Ahh, a tormented soul. Love them.
They fill my favorite books and movies. Angst in all forms. I love to write them. In my novel, A Human Element, coming out March 2012 our tortured hero loses loved ones through tragic circumstances and goes on to lead a life of abuse and self destruction. Can he be redeemed or redeem himself?
I loved the challenge of writing a tortured soul. I embraced it as my comfort zone. And perhaps that’s why we love the tortured hero. It forces us to step out of our safe world for just a bit and find comfort in the uncomfortable.
I love to see how much torment we can pile on a character, how lost they become, how near the brink of desperation they reach. And then either redeem them or let their demons take them. What is it that drives us to write tormented souls? In a way we must relate to their pain on some level and that brings out the flawed humanity in them that we all have.
What about you? Are there any tortured heroes you particularly love?
Some of my favorite (and obvious) tormented souls: Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights. Maximus from Gladiator. The English Patient from the movie of same name. Maxim de Winter from Rebecca (yes, I love Laurence Olivier). On a subtler note, Newland (Daniel Day Lewis) in Age of Innocence and Lewis in a totally different role as fierce Hawkeye in Last of the Mohicans. Let’s not forget the ladies, more recently with Maggie in the tragic and sad Million Dollar Baby.
And I love tormented Tristan in Legends of the Fall. A massive beautiful movie, fraught with tragedy and wonder. Add the grand landscape of Big Sky Country and sad sweet music. In a way it’s a modern King Arthur tale of unrequited love, competition for love and a lot of fighting, in war and family.
Tristan is hopelessly flawed, breaking hearts and family apart with his demons. A wild child who is one with nature. Okay, he’s totally self-absorbed and thoughtless but he’s tormented. He just can’t help himself, right? As the old Indian family friend says, “He was the rock they broke themselves against”.
I love that. Have you ever done this at times in love or friendship? To the point where you lost yourself and had to break free or be dragged down? Or have you been the rock? Have the characters you write?
Okay, I admit that I am not a Pitt fan but his character got me in this movie. It may promote the cliche that women prefer jerks, but hey – aren’t some redeemable? Apparently not with Tristan. But you can understand Susannah’s attempts and years of trying to. She can’t help herself either.
Tristan’s demons never went away. They moved about inside him. He was always restless, seeking peace in self destruction over his part in his brother’s death. He could never find that peace until the bear lay sleeping inside him. He could only give in to love when the bear was dormant. When it awoke it was his master. He gave in to it in the end. He became the bear and in doing so found peace.
Watch the trailer again below, remember the sweeping epic of a wide open country and the beauty and darkness that comes from it. Feeling like I need to see the movie again…
Who’s one of YOUR favorite tormented characters? Tell me here and why!
Next week its back to the bad asses. We’re getting close to Halloween so a good bad ass is just what we need!
Stacy Green says
Tormented Tristan in Legends of the Fall is a good one. That was a great movie but hard to watch again. Was upsetting.
I’ll give an unusual one: The Vampire Lestat. Is there anyone more tormenting, trying to find out if he’s good or evil and work his way through the ages?
Kathryn Craft (@kcraftwriter) says
I also loved Legends of the Fall. One of my literary faves is cussing, drug-using teen runaway Josie Tyrell in Janet Fitch’s Paint It Back. I write about how Fitch bonds us to her here: