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Guide: Writing a torture scene

Who doesn’t like a good torture scene, am I right? This is a guide that will help you write a believable torture scene for your character as well as some general ideas for possible scenes that you can use.

 Disclaimer: This is not from actual experience or anything like that, I just really like t.v, books, and movies with darker plots.

General Tips:

  • When you are setting up your torture scene its important that you don’t make it stereotypical or cheesy. As simple as that sounds it can actually be quite difficult to stray from the typical torture scene in those old horror movies or scenes shown from your favorite movie.
  • Why is your character torturing somebody? Is it for information? Is it for a just cause? Or is it just a sick way of entertainment for your character. Make sure it is in character for your character to be doing this. I have seen many people twist their characters personality in order to fit the situation. If they wouldn’t do it, then it shouldn’t happen.
  • Godmoding can be an issue if the para is with another person. Make sure you work out the details of the scene before you begin. It can be very easy to godmode in these scenes and trust me just try and avoid it.
  • You need to consider how this event will influence your character. Torture is no small thing and unless it is a normal activity for your character there should be psychological repercussions especially guilt. 
  • Where is your character doing the torture, setting can mean a lot in these situations.
  • Is this premeditated or just on a whim?

Types of Torture

  • Physical Torture: Well this one is an obvious one but this would typically be what you think of when some one says torture. This includes any sort of physical harm in order to bring pain to some one by using means of injury to the physical body. Some types of physical torture would include; electric shock, cutting, burning, injections, ect.
  • Emotional Torture: This is a less thought of form of torture but it can be a very effective way to create a dynamic and interesting torture scene. While physical torture is painful it is not always productive especially when dealing with some one who is trained. Emotional torture is a way to break somebody mentally such as threatening loved ones or exposing them to their greatest fears.

How to Write a Torture Scene:

When writing a torture scene its important to use good descriptive words to really get your point across. For self para’s describe the victim vividly so that your reader really gets the picture. For example’s I will be using my own writing, some of which have characters who have “super powers” but I think you will get the point.
To describe the victim you need to do know what type of torture and what is being done by your character. This is more so for physical torture but there are also some abstract things you can describe for emotional torture. So a description should look something like this:

Face white and blistering, eyelids swollen nearly shut, hair falling from the front of his forehead in thin clusters, the victim of experiment stumbled blindly around the room both hands frantically waving in front of him. His cries came from deep within his chest, rabid animal sounds that twisted into raspy moans by the time they left his cracking lips. He tried to say something, but it came out as nothing but a guttural bark” 

You really can’t be too descriptive when it comes to things like this. The more visual image you can give, the better your piece will turn out. You also need to figure out your own characters body language. Are they nervous or confident? Shaking or steady? This all depends on your characters personality and how experienced they are. For instance

Emotionless expressions frozen on their faces, they circled around their experiment like predators hunting down their prey. The man coughed violently sending a thin spray of crimson blood onto the clean white tile.”

The men in this torture scene obviously have done this before, you can tell through the expressions on their faces and how their body movements suggest an animal like quality. Now for some one less experienced they may come across shaky and have little patient. They would most likely be sweating and agitated. For instance

“The knife shook violently in his hand as he approached his victim, his lip quivering with anticipation. He stared blankly at his victim, the girl’s face smeared with dirt and blood. She looked up at him, begging and pleading so much so, he could not handle it anymore “Shut up! Just shut up” dropping the knife he cursed and looked at her with rage “Look what you made me do!”

How your character acts when presented with the situation also determines how they will act later on. For example the men in the second example would most likely not feel any guilt for what they did while as the man in the third example would probably grieve for his victim after the initial high ends. For torture that does not end in death, the cycle would be quite similar.

Emotional torture would be presented differently, giving writing examples for this is harder because there are many different forms of emotional torture so I will just list some examples:

  • Threatening a loved one or physically kidnapping and torturing said person.
  • A mix of drugs and psychological torture
  • Fears/phobias
  • Enclosing in a dark space for long periods of time
  • Paranoia
  • Sleep Deprivation

Examples of Physical torture would include:

  • Burning: There are several forms of burn torture from cigarette burns to actually causing severe tissue damage. Burning often suggests passion or lust for something.
  • Cutting: One of my characters enjoys using a knife, this can be quite painful if used correctly. Creating small cuts all over the body if pretty effective. Using a knife suggests a need for control.
  • Electric Shock: Again quite effective and painful, although electricity is one of the more location specific tortures. It really just depends where you are and what resources you have. Electricity would most likely have to be premeditated.
  • Drugs: Injecting drugs into some one’s blood stream can be very painful and not always deadly. This requires a knowledge and access to drugs.

I get to write a torture scene :-)

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