Monday, July 27, 2015

How Much Character Pain Can You Read About?

I started reading Jo Walton's All My Children last week, but after I started it, I put it aside for a couple of days. There was a section that I didn't want to read because the protagonist was trapped in a miserable marriage. Fortunately, once I got past that section, her life improved. Still, it got me thinking that while we as writers are supposed to make life tough for our characters, it's possible to put them in so much emotional pain that it becomes uncomfortable for the reader. Two writers who really inconvenience their characters are Jim Butcher and Laura Resnick. It's not enough that their characters have to fight some bad guys, but oftentimes they have to do it while being up all night, dressed in something inappropriate, and needing to use the bathroom, all at once. Sometimes I find the trivial issues (like the wrong outfit) distracting from the major conflict. As a mother, I don't like reading about kids in jeopardy either.

Are there types of conflict or emotional pain that you don't care to read about? Feel free to discuss them in the comments section--if you don't mind doing so, that is.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Twisted sexual stuff is too much for me. Or any kind of torture porn. (Like the movie Saw.)

Sandra Almazan said...

I'd rather not read about that either, Alex.

Maria Zannini said...

Strangely enough, mental illness. It slows the story down every time because nine times out of ten, it becomes introspection. A little introspection goes a long way. Too much beats a dead horse.

Pat Dilloway said...

I frequently mete out inappropriate punishment to characters but that's part of the point.

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