Thursday, February 16, 2006

Writers have sadistic tendencies

And I'm no exception. A good writing day for me is on a day when I've tortured my hero non-stop, and he slinks off at the end of the scene to manfully suck it up and go onto the next round.

I love it!

The first time I gleefully told my husband that I had tortured my hero, he looked at me and said, "Did you kill him or just maim him?"

No, no, no! Not that kind of torture! The mental anguish. The words that slice like a sword. The heart-rending decisions. All buried under a brooding or emotionless exterior. (Is it any wonder I adore The Phantom of the Opera?)

And there are so many ways to do it. I'm in the process of tearing apart not one but two characters in my current novel, and it's oh so fun to alternate, and to have them torture each other without even knowing it.

Not only do I love to write heroes that are mercilessly tortured, but, unsurprisingly, I like to read and watch them too. Of course, Gerard Butler was a wonderfully angst-ridden Phantom.

And one of my favorite Harrison Ford roles was as Dr. Richard Kimball in The Fugitive. Talk about angst! Being tried and convicted of murdering his wife while he was in the process of grieving for her....shiver.

As for books, many of the ones on my keeper shelf that I read over and over have guys that are really put through the wringer.

One of my favorites, Alinor, the second book in the Roselynde Chronicles by Roberta Gellis, is going to be re-released in May. Ian is one of my all-time favorite heroes: he's dark, handsome, and madly in love with Alinor, but can't show it. The scene near the beginning where he goes "berserker" when she is kidnapped....one of my favorites!

Another old, old read is Once in a Blue Moon by Penelope Williamson. I haven't read it in ages, and it's out of print, but I remember it being highly enjoyable because the poor hero suffered throughout, watching the woman he loved plan marry another.

And then there's Vows, by LaVyrle Spencer. Another favorite, with a great love triangle in which you truly feel for each of the three main characters. Even the odd man out, the one who doesn't end up with the heroine at the end, is a thoroughly good guy. The book was written in the '80s when "friends and family" sequels weren't as popular as they are now, otherwise I'm sure LaVyrle, who has since retired from writing, would have written his story.

And then there's my all-time favorite tortured hero. John Tregarth, aka John Smythe, in Night Train to Memphis by Elizabeth Peters. Since it is told in first-person, from Vicky's point of view, you don't learn exactly how much pain John's in until halfway through the book. And then part of the pleasure is going back and re-reading that beginning, so you can catch all of the little hints and subtleties that Peters puts in there. The book's not a romance; it's shelved in the mystery section, but it's so much more romantic than many of the in-your-face books I've read. It's the perfect example of less is more.

So, who are some of your favorite tortured heroes in book, film or television?

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