2012

Character Depth- To torture or not to torture, that is the question

            Lately I've been focusing on writing more emotion in my books.  Emotion is key.  So while wrestling with how best to incorporate emotion into my writing, I've decided that I 'm not so good at torturing my characters.  It's strange, one of my favorite things to read is tortured heroes or heroines overcoming odds.  Yet when I put my own pen to paper I hesitate in hurting my characters.  It probably has something to do with the fact that each of my characters is a little bit of my heart and soul and wounding them feels like a jab to my own chest. 
           I'm sure there is a much more philosophical discussion I could be having on why it's important we authors learn to hurt our characters in order to make them stronger, but I won't go into that. 
           Below is  scene where I've pitted two of my beloved rogues against each other.  When Lucien falls for his best friend's sister, all hell breaks loose.

           Half an hour before Christmas Eve dinner Lucien was pacing nervously inside the vast Russell library waiting for Cedric to arrive.  He was going to have a good long chat with his friend and Cedric would see the light and let Horatia be with him.  He had to be with Horatia.  There was no going back; he’d crossed the final bridge and burned it behind him when he’d made love to her this morning and clear through the afternoon.  Gone were the last remnants of his misplaced rage.  All that was left was a deep seed of love he’d never known was capable of growing.  He’d spent years salting the soil of his soul in an attempt to prevent that seed from taking root.  But Horatia and her unwavering love and loyalty had become his sun, his water, and the soil in him became fertile, feeding that deep seed.  Petals were unfurling, roots coiling deep in his heart.  There was nothing in his world to care about if Horatia was not there sharing every second with him.  Surely Cedric would be reasonable once Lucien made him understand this.
            The library door opened and Cedric entered, his brown eyes scanning the vast library until they settled upon Lucien coldly.
            “I received your summons,” Cedric seemed to choose his words carefully.
            “I did not mean to ‘summon’ you.  I wished to discuss something of importance with you.”  Lucien tried to smile, but his nerves were on edge and his stomach felt as though someone had unleashed a bevy of butterflies.  He was nervous!  It was almost laughable, to be so frightened of his friend’s reaction.  He’d never felt this way in his life.
            “Here I am. What do you wish to talk about?”  Cedric shut the library door and approached Lucien with measured, controlled steps, hands clasped behind his back.  Lucien repressed a shiver of worry.  Cedric’s body language did not bode well, not at all.
            “Over the past couple of months I’ve undergone a change of heart.”  It was not the most flattering or elegant way of phrasing but he had to begin this dreaded conversation somehow.
            “I hadn’t noticed,” Cedric noted with a fair amount of suspicion.
            “It was not something I let show easily Cedric.  Look, what I am trying to tell is you…” the words were there, but the look in Cedric’s eyes stilled them on Lucien’s tongue.  Cedric’s gaze challenged him, dared him to ask for something he had no right to ask for.  Lucien drew a shaky breath before continuing.
            “I would like to have your permission to marry Miss Sheridan.”  How formal and unlike him, but so necessary.  He had to put a distance between himself and thoughts of Horatia to maintain his control for this brief moment.
            “So it’s true then?  You’ve had your eyes set on my sister?”
            Lucien knew Cedric intimately in the way only true friends could and he heard that familiar edge of danger in Cedric’s tone.
            “I love her Cedric…”
            “Stop!  You don’t love her Lucien.  You may love her body and the pleasure you think she’ll give you if I let you have her.  But I won’t!  She will not be one more lady in the infinite line of women you leave behind you broken hearted.  Not my Horatia.”  Cedric’s fists clenched at his side, the distance of twenty feet between them still suffocating to Lucien.
            “Easy Cedric.  Just let me explain how I really feel…” Lucien began yet again but Cedric cut him off as he stormed towards him in a building rage.
            “I will not listen to your lies Lucien.  Save it for the next chit you fancy!  I demand your promise that you will stay away from Horatia, that you won’t even look at her.”  Cedric shoved a finger deep into Lucien’s chest accusingly.
            “No.”  Lucien was weary of battling his control over his temper.  Cedric would listen to him.
            “What?”  Cedric seemed flabbergasted that Lucien would argue on this.
            “I said no.  I will make no promise to you or anyone.  I love Horatia and I want to wed her.  I want a passel of children and her love in my life for the rest of my days.  I have asked her to marry me and she has agreed.  I came to you for the sake of our friendship and because you are her family.  I don’t need your permission to have her, but I thought you would appreciate the gesture.”  It was the worst possible to thing to say and Lucien realized it too late. 
Cedric’s fist drove hard into his stomach and Lucien staggered back step.  Cedric followed, landing another solid punch to Lucien’s chest so hard that Lucien fell back and hit a bookshelf.
            “How dare you lay claim to her.  She’s not yours to take!”  Cedric growled low in his throat as he swung another first and Lucien was struck yet again as he was cornered helplessly against the shelf.
            “She’s not yours to give either.  Horatia always has and always will be her own woman, her own person.  She gifted me with her heart and thought I do not even begin to deserve her, she wants me and no one else.  So I will have her as my wife.  You can support her decision, but by god you will not punish her for loving me.”  Lucien’s entire body was shaking with rage and pain as Cedric threw another curled fist into his body.  He did not fight his friend, it would do no good.
            “You’ve already had her haven’t you?”  Cedric’s voice was barely above a ragged whisper. 
Lucien said nothing.
            “She’s warmed your bed…could be with your child even now…” the hateful accusation stung Lucien, more from the truth than anything else.  Cedric knew him too well and for once it was hurting their friendship and not helping it.
            “Yes,” Lucien gritted out but his tone softened as he continued.  “And if there is a babe growing in her now, the thought fills me with a sense of wonder and love I cannot begin to understand.  I only know that the child, if it does exist, will be the most important thing in my life next to its mother.”
            “You may say that now.  You may believe you love her, but I don’t care.  I know how black-hearted you are, how cold and cruel you’ve been not just to her but to others.  I don’t care if my sister is your only chance at salvation, you will not have her.  Not while I draw breathe.” 
The threat hit Lucien like a bolt of lightning.  His senses frazzled and his body burned with the impact as once more Cedric assaulted him with pummeling fists.
            “Just what do you mean by that Cedric?” he ground out as he tried to duck, barely missing Cedric’s fist by inches.
            “Tomorrow at dawn you and I will determine who has a claim to Horatia.  Choose a second and your preferred weapon.”
            “I will not duel with you Cedric,” Lucien denied instantly as he caught Cedric’s fist in his hand and shoved his friend back a few steps.
            “You will, or I will summon the others here and we will determine just how to put you straight for breaking one of the rules.”  Cedric meant the rest of the League of Rogues of course.  It had always been a vague threat, one that if a member should so fall into a path of depravity that the others would drag him out and restore him to sanity.  But Lucien wasn’t mad, hadn’t crossed any line.  His only crime was loving Horatia and not being worthy of her.  There was other way to settle the matter though.  Lucien knew Cedric would be relentless on the matter of a duel and the thought made his blood run cold in fear, for his friend, for Horatia.
            “Fine.  I will be in the northern field at dawn with my second.  I will bring pistols as my weapon of choice.”
            “Good.”  Cedric’s brown eyes were dark with anger and regret but he said nothing more and turned on his heel to leave. 
Lucien opened his mouth, wanting to stop his friend from leaving, to unsay the words that had brought them to this point of no return, but Cedric was gone, and Lucien was alone the library.  Pain surged through him, all of the pugilistically perfect body blows from his friend wracked his body.
            He stood next to the bookshelf for what seemed like an eternity, catching his breath back from the fight until he realized he was not alone.  His sister, Lysandra came out from behind the shelf he leaned against.
            “How long have you been there?” he demanded intending to sound harsh, but his voice was toneless.  Lysandra brushed a fingertip across her eyes, wiping tears from their corners before replying.
            “Oh Lucien!”  She ran to him and he crumpled weakly in his sister’s arms.  Falling to his knees on the wood floor, Lysandra was dragged down with him, still cradling him as he shook and gasped for breath.  What madness was this?  To love Horatia and in the process lose Cedric?  It wasn’t fair and he shouldn’t have to choose.

My Question for you followers:      How do you capture emotion and create conflict?  Do you torture your characters and give them room to grow?


  1. Oh, Lauren, that was so good. I love it.

  2. Wow! This is awesome, Lauren. Strong writing and intriguing story kept me riveted. I want more!

  3. Lauren, torturing your characters is easier than you think. You don't need to physically hurt them, just emotionally. All people come with some kind of baggage - and you as a writer needs to figure out what that is...then build on it. One of my heroes felt like he didn't deserve love because he was just like his father, and his father was unfaithful to hero's mother and made her unhappy. Hero realized he was a womanizer, and that suited him just fine because he'd never fall in love and break a woman's heart as his father did to his mother. So of course when the heroine enters the picture and hero starts having feelings for her...he tries his hardest to stop them because he doesn't want to hurt her. All I did was play off this by making situations happen where hero thought she was lying to him and seeing another man, etc. They were little things...but adding emotion to your characters during theses scenes are what brings out the "torture" because now your readers are sympathizing with your characters and feeling what they are.

    Okay, I'll quit now. lol But I do love your stories, woman! Oh, and I ADORE this blog! :)

  4. This was a very nice scene, Lauren! I love, love to torture my characters, lol. But I know it will always turn out ok in the end and the torture will make the reward that much sweeter.

  5. That was awesome Lauren! I have the same problem as you when it comes to torturing my characters. m such a wimp!

  6. Torturing ... Yes, I have a hard time torturing my characters too .. the process is like "X will be betrayed by Y ... that's awsome!" then I think about it a bit. Then I start writing - it's the writing that kills it, since as soon as Y starts the betraying I cry for X. Fat tears.

    But yes, it's necessary ... besides, Cedric cannot stand in the way of true love and kinky foreplay with silk ... right? :)

  7. Emotional torture can be fun or really hard to do, depending on the scene. But it adds so much passion. Great excerpt!

  8. LOVE this!! I'm dying to find out what happens!