As readers of my novels know, I have a tendency to abuse the main characters. There are several reasons for this, and not all because I am an evil, no good, very mean author.
When writing action, it's no good for the main character to always skate by without injuries. Conflicts cause scars, whether physical or emotional. If you don't think so, know this.
Characters tend to be more likable if/when they are injured, whether emotionally or physically. As humans, we relate to the pain and suffering of another person, hoping they will get better (psychopaths excluded). We want their anguish to stop before the book ends, tied up with a nice little bow.
MY PAIN & ILLNESS
I started writing as I descended into chronic illness. It was and is an escape. It provides a way of coping with pain, fatigue, and loss of my prior over-achieving self. Writing characters that deal with worse circumstances than me put my own challenges in perspective. At least I didn’t get shot today. Nobody severed my hand. I didn’t watch a friend die.
DAY AFTER INFINITY
Spoiler Alert: My first novel (which came out second) focuses on the pain of losing oneself, which I was at the time. While Ryan Char heals ultra-fast and can live forever, he suffers from a sardonic, bordering on sadistic, AI in his head. In his journey he struggles with life and death, and what it means to be human.
Spoiler Alert: Mazz, the main character, has an internal AI in his head that glitches all the time. This seventeen-year old has backfiring superpowers that backfire, landing him in dangerous and emberrasing circumstances.
Spoiler Alert: A veteran, Wall, who was injured in the Armed Forces, has to undo a giant mistake he made as the world falls apart. He may be smart, but he isn’t a ninja-level badass like so many lead characters. He doesn’t hit the target every time. He doesn’t dodge every bullet. With persistance, he doggedly finds a way to soldier on.
Here’s a great statistic: One hundred percent of people who like my books, like my books. Surprising, huh? While I write for myself, I edit and pollish my books for my readers. The first half and first few revisions are therapy and a creative outlet for me. The later stages of editing give me a sense of pride for having achieved something others can enjoy. Through revisions and numerous edits, I downplay the main characters' suffering so it isn’t such a slog. My lead “actors” push through the pain in a way that creates a bond with some readers.
COMBAT IS UGLY
When writing action, it's no good for the main character to always skate by without injuries. Conflicts cause scars, whether physical or emotional. If you don't think so, know this. Seven out of a hundred US veterans have PTSD. Half of the US Military get injured each year, whether mild or life altering. Over a thousand US soldiers died in 2021. Combat is brutal and stressful, resulting in physical and mental scars.
Strangely, characters tend to be more likable if they are injured in some way. As humans, we relate to the pain and suffering of other people, hoping they will get better–psychopaths excluded. We want their anguish to stop and for a release from their horrible situation. I may or may not provide that kind of relief depending on the story.
Some of my favorite movies involve pain in one way or another. There is a long history of main characters enduring despite it all. Here are a few examples.
In the end, I like to write this way, and that's it. I hope you enjoy.