No matter what you think about self-censorship, I believe that it is very important to at least have thought about the issues and be able to provide a reason to back up your stance. Without overemphasizing the scope and reach of our work, we writers need to understand how our profession affects the people around us. Only from that understanding–that responsibility–can we make a truly educated choice regarding our work.
Research is, in the end, borrowing or reusing ideas for a different end goal. So, when perusing the dusty halls of human experience, remember to bring your notebook.
And everyone knows, a good villain is worth twice their body-weight in death rays.
BUT lo, there is a critical mass of character pain, after which you, dear author, will begin to look more and more like a sadistic bastard and the novel will become less and less enjoyable. You are drowning your plants in fertilizer.
Character pain sounds like a bad thing, and it is. Audiences don’t like it, writers don’t like writing it (the empathetic human beings among us, that is), but nothing could be more quintessential to high quality entertainment.