Welcome to my world and beyond...

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

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Writing: Kill Off Someone Who Counts.

My mom,my biggest fan ( and extremely enthusiastic Alpha and Beta reader) used to just grill me about my books when I'd visit her. We had one conversation in particular where she dug in her heels about the plot of my third book. 

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 her. 

After I told her, 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 who 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.  This thought is close to my heart now that I've returned to this series, editing and improving:  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. 


  1. Yes I know what you mean. I took the decision to kill off a character I really liked in my current WIP and it was a tough decision but I think the right one too.

    1. Hi Suzanne, thanks. It is hard to do. I think that if an author has fully immersed himself into writing a character,t hat there must be a sort of grieving process they go through. :-)

  2. It's a brave decision. I like the way you recount the conversation with your mother in your post! It's so lovingly written. You know, she probably knew you were on the right track and was proud of you!

  3. This is so sweet! As a writer, reader and a human being I do understand all those points of views - the story strategist in you wanting to leave an emotional impact, and the reader living in fear that that particular moment he doesn't want to become reality might be sneaking up on him or her anytime soon. :)

    -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."- That says so much about your mother - it's just not right to kill the good people! :)

    1. :-) Yep, Dana! It does say a lot about my mom. I hope she has a shelf full of unread Harlequins waiting on her. Writing has its challenges,and killing off good people (to me) is one of them! It's pretty tough reading those scenes too. In that respect, I commend you on being able to read George R R Martin's books ;-) Thanks for visiting, dearie :-)

  4. We all live happily some see it some don't. Ever after is a time frame that lives in our hearts, that too happily ever after. Cemil

    1. "Ever after is a time frame that lives in our hearts." You have the soul of a poet, Cemil. That is just downright beautiful! :-) Thanks for giving this a read, my friend. :-)

  5. It takes a lot of strength and determination, but you have to remember we are in the business of writing compelling fiction, and "happily ever after" isn't compelling unless it's been blood, sweat, and tears all the way there.

    Without knowing the story, it sounds like you made the right choice for all the right reasons.

    1. Hi, Botanist. That was a very succinct way of summing it up. And I agree. My mom sure had her heels dug in, though. :-)
      Nice to see you! :-)

  6. Hi, Teresa:

    This post reminds me of when I read the first book of Game of Thrones. I will not reveal any spoilers, but will say that I was floored at the character chosen to be killed off. My first thought was that the series simply could not continue to be as good without this character. Luckily, I was wrong. ;-) When this very likable character was killed off, the personalities of then-supporting characters took center stage. It was a masterful decision by author George R. R. Martin!

    I wish you much success. Your mom sounds like she was a sweet, very supportive parent. Brings a tear to my eye.


    1. Hi Janette :-) So glad to see you! I

      Killing off characters...it is a very powerful thing, and I don't know if any author's work has ever quite exemplified that so well as George R R Martin.

      I haven't read the books--my time is so scarce, lol, but I do indulge in the cable series. I was shocked at the end of season (book) one. I could see it set up the week before and didn't sneak a look at any forums. I just couldn't fathom that they'd kill off his character! But...by geez...they did! I was so angry, I swore I wasn't going to watch season 2...But, my nose was glued to the TV again. ;-)

      Thanks for the kind words about my mom. I miss her, but part of her lives on--in the love and memories. There are dark writer's days, when that promise I made to her on her deathbed are the only thing that drives my writing forward. :-)

      Thanks for visiting. :-)

  7. Killing off a well loved character is probably one of the most artistically brave things a writer can do, it's such a risk! Great post!

  8. It certainly seems to work for JK Rowling and George RR Martin! It's the ultimate way to pull those heartstrings, even if it is a little cruel!

  9. Mums give the best advice right? It sounds like your mum is a real artistic facilitator!