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On Writing: Punish the Main Character

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.

On Writing: Punish the Main Character


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.

  • 7 out of 100 US veterans have PTSD.

  • 50% of US Military are injured (mild or severe) each year.

  • 1009 US soldiers died in 2021.

Combat causes trauma.


Characters tend to be more likable if/when they are injured, again 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, a release from their horrible situation, the end state of an action-packed novel.


I started writing during as I descended into chronic illness as an escape and a way of coping with pain, fatigue, and loss of my prior over-achieving self. Writing characters that dealt with worse circumstances than I did made my challenges seem lesser, more manageable.

DAY AFTER INFINITY, I wrote about:

  • A man with ultra-fast healing,

  • People could live forever,

  • An AI with worse thoughts than mine,

  • A ridiculously healthy person suffered more than me, and

  • A journey where he loses himself.

I, NANO, I wrote about:

  • Similar healing nanites,

  • A glitchy mind/AI in his head,

  • The dream of having superpowers, and

  • A guy who would suffer anything for his friends.

METAL, I wrote about:

  • A veteran who was injured in the Armed Forces,

  • A world falling apart out of his control,

  • Dealing with who he was in the rapidly changing environment, and

  • A scientist like me who had to deal with it all.


People who like my books, like my books, which gives me a sense of pride. While writing for me is important (as I said above), providing a service for others is rewarding. I cater my writing (often downplaying the main character's suffering) so people can enjoy it too, a shared bond with my readers, a connection beyond my immediate circle.


Some of my favorite movies involve pain in one way or another. There is a long history of main characters enduring despite it all. For example:

  • Die Hard: John McClane walks across broken glass with bare feet.

  • Frodo Baggins: Walks into Mordor with a heavy burden after suffering great loss, far tougher than an average hobbit.

  • Deadpool & Wolverine: They're constantly wounded and even die, only to return.

  • Empire Strikes Back: After being attacked by a Yeti and nearly freezing to death, Luke learns the twisted truth about his father and loses his hand.

  • The Road, The Walking Dead, Mad Max, and on and on...

In the end, I like to write this way, and that's it. I hope you enjoy.


As always, I appreciate your support of indie authors. In the name of putting myself out there, here are a few of my works.

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