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Monday, May 23, 2016

Writing About: A Hostage

NOTE: This post describes things for a character whose perspective readers experience. Some of these things won't qualify for a character whose POV we aren’t in. For example: your MC is a detective and is searching for the kidnapped person.

When a person is taken hostage, they go through physical and mental welfare. Before we get into that, though, a few things need to be made clear such as who is being taken hostage (the MC or a major character whose perspective we can experience), and who the hostage taker is even if his/her name isn’t known. You can mention a few distinct facial features (crooked nose, bushy eyebrows) or body traits (wide shoulders).

You can hint at why your character was kidnapped before he/she is taken, such as signs of a stalker or threats. After your character is taken hostage, you can let him/her piece together the “why” on their own, or you can have the hostage taker reveal it to them.

The final thing you need to mention is where your character is when he/she is snatched. At home? Walking to school? In the park at sundown? Along with this is how he/she is grabbed. (Hit in the back of the head, thrown into the back of a vehicle.)

Now let’s go a little deeper:

1. Physical Pain

Usually when someone is a hostage they are tortured in some way and the level can range from punches to deformity. It can really get scary and morbid. Think: Criminal Minds. Of course you don’t have to go that far, but if your character tries to escape at all, he/she will get hurt in some fashion.

If your character does get a wound (stab/gunshot) or injury (broken bone) make sure to do your research so you can make it realistic. Your character will be disabled in some way from such a wound, and in pain. You have to describe that pain so your readers can feel it, too. You also need to keep all of their injuries in mind in whatever else he/she does. And you have to know what will happen to the wound as well as your character as time goes on. I cannot stress the importance of this. Research hard and research a lot!

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2. Mental Pain

Someone who is held hostage goes through as much (or even more) mental trauma than physical trauma. Being locked in a cramped, dark space can really play on a person’s mind. They will be left alone most of the time with only their thoughts to keep them company. They will be terrified of the hostage taker and scared for their life. This fear can really do a number on a person’s mental state.

If he/she is losing blood or gets an infection, hallucinations can be possible. And if he/she escapes or is rescued, they will surely experience PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) that could include nightmares, anxiety, depression, and more. It could take months, even years, until he/she can live normally again. Most likely he/she would have to get medical and psychological help to get better.

Writing about a hostage situation takes a lot of research. You also have to be willing to put your mind into a dark place. What would you do if you were your character? How would you feel in this situation, and how do you think you’d heal?

QUESTION: What hostage movie(s)/book(s) do you like?


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