When you have to bring the curtain down

Welcome back to another blog hop, with #OpenBook. Here’s this week’s prompt.

How do you feel about killing off one of your major characters?

As I was writing, I knew it was coming. Then it arrived. This was the bit that I was dreading.

A while ago, I had created a character, fashioned her out of nowhere. I gave her a mind, a personality, she was like a friend as we adventured together with the rest of the cast.

As her story developed, I came to realise that she was fated to die, in order for what came next to have any real meaning. Her passing would give purpose to another character’s life, make him who he was supposed to be.

I agonised about her impending demise; how would I fashion it? Now that I knew her better, I didn’t want her to suffer, didn’t want a long, drawn-out scene with tears and angst. I knew that it would make me well up to write it, even the thought was enough to get me started.

I put it off for as long as I could, left a blank page in the document and wrote around it.

But it had to be, I think (hope) that on the day, she was blissfully unaware of what was to come. In the end, the story decided how it would happen. She placed her trust in another character to keep her safe. He based his decisions on incomplete information with the inevitable consequences. I honestly don’t know which one of us was more upset, him for putting her in danger or me as I wrote it all down. Of course, through his guilt and despair at being unable to save her and the self-loathing he felt as he blamed himself, a new man was forged.

He went on to have more adventures but his life was never the same. There was always a hole in it, which is how it should be when you lose someone important.

As you can see from what I have written above,

the simple answer to the prompt is yes. For me, It’s a terrible feeling. To all intents and purposes, the characters that populate my worlds are real. They share their lives with me and I tell you all about them. However you view my creative process, I am omnipotent in it, I have the power. And with that comes responsibility. I don’t go around slaughtering them on a whim, whether they are the hero or one of the supporting cast, the life of each one is special to me, for the reasons I’ve given. The passing of each is a source of pain, even if they only had one thing to do, even if they only occupied a page, it was important to the plot, or I would not have brought them into being.

And, having done that, it’s hard to just dispose of them.

I’ve tried other ways of removing characters from the action, by either ignoring them once their job is done; or by having them escape to live another day. It doesn’t work. Sometimes you have to do the deed, as painful as it is.

All I can do is offer them rebirth in a story of their own; set in the days when they still had breath in their bodies.

Over to you, fellow authors, let me know how you deal with this. Please leave your thoughts in the comments, then make sure that you check out the rest of the great blogs on this hop.

Just follow this link.



14 Responses

  1. Stevie Turner

    I too don’t like killing off characters, and tend not to do this nowadays. As an agent once told me, I think that readers like to follow a character’s journey through a novel and see a resolution to their problems, not death.

    • Richard Dee

      I agree; although I think that for realism, occasionally it needs to happen. After all, if I’m writing about crime there’s bound to be the odd body. It doesn’t mean that I enjoy doing it.

    • Richard Dee

      Thank you so much for offering to do that for everyone.
      I have sent you an email.

  2. Phil Huston

    Odd body indeed. John D McDonald killed off McGee’s girlfriends with abandon. Gave him a lot of sociological/cultural gender rambling time. You always got an adventure, a couple of bodies, and a world according to JDM philosophy lesson. In my post is I found a way around the major character, but I’m not afraid to kill off second billing if it comes to it, or a lead (or two) in the driving sub-plot characters.

    • Richard Dee

      I’m no fan of the formulaic, Phil. Ultimately I’ll do whatever it takes to move my story along. If it means that someone has to go, although it causes me angst (see above), I accept the sacrifice for the good of the plot. It doesn’t mean I have to enjoy it. In the case I mentioned, after a while, I could see that it had been the right thing to do. ANd I found a way to allow a part of the character to live on, which was a bonus (spoiler alert).

  3. P.J. MacLayne

    The James Bond books were quite happy to kill off any and all of his love interests. After awhile, it didn’t seem to serve a purpose. In fact, because it was anticipated, it lost its impact.

    • Richard Dee

      To be worthwhile, not only must a death advance the plot; it also has to come from left field. Which means that no-one can be safe. Inventing characters and giving them red shirts is not for me.

  4. Roberta Eaton Cheadle

    Another fascinating post, Richard. I definitely don’t have such emotional feelings towards my characters. Maybe I will never be very good at writing if I can’t get the emotionally involved with my characters, as this is a common trend among writers, but then I don’t get that emotionally involved with real people either.

    • Richard Dee

      Thank you for commenting. As an introvert, I get where you’re coming from. My characters are real to me, now they have appeared in my life, I feel responsible for their welfare. I share their triumph and despair, if I can see that they are coming to the end of their journey, I feel the pain of the knowledge, even if they haven’t sensed it.

  5. Lela Markham

    I don’t like killing characters either, but they’ve usually already “died” by the time I write it. They stop talking to me. If I can send them away to a deserted island or an off-screen adventure, great, but my major characters are hard to do that with and not have people notice. I definitely don’t want to be that writer who just completely forgot a pivotal serial character for an entire book. Anyone who has read the Song of Ice and Fire knows that feeling of wondering “Where the heck is Tyrion?” for an entire book. I almost stopped reading at that point. I’m NOT doing that to my readers.

    • Richard Dee

      I know what you mean, characters in my books are either in or out. In can mean being unseen but still involved, but they should never be invisible.

  6. Amy Miller

    “He went on to have more adventures but his life was never the same. There was always a hole in it, which is how it should be when you lose someone important.”

    Yes! I love that bit. Deaths should serve a purpose when they happen. Also, I am quite attached to my characters, even the ones just passing through. I want to keep adventuring with them. Well, I want to get tagging along.

    • Richard Dee

      Like the pieces of a perfectly designed machine, all of my cast are important to the functioning of the novel. It wouldn’t be the same without the least one of them.

Comments are closed.