Torturing Your Reader with Julie Lessman

by | Aug 31, 2010 | Fiction Book Reviews | 8 comments

LOL…actually, I didn’t ask Julie’s permission at all to write this, but wanted to fill you guys in. I just finished her new novel, A Hope Undaunted – first in the Winds of Change series, and let me tell you this much:

It was excruciatingly beautiful. (how’s that for a description)

I will write a ‘formal’ review later, but I wanted to just chat about torturing your reader, by torturing your characters. I’m afraid I have a lot to learn in this category, but Julie does is beautifully. My insides were shaking with anticipation by the end of the novel. She didn’t disappoint in the reward, though, so keep that in mind.

Why do we like to read books where the characters (and inevitably the readers) are put through agony? I think it’s because we are a ‘feeling’ people and WANT to feel emotions in an intense and empathetic sort of way. It’s another form of escape.

And there seems to be a formula for doing this in writing.

Make the character really, really want something.

And don’t give it to them.

Actually, you might even want to give them the opposite.

It comes down to something as simple as the old Road Runner and Coyote cartoons. Coyote WANTS Road Runner, and we almost think he’s going to get him, but….he never does. So we keep watching for the next time, because just maybe he’ll catch Road Runner. Nope.

It’s the chase. The uncertainty. The longing.

Oh my, and Julie did it fabulously. I HAD to finish the book. HAD to.

So, make a list. What type of torture can you blast your characters with? What do they want more than anything? Can you take it away? How will they survive?

In inspirational fiction, THAT is the moment where the only true answer (the only TRUE need) comes into play. When we have ‘nothing’, then we realize in our spirits we truly have everything.

Don’t you think that if God didn’t even spare His OWN SON for us, that He’ll take care of us. I love helping my characters learn that because each time it’s a new revelation to me. A new beautiful reminder.


I need to really know my characters, so I can get to the heart of how to make them weep. How are you torturing the characters in your wip? Or if you’re reading a book, how are the characters being tortured?


  1. Julie Lessman

    Ah, Pep … “torturing your characters … a favorite subject of mine, my friend!! 🙂

    THANK YOU, sweetie, not only for devouring my book (you can read what I thought of you doing that on my Journal Jots today at Julie’s Journal Jots ), BUT for your kind words in your blog today!!! I am in hog heaven that you liked it, so THANK YOU, girl!!


    • pepperbasham

      Great journal for the day, Jules.
      I so appreciate the meal. Truly – and as I just wrote to Renee, I even had it for a morning snack on the way to work 😉

  2. Renee

    Yeah I finished A Hope Undaunted last night so I totally know what you’re talking about as far as torturing goes LOL! I was REALLY worried for a while when I was reading it but it all turned out so nice! It’s my favorite book too date!

    XOXO~ Renee

    • pepperbasham

      I don’t want to give anything away on my comments, but I ‘almost’ thought we were going to end up with a very different couple at the end of the book. Julie was dangling us, wasn’t she?
      She is so daggone good at that.
      Btw, I reread the final chapter at stoplights on my way to work this morning 😉

  3. Renee

    Yes I know!!!!! I actually thought there were going to be 2 very different couples! Talk about stress and tension, Julie sure knows how to do it!

    And it’s funny, I totally re-read that last chapter too. 😉

    XOXO~ Renee

  4. Casey

    EVERYONE is going to have read that book before I get my hands on it! I seriously cannot wait another minute, but I am afraid I am going to have to. Thanks for sharing Pep, though I am afraid you just made my life more miserable.

  5. Regina Merrick

    OK, yet another book to add to my pile!! LOL I love the subject of torturing characters – but I have such a hard time DOING it! I like them too much! LOL Thanks, Pepper. Making me THINK again!

  6. Susan Mason

    You lucky girl, Pepper! I’m still waiting for mine to come in the mail! Maybe in time for the long weekend. But then I’ll never get a thing done!

    Can’t wait to read it!!!

    As for torturing my characters, well, you’ve got me thinking now! My last two works had elements of torture, especially at the black moment, but probably not enough. Will have to devise new and devious ways to make them miserable!

    Have a great day!




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