“There are two kinds of people who sit around all day thinking about killing people…mystery writers and serial killers. I’m the kind that pays better.”
― Richard Castle ―
I’m not a mystery writer, and I keep hoping not too many of my characters in my book will end up dead. Let’s say, the one or other tragic death is barely to avoid, but I’m working on it. Now, by thinking about it: as a fantasy writer I do have the chance to kill as many of the bad guys as I want; does that count too?
Above I purposely used the term “too many of MY characters…”. When I started to write my series I knew one main character. The more I worked on this woman, and with her, the more I got a liking of her. She is someone special. At first, I didn’t know exactly where she came from and who she is. By now I know her inside and out, and her complexity, stubbornness and unique good heart made me love her like a very, very good friend.
As I continued writing more and more characters showed up. I had the chance to work with them as well, develop them, know them better with each book and each one of them grew on me. I’m currently working on book seven and eight in the series, and unfortunately, I know one of the characters I love so much will have to die. I knew it two books ago already, but I tried to ‘sneak’ around it, well knowing that I’m trying to defer the inevitable death of one of my favorite characters. The question isn’t “who needs to die?” The question now is: “How is this character going to die?”
What am I supposed to do? Yes, of course, I can write about an unthinkable ferocity to kill my character. Would this be a nice thing to do to one of my favorites? Of course not. But I’m a writer, and I’m afraid death isn’t a nice and pretty issue, to begin with. I guess, the main thing at this moment will be that it matches the book and fits the story! In a moment like this I’m not supposed to be the protector of my characters but the writer who paints a story with words; a writer who works with the characters, the situations, the opponents, the protagonists and antagonists she created!
Does that make me feel any better? I’m afraid not. It’s heartbreaking to even think of my character gone. No matter how I’m going to manage it – wait… I should say, how the antagonist is going to kill my character, I’ll be heartbroken. I had so many plans with this particular character, and that’s how it will end? The answer is yes. Unfortunately, that’s how it is going to end. I have a pretty good idea of how the killing will happen.
But there is one thought I can barely get right of. It won’t be the cruelness of the antagonist, the torture, the pain, the sweat and blood, the hope to be saved in the last minutes; it won’t be the eerie laughter of the opponent, the sharply metal forged blade that will turn my character’s death into a horrible murder. No matter how horrifying and inhuman I create the antagonist, how cruel, how sadistic and incredibly gruesome it will be, the murderer of my character is going to be me.
Am I going to drown in guilt, cry in my pillow and drink my tears? We shouldn’t get overly dramatic here. I’m a writer, not a ten-year-old girl who accidentally broke her Barbie doll. I create worlds, existences, characters, protagonists, and antagonists, but most of all, I create gripping and exciting stories. And once in a while death goes with it.
I think that’s the only parallel from my stories to real life: death belongs to life. And sometimes, if we don’t get ‘rid’ of old stuff, how can we make room for something new?
It took me a while to decide which one of my characters will have to go. But I won’t sink into depression. I know, there’s room now for someone new.
How do you handle the killing of one of your characters? Do you feel like you lost someone you know? Or do you even belong to those who create the antagonist as your ex-partner and feel somehow a slight malicious glee to do what you couldn’t when you were still angry in real life? Let me hear your thoughts, I’m curious.