Writing Hard Scenes

For the past several weeks I have agonized over one particular scene. It’s an important scene. Plot happens. Torture happens. Characters react in various ways to said torture, thus revealing more about who they are as people and making the book quite a bit more profound than it would have been otherwise. 

One problem. 

I don’t know how to torture someone. 

Honestly, there’s a part of me that’s quite annoyed at having researched proper torture techniques. I mean, who wants to know that stuff?

This scene was extremely difficult to write both because I didn’t know anything about torture and because I didn’t know how to properly convey someone being tortured. I almost tried scrap the scene, to just “fade to black” and let the Reader’s imagine what was going on, then come back later during the rescue. 

But I couldn’t do that because the scene really does reveal more about the relationship between our hero and the antagonist. It shows how far both are willing to go to get what they want.

And I knew that if I scrapped it, I would be cheating myself out of a growth moment as a writer.

Writing the hard scenes is what helps challenge us as writers.

Yes, we need editors to help us do that too. Yes, we need to read books that help us grasp story structure and characterization.

But we also need to face those scenes that frighten us because it is only through those scenes or genres or points of view that we can truly take ownership of our craft.


I wrote a torture scene.

It took me several weeks and I cringed while I was doing it, but I know (and the Readers will know) just who these two people are because of it.  

6 thoughts on “Writing Hard Scenes

  1. I’m also having a difficult time writing a scene, except it’s not about torture, its about imprisonment (I guess they’re related). I would love to know how you wrote it, and especially how you approached the scene itself (I don’t mean research, I mean the rest of your process). Was the scene mostly dialogue? Was there a lot of movement or did it all take place in one room?

    1. Oh, goodness. Well, I just held tight to my character. There wasn’t much movement because it all took place in one room. I’ll admit that there was some dialogue but it’s not the majority of the scene. Most of the scene is focused inward as the point of view character is dealing with it.

  2. I know what you mean about writing hard scenes. I push through it, too, but my problem is that readers can totally tell when I’m not comfortable writing something, so pushing through it might not be the best method for me hahaha

    1. I imagine readers might be able to see me squirming in the background — especially the readers who know me personally. Writing-wise I hope it works … Hope being the operative word.

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