Tormenting Your Characters

Pick one way or three to torment your characters
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

Last week, I wrote about 4 Ways to Create Story Tension. As writers, we know that the key to creating tension is to put obstacles in our character’s paths. Or, as I like to call it, we can resort to tormenting our characters. There are so many ways to do this:

Create Limitations

One way to make things difficult is to limit your character’s movements. A character with a broken leg may not be able to make it up the stairs to find out what that noise is. A character who is grounded is going to be cut off from her friends. A character on a space craft is trapped within the confines of the ship.

You can also create a ticking clock as another limitation. These limitations can be concrete and grim such as a literal ticking time bomb or a limited air supply. Or it could be a contest deadline or a big move. Whichever one you chose, time is an excellent way to limit your character.

Fatal Flaw

Another way to torment your character is to give her a flaw. And I don’t mean something easy like she won’t eat peas. That’s why I call it a fatal flaw. Make it something big that it going to make her life more difficult. Maybe she’s a gossip or she is too trusting. Maybe your character lies to seem more important.

But there’s something else you can try.

Character Strengths

Have your character’s difficulties come not from her weaknesses but from her strengths.  How much more tension would it create if your loyal law-abiding character must confront an immoral law?

And the beauty of it is that you don’t have to pick one way to up the tension. You can use all three. I really enjoyed this video by Jessica Brody where she demonstrates how she made Amelia Gray’s life complicated in her latest novel.


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