Christianity and Literary Torture Scenes
I am a Christian, as I stated before in my sister blog post: Christianity and Literary Sex Scenes. I was raised to believe in doing what is right, and to distinguish that which is right from wrong. I do not condone the torture of any living persons or animals of any kind. With that being said, I want to make you aware that as an author, you are essentially the Creator of your world. As the Creator, you have a say in what goes into your universe. You can choose to not have violence or torture of any kind, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, in my world, The Vincent Series, there is a great evil and lesser evils that live throughout. Vincent and Jeebs often face these evils, and eventually, torture does come into play.
There are two reasons why I write torture scenes.
- When a character is tortured, they are brought down to a very venerable level. There is a saying that comes to mind, you cannot experience the highest of highs if you do not experience the lowest of lows. When a character is venerable, you can reveal their true nature.
- After their true nature is revealed the reader can experience how the character overcomes such a difficult time in his or her life.
People relate to sadness, but overall they want to know that they can triumph over that sadness. If a character can overcome that horrific event. If they can still grow and succeed in living a happy life, then maybe we can overcome our own worldly problems.
This leaves the question: How can I as a Christian write a torture scene and not feel guilty?
The best scenes are the scenes that are left to the reader’s imagination. When I was in college, I wrote a Short Film script called Enthusiastic Intern. The script involved two characters, one a female, the other a male. The male was a student who recently passed his CPR/ Rescuer training and was enthusiastic to use his skills. He grew impatient and decided to spread skittles and marbles on a jogging path in order to treat those who had fallen.
During the middle of the short film, a woman trips and he goes to her aid. Underneath his normal clothes, he is wearing a full set of scrubs and goes to work on the woman’s sprained ankle. She doesn’t want his help, but he insists by quoting from the medical manual. “If a patient is unconscious, then the caretaker can provide medical assistance under the Complied Consent Rule.” He proceeds to knock the woman out with the rulebook and she falls off-screen.
The next shot consisted of just the “Doctor’s” upper half with the woman just out of shot underneath him. The man then begins to pull out saws, hammers, medical supplies, a straitjacket, etc. In the end, the woman looks very comically wrapped in gauze, and a variety of bandages, including the straitjacket. The point is, I did not show the woman, I left it up to the reader’s imagination to fill-in-the-blanks. These techniques also apply to Literary Torture Scenes.
This next part contains SPOILERS
(In Vincent the Quest for light, Vincent James Aralias, a 100-year-old vampire, perpetually stuck in his 30s searches for the cure to walk in the daylight. He returns to his home and finds that he cannot keep the truth from Rodolfo, Leader of the South American Vampire Clan (Quetzalcoatl). Vincent doesn’t want the gift to walk in the light to fall into the wrong hands so he lies about having it, and that costs him his freedom.)
Below I am going to give you two examples of torture scenes, one implied and the other a little more written.
There were never less than three vampires monitoring me at all times. They traded shifts keeping me awake and constantly prodded me for answers. Rodolfo was smart. He already knew that I was no longer just a vampire, but he needed proof. I found out a few things about myself during those long weeks. I learned that I had a great resolve for torture. I also came to the understanding that the ingestion of dead coagulated blood mixed with an injected dose of silver nitrate made me very ill. It was only by the end of the fourth, or maybe the fifth week, that I was beginning to think that no matter what they did. No matter how much I wished it all to end. I couldn’t die.
Rodolfo’s frustrations only made it worse. He instructed his guards to hold me down and pry open my mouth. My fangs rejected their action but they were useless and I was too weak to fight them. Rodolfo asked me his barrage of questions one last time. “What really happened in Tibet? Were you successful in obtaining the light cure? Are you a Talduel?”
I pulled against my restraints. I had stopped talking altogether two or three days ago. Rodolfo was not amused. The vampire behind me pulled my head back and pried open my mouth with some type of metal crank. I had seen a similar device used at a dentist office. I couldn’t remember the name, but it sure did as it was designed to do.
I couldn’t shut my mouth. Rodolfo poured three cups full of dead blood down my throat. It was thick. I felt the need to purge my stomach. The guard removed the metal crank and gagged my mouth preventing me from doing so. The room was spinning as the blood worked its toxic magic. Rodolfo’s voice burned my ears and the light overhead stung my eyes. I viewed the world through a blurred haze for the next few days.
I implied the long hall of the torture, as you can see above. This allowed the story to move forward where my character as in a venerable state without adding too much horrific detail. Rodolfo wants information, and Vincent won’t give it to him. Essentially, this is a push and pull type of scene. This is where Vincent is weakened but not broken fully. That is why later in the book I followed up with a more in-depth torture scene. However, you could have your character break with just an in-plied method. Unfortunately, my book called for more, and because I was open the needs of my character and the plot I didn’t feel guilty writing the deeper scenes.
More in-depth torture scene:
The door was left open only to allow Rodolfo admittance. He held a staff in one hand and walked halfway to me. “So, it is true.” He remarked. “You bear the light cure.”
I kept quiet.
“How did you accomplish this?”
I watched him and the metal staff in his hand.
He snickered at his thought. “How did a spoiled brat like you get such power?”
I spat the remaining blood from my mouth and shifted my weight trying to anticipate his next move.
“No matter.” He stepped to one side walking only a few feet from me. I cursed that he was just out of reach. “The point is.” He swung his staff high bringing it down on my back.
“Ah!” I fell to the floor. My back popped and a few of my ribs cracked. I coughed and slowly got back to my knees as one of my ribs snapped back into place. An odd sensation crawled over my skin but I ignored it.
“You lied to us.” He continued and brought the bar back down on me again. I grunted against the incredible blow. “You lied to your family.” I tried to get back to my knees. I was barely able to lift my shoulders when he struck me again. “You swore an oath to your Clan.” He walked around me and hit my back a fourth time. “And you failed them.” Then a fifth.
My broken bones began to mend themselves back into place. It was a slow grueling process. My heart raced and skipped as my ribs shattered and reformed. I then noted a new sensation. My skin was crawling again just under the surface. It was spreading throughout my body. My skin was burning and my blood was boiling. I couldn’t move. Rodolfo was behind me and brought the bar around to the front of my neck. He pulled back on my throat, crushing my vocal cords.
He continued to pull until I could see him over me. My spine was bent unnaturally backward compressing my bones. My arms were still bound preventing me from reaching the bar at my throat. My lower back was broken and I could not move my legs. Rodolfo leaned over me grinding the bar until I bit my tongue. Breathing was near impossible. He wanted me to see his face and pressed harder if I shut my eyes. He commanded me to open them and I obeyed.
I used dialogue to break up the different acts of pain. The dialogue in itself can be used to humble your characters as well as break up lengthy action scenes. When I wrote this scene it was a little different than the implied scene. I actually had two different characters with two different motives. Rodolfo is a traditional vampire and Vincent upset his beliefs. So, not only did
Rodolfo wants answers from Vincent, he also wanted to let him know that this was personal. The scene goes a little more in-depth, but I don’t want to spoil the book for you. Rodolfo was essentially scared of change and Vincent represented the biggest change of them all. He brings Vincent to his breaking point and that fuels the desires, or lack of desires, in Vincent leading into book two.
Writing a scene whether it consists of Sex, Torture or other immoral acts should only be placed in a book if it drives the plot. We as Christians don’t have to feel guilty creating a great story. Often our characters won’t share the same moral beliefs as we do, but we can write with integrity. We can imply and set up events in a tasteful way. We don’t need to write porn or a snuff scene. We can show horrors through conversation, or memory. We can apply actions that allude to further horrors. Just remember, write what makes you comfortable.
Nothing is set in stone. You can show evil without being evil. The ability to tap into imagination and build worlds is what makes a writer great, not the amount of visual blood you throw down on a page. Make motives clear, build upon sensations, surrounding factors, and revise until you have something to work with. Always keep pressing forward, you can do anything you set your mind to. Keep writing!