The other night I was watching a TV drama, Scorpion, a series about a group of geniuses working for the U.S. Government. In this episode, Walter (the lead, based on an actual person) and his team were working with a private space exploration company to repair one of its manned rockets. While Walter worked inside the rocket, the other team members worked in the mission control center. Somehow, the rocket was inadvertently launched with Walter aboard. Over the course of the one-hour drama Walter and the team had to overcome six problems in order to get him back alive. Each one was more complex and dangerous than the last. The final one required Walter to free-fall from the edge of space without a parachute.
This reminded me of a rule of thriller writing. And that rule is: you must be mean to your hero. I’m not saying you must dislike your main character. But, you must put your hero into multiple perilous situations with escalating danger as your story progresses.
Here are some reasons you should be mean to your hero: