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A collection of snippets of the books I write and, occasionally, my life and the things that inspire my writing...

Friday, April 11, 2014

A to Z: K is for Killing off someone who counts (writing).

Writing: Kill Off Someone Who Counts. 

      The books are waiting, silently, patiently, in a file on my computer. When I glance at the file title, ATNS, I am reminded of where I am in book 3.

        I'd had a long stretch where I'd been unable to write. I knew why; I was about to kill off a character. It had taken me months to work up to it.  And after I'd finally written all of it except his final, tear-jerking breaths, I visited my mom, my biggest fan ( and extremely enthusiastic Alpha and Beta reader). 

     She used to grill me about my books when I'd visit. One conversation in particular, she dug in her heels about the plot of my third book.  After I told her who was going to die, she said, "Not him. No. Frabrand has been in the series since book one." (this was the third book). 

      I'd also introduced a new villain in this book, Admore. The guy's insane.  But as often happens with insane people, he doesn't know it. The reader is given enough information to figure it out though. He's obviously a sociopath, and possesses a split personality.  One of his personalities is meek--and borders pathetic.  The other is arrogant and evil. He bullies the meek personality--and all those around him. There's generous foreshadowing. This guy is going to cause pain, even tragedies, to the core characters.

     Mom was adamant; she wanted him killed off. Leave "Frabrand alone. He doesn't have to die."

     I said, "Mom, I know it would make you feel better, but for how long?"

     "I know. But I don't care. Leave Frabrand alone and kill off Admore. He's going to hurt good people."
      I sigh now, just recalling the conversation.  I understood mom's position. She was 80 years old and wanted the world to be right. Can't we live happily ever after?
     "Mom, when a writer kills off a bad character, especially a fairly new one, the reader feels the triumph...for fifteen minutes. And then it's done. Over."
      She sat nodding her head at me. 

     "But, when a writer takes out a character that the reader knows and loves, it's a deeply emotional experience--AND a long-lasting one."

      Her head was still nodding as she listened.

      "So, for maximum impact, it has to be a character we love.  And the mere fact that you don't want me to kill off Frabrand, and that you DO want me to kill off Admore, is confirmation that I'm on the right track."

      She didn't smile when she said, "I understand what you are saying. BUT, I want you to leave Frabrand alone, and kill off Admore."
      *smiling*  Oh, I miss her (biased) critiques.  And I miss her longing that everyone lives happily ever after.  Beyond this life, I hope she knows that in the end--and it will take four long novels to get there, they will--not quite like Cinderella and Prince Charming, but they will live happily ever after.

My biggest fan and me...  :-)

     How about you--when you write, do you struggle at all killing off characters? What's your plan for deciding who you kill off, and when, and why?

 Visit other April Blogging from A to Z Challenge by clicking here. 


  1. That's probably the idea behind Game of Thrones. Take out the important characters!

    1. Oh, Martin's brutal. I watch the series. Tonight, Geoffrey. I despised him. But I know...in short order, this will domino into someone I like dying in a horrific manner.

  2. You're so lucky you had your mom to talk to
    I've never killed a character cause my books aren't that dramatic.

    Oh wait I lie!! I killed the heroine in my historical short story!! how could I forget?

    but he death was necessary to the state of mind of the hero and what happens a century later

    I'm trying to do too much today and my head is fuzzy

    1. lol "Oh wait I lie!" Yes... lol. I tell on myself too. Thanks for weighing in, Susan. :-)

  3. I have real life stories as my templates, so it is only partly my decision which characters die in my novels: don't need to feel guilt but the sense of loss can be tough. Short stories are different- I write a lot of these for storytelling to children (ages approx 7-12) and they (the stories, not the kids) can kill off characters for fine moral reasons with almost a flourish. They are like cartoons: but even then the reverence for life is not absent.
    Love the dialogue between you and your Ma: she comes across with perfect clarity and vigour: no wonder you miss her so and have such a quandary taking a character out xx

    1. Lisa, that is so neat that you write stories for children! I didn't know that.

      Yeah, I miss my mom for a lot of reasons, but I have to say, of 8 children she had, I was the only one who wrote. My four sisters are prolific readers. Harlequin Romances like mom read. They passed them around and shared. :-) But what I did, I felt created a special bond between her and me. :-) Thanks for visiting, Lisa. :-)

  4. You came to the same realization that I did as i read this - your mom's reaction told you that you were on the right track all along.

    Yes, I've killed off some favorite characters, and have never had problems yet. My struggle is with giving my characters enough grief while they're still around to feel the pain :)

  5. If done right, killing an important and well-liked characters works well for leaving a lasting impression. I like to torture my characters, and I've killed important ones. It hurts me just as much, but I would only do it if the story dictated it.

    Good luck with the Challenge!

  6. I killed off a character I loved in the last book of my unpublished supernatural-thriller series and I did feel a little pang of sadness, but I knew I had to do it for the story, so I apologized to the character then proceeded with his honorable and heart-wrenching death.

  7. Oh, yes. You have to kill the innocents and betray your hero's trust. Who was it who said to get your characters up a tree and then throw rocks at 'em? Writers are a heartless bunch.

    (And how did I not know you were also doing the A to Z, Teresa?)

  8. I killed off one of my Atlantic City characters at age 26, leaving two small children. I still miss her, and always feel good when I go back to the series that hasn't yet gotten close to her time of death, when she's still young, alive, vibrant. At least she comes back every so often as a helpful ghost.

    I was emotionally gutted by killing off one of my Russian characters in my WIP. He'd never been the most sympathetic character, but he wasn't a monster. I'd known since 2001 he was going to be executed during the Great Terror in 1937, but actually writing those chapters, and the death scene in particular, just gutted me in a way I'd never expected. In the end, I discovered he wasn't such a bad guy after all, and really did have a heart and love for his family.

    1. :-) And that tells me that if you emoted so deeply at writing his death, the reader does, too. :-) It's strange how attached we get to our characters.

      Sounds silly, but I'm often struck by what am incredible thing it is to get to be the first one to read my story. :-)

      Thanks for sharing, Carrie-Anne. :-)

  9. This is so true, killing off characters should pack an emotional punch. As long as there's a reason behind the death, and it's a good one, then it should be done.

  10. Some of my favorite stories - books, TV shows, movies, etc - are the ones where you're not totally sure everyone you love is going to make it out alive. It adds such a level of suspense and tension. :)

    Thanks for visiting my blog the other day!

    Madeline @ The Shellshank Redemption
    Minion, Capt. Alex's Ninja Minion Army
    The 2014 Blogging from A-Z Challenge

  11. Not easy to do but it's all in the wrist action and when you kill him for ultimate impact. Good guys do die.
    Happy A to Z and thanks for the visit