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.