Writers, do you suffer?

Recently, Iain wrote a poignant post about the loss of a feline friend.

And in it, he said:

And on Friday, of course, I found that twist to the story I’ve been working on that gives the potential for a tragic interpretation of events. When the story demands that your characters suffer, and it usually does, you let them suffer, but at the same time you’ve grown close to them, and their pain is upsetting.

I know that’s true for a lot of writers.

It’s not true for me.

I don’t suffer because my characters suffer. In fact, at times, I take diabolical pleasure in it, if I think it’s going to make the reader/audience suffer.

Is that so wrong?

So, what about you?

Do you suffer when you write sad things? Do you ever cry when you make your characters suffer or even if you kill them off?

Do you feel guilty?

Or do you just relish that it’s “working,” that you’re pulling it off?


Filed under Writers, Writing

13 responses to “Writers, do you suffer?

  1. I learned the importance of emotion in writing from you, so now I try to feel what the character is feeling and write accordingly. Sometimes I do get caught up in the feelings, but only briefly, because a part of my brain is going, yeah, baby! this is smokin’!

  2. I was sitting here writing a huge long response to this until I realized that it would be better as its own article :). I’ll post something later today.

    In summary: a) I wouldn’t consider I suffer, as such, but I do find myself moved by my characters’ plight, just as I would any other work of fiction (though maybe with the intensity raised some through identification), and b) although affecting me like that does mean that I consider the *story* working, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the *telling* is working.

    And no, I could do horrible things to my characters (and plan to) without feeling guilty about it. Being moved by their fate doesn’t mean it’s wrong – when I saw what that one line change did to my protag, it *did* make me sad – and sadistically pleased at the same time.

    If you ever get the chance to read over the draft I sent, I’d like you to guess at what I’m referring to 🙂

  3. i Dunno about “suffer,” but if you mean “do I feel with and for my main characters,” then yes. I’m not the least bit ashamed to say that I weep like a baby when I kill off a beloved character, or get weepy with joy when I nail the finale of a romantic scene.

    What i find odd are those people who claim to be unaffected by their own writing. Maybe they’re made of stronger stuff… or maybe they’re writing is just not so great… 😉

  4. I think one of the most emotionally gratifying scenes I wrote was when I was killing somebody off that I adored. Thing is, when it occurred to me that I should kill her off, it felt like a lightning bolt from the blue — that it would make the book SO much better. And that made me feel euphoric about killing her off. So yes, I felt emotional about the scene itself when I was writing it, but I was also feeling a fantastic rush because (I hoped) I was yanking the reader.

  5. I’m like you Pooks in that I get a rush from yanking the reader. I do get a drained feeling after writing something emotional and have to go lie down.

  6. I don’t mean to be all touchy-feely (unless it somehow benefits me), but I’m trying to learn to “love” all of my characters . . . while taking great delight in killing them off like the worms they are.

    Actually, I spent so much time study and devoting myself to structure, beats, and plot points, that my script read like a series of related events with characters who had the emotional range of Ben Stein.

    So in an attempt to beef up that area of my writing, I’m trying to get to know and LOVE all of my characters. Even if at the end of the day I have to put a pillow over their faces while they sleep.

  7. Pingback: For want of a better title… » Blog Archive » Suffering?

  8. This is great, what about when you put your own experiences into the story? I think I got thrown for a loop by those emotions. Now that I ‘ve deciede to go ahead and let this character into my story….I think I am ok.

  9. Jennifer, I don’t think I’ve really put my own experiences into the stories I write. My stories are usually bigger than my experiences have been. But sometimes something I’m writing will blindside me and I’ll think, “Oh wow, is THAT what this is about?” because even though it’s not “about” me, it kind of is.

    That’s when you’re doing what you need to do — when it cuts close, when it hurts.

    But yes, I’m pretty sadistic when it comes to yanking my readers. At least, I try. As Iain has pointed out, that doesn’t necessarily mean I’ve succeeded.

    Adam, you’ve got to love your characters. You’ve got to care what happens to them. If you don’t, neither will the reader.

    And if the reader doesn’t care, you can’t take diabolical pleasure in yanking them.

    See? It all fits together.

  10. It is so nice to learn something important from you Pooks, it might have taken me a long time to figure that out.
    I’ve got to be more sadistic to the readers and not with my own emotions. LOL K…got it.

  11. Well… it’s kind of the same. If you don’t feel it, they’ll never feel it. But the more you feel it, the better your ability to capture it and put it on the page to make them feel it. So for me, knowing it “hurts” means I’ve got more power to make the readers suffer with the character, if that makes sense?

  12. “I take diabolical pleasure in it”

    That just made my day!!! rotf!

    I would love to ask JK Rowling that question!!!!!

  13. I think you are a GENIUS!

Hit me with it.

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