Blood flowed down the wounds on my forehead, leaking through my eyelids. I blinked furiously, but the blood remained. Still, I kept my composure, my eyes fixed on my torturer.
“Do you know why I like you?” Miguel asked, running his knife down my neck.
A burning sensation spread from the point of the knife, my body hardly responding to the pain. Instead of answering, I spat out the blood trickling down my mouth.
A small splattering of blood spread across Miguel’s face, but he merely smiled.
A shiver shot through my spine, shaking me more than the knife wounds. No man should enjoy this.
“That’s exactly right,” he said. “It’s because of your spirit. I can push as hard as I want, and I know you won’t give in.”
Stoic tears welled up within me, clearing my vision enough to see the details of Miguel’s face. His eyes were alive with delight, changing from black to blue to white in a matter of seconds.
“That’s not why you like me,” I whispered so the guards behind Miguel, Beardy and Torchy, couldn’t hear.
Miguel frowned. “No? Tell me then.”
I shook my head, blinking out the last of the blood. My wounds had already sealed themselves.
For the first time in months, Miguel seemed agitated as he sliced my forehead open yet again. “You’re adding to the game,” he snarled. “It’s just one more secret I can rip out of you.”
“There’s nothing you haven’t tried already,” I said, coughing from the streams of blood. “You won’t break me.”
I lost sight of the room as blood overtook my face. When Miguel spoke again, it was with a thinly controlled voice.
“All you have to do is answer, and you can finally die in peace. Why do you resist?’
I spat again, this time only managing to dribble on myself. My neck was held in place by a collar, separate chains restraining both arms and legs.
“Surely everyone you care about is gone,” he reasoned. “There’s no point in remaining.”
My eyes clear once more, I met his gaze evenly. “You’re right.”
Miguel merely nodded, his eyes softening in understanding. “I know. So why do you resist?”
I thought for a moment before answering. “You see yourself in me.”
Miguel frowned again, unconsciously running his thumb up and down the blade of his knife. “What?”
“Unlike you new-bloods, I’ve seen enough of this world to understand,” I said. “You see yourself in me. It’s you who are hurting. You who’s powerless. Not me.”
Miguel immediately stopped running his thumb down the blade, his pale eyes burning with hatred when he suddenly dropped his knife and screamed.
Both the guards leaped forward with their blades drawn, looking baffled as they searched for the source of Miguel’s pain.
Miguel doubled over, his arms clasped against his stomach. “Something’s wrong,” he whimpered.
I looked on in shock, not understanding what was happening until Miguel collapsed to the floor, conscious, yet convulsing violently. My heart raced in fear.
“What did you do to him?” Beardy asked, standing an arms-length away despite the chains.
“Nothing,” I whispered, “someone else is doing this to him.”
Torchy shoved the torch in my face. “Shut your mouth with that nonsense. Tell us what you did!”
“Wait for him to stop,” I said calmly, barely managing to mask my terror.
“You don’t give the—“
“I told you to wait,” I barked, silencing the guards.
Suddenly, Miguel stopped convulsing, his body going still.
“He alive,” I said, “give him some room.”
Both of the guards stepped back as they watched Miguel’s motionless body. Then, finally, he moved.
The guards sighed out of relief as Miguel slowly got to his feet. His hands shook as he bent down for his knife, his eyes wide with shock. They had settled on a light brown hue.
Still shaking, his knuckles white against the grip of his blade, he eventually looked me in the eyes. “She took my dragon.”
My breath quickened, anxiety threatening to overwhelm me. “Who was she?”
Miguel steadied himself, taking slow deep breaths. “I only saw for a moment… there were multiple.”
Miguel nodded, grinding his teeth.
My heart sank. “It’s her.”
“Serenity?” he asked, his face twitching. “I didn’t realize…”
“That’s not her name,” I said, fighting to hide my despair. “How many did she have?”
Miguel shook his head, his eyes distant. “She took Geleo. So three now, maybe four.”
“I’d bet more,” I said, suddenly seeing my opportunity. The guards were still standing directly behind Miguel, their uncertainty plain on their faces. Still, this was my only chance. “However many she has, she’s bringing them here.”
Miguel eyed me, his jaw working furiously. “How do you know?”
“I know her better than anyone,” I said, trying to steady my breathing. “If she has your dragon, then it’s because she’s on her way here to destroy the city.”
Miguel frowned. “Why would she? No. Take it, maybe. But not destroy it. Maybe if I play my cards right…”
I eyed the guards, watching their expressions. They had already moved away from Miguel to whisper to each other.
“There’s no negotiating with her,” I said. “Surely you’ve heard that much.”
“I’ve heard she leaves most everyone alive.”
“Not the government,” I whispered. “Not the ones in charge. She’ll kill every last one of you for your crimes.”
“And not you?” Miguel asked, his eyes alight with interest.
I looked away, setting my jaw. “No, she’d kill me too.”
Miguel stepped closer, setting his knife against my throat. “Unless…”
I allowed myself a smile as I returned his gaze. “Unless we escape,” I whispered.
“And why not just escape by myself?” He whispered back. “Leave the city to its own devices.”
“You could,” I said, “and you might live. But you’d still be without a dragon.”
Miguel’s eyes widened, his knife dragging against my scalp. “Or…”
“I could give you mine,” I whispered. “Just get me out of here.”
Miguel took a step back, his eyes calculating. He was still shaking from the shock of losing his Bond, his pain fresh.
“I’ll think about it,” he said finally.
“There’s no time,” I said, my voice raised, unable to keep the fear at bay. “We need to leave now.”
“What’s this about leaving?” Torchy said, shoving the torch near my face.
Suddenly, Miguel slashed his knife across Torchy’s neck. The torch immediately fell from his hand, casting the dungeon into near-darkness just as Miguel spun and plunged the knife into Beardy’s stomach.
Both collapsed to the ground gasping for air, their fallen swords clanging against the stone.
After a moment, Miguel eventually picked up the torch along with the keys. “I guess you have my answer,” he said, his voice eerily calm. “Let’s go.”
There are many advantages and disadvantages to storytelling with different mediums, but due to the nature of this blog, I’m going to primarily stick with discussing the topic in the context of books.
The magic of novels is that they allow the reader to engage in the story. They watch movies. They listen to music. They engage in books.
This means that as writers, we must know how to help the reader engage in the story. This primarily is done by knowing how much detail to give in order for the reader to adequately fill in the rest. To do this, we must understand how to engage the creativity of the reader’s mind.
I’ll discuss different aspects of this principle at later times. In this Chapter, we’re going to look at the character.
Readers naturally identify themselves with the main character of the chapter. This is due to several psychological factors, but also because the writer does everything they can to help this process along.
Main characters tend to be more vague in description so that the reader can more easily place themselves in their shoes. They also tend to be more likable and less alienating than other characters to ensure that we don’t disassociate ourselves from the main character. For example, if the main character hated ice cream, we might be more likely to either consciously or sub-consciously think, pshhh, I don’t get this guy at all.
There are notable exceptions to this. I.e. Sherlock Holmes type characters. In that type of story, the main character is assumed to be Sherlock Holmes, but he is anything but a typical main character. In this case, the writers typically place us in the shoes of Watson instead to, in most cases, allow us the experience of watching Sherlock and solving the crime with him. In this case, Watson is the typical main character that we identify with. Regardless, you get the picture.
So what else do we do to help the reader engage in the story? Write realistically.
Write so the reader feels what the character feels. Hears what the character hears. Thinks what the character thinks.
Something happens. You describe it. What does it look like? what does it smell like? Etc.
The Character reacts. And you describe their reactions. But it HAS to be in this order:
Feeling. Instinct. Thought. action.
And then you repeat the process.
You don’t have to show all four of these every time something happens, but you should be showing at least one in response to every. single. thing. that happens. And the more intense the event, the more of the character’s reaction you should describe.
The cat meowed. Jake, feeling whimsical, meowed back to see how the cat would react.
In this case, I showed feeling and action.
More intense Example:
The cat clawed Jake’s face. His face burned in agony as the claws dug into his skin. Fighting the urge to throw the cat off the couch, Jake ran to the sink to splash water on his face.
In this case, I spent more time on the feeling, showed the instinct to fight, the decision to not fight, and the action of going to the sink.
Following this principle, your characters become more real, as they respond in the same way we do in real life. Anything less and they become less real to us as the readers. So just remember, if you want to make your characters feel real; Cat. Cry. Repeat.