One of the most difficult decisions I had to make in my latest book, A Twist of Fortune, was to let one of the characters die. Not one of the main characters or gawd forbid the protagonist, because then the series would be over. I won’t tell you who it was, other than to say that it was a very friendly character that almost everybody inside the story (and readers too!!) liked and enjoyed. It was difficult because I tend to grow fond of the characters and except for the villains, would really like them to stick around.
But that’s the way the story unfolded and since I am a true ‘seat-of-the pantser‘ who doesn’t have an outline or a plot I didn’t feel I had any choice. I’m hoping it doesn’t upset too many people and I did create what I felt was a beautiful funeral and send-off, but it made me realize again how connected we all can become to fictitious characters in our favourite books or television shows.
I think that’s actually a good thing, especially when we connect to the good guy and gal characters. It is a little escape from reality, but I think we all need a bit of that. Plus there’s a common bonding that happens when we find characters that we can all love together. Think about shows like Downton Abbey. They have killed off a lot of characters but a few are sacrosanct, at least to me. If they ever killed off Lady Mary, I’d swear off forever. Even if the show goes off the air, which I heard it will next year, I will never forgive them if they do in Lady Mary.
Maybe that’s because I want the characters to live on, if not in my favourite TV show or books, then at least in my imagination. I also want to see where they are going and what they are going to do next. When I’m writing my books I don’t know either. I have to wait until I can get the words to spill out of me and fall onto the page so I can read what happened. That makes the process a whole lot more exciting that developing a plot and creating a storyboard and a character wall and all the things that writers who are ‘plotters’ have to go through. (I really admire them, but I think my way is a lot more fun.)
Sgt. Windflower is a real character to me, a person in my life that when I’m back home in the neck of the woods where he patrols the highways, I can almost feel his presence. And I think that’s a good thing in my life. Because he is a good person/character and reminds me sometimes of what the right and honourable thing would be to do in difficult situations. He is a part of me, at least part of creative side and I think I would really miss him if he wasn’t around. So rest easy, gentle readers, Sgt. Windflower will live to dress up in his RCMP red serge and continue his adventures on the southeast coast of Newfoundland, at the very tip of Canada.
As for the rest of the characters, I make no commitments. They live and die based on the will of the creative muses. Some may just have to be sacrificed for the greater good, or at least a better story.
So here’s a question for you. How do you feel when one of your favorite characters gets bumped off?
Mike Martin is the author of the Sgt. Windflower Mystery Series. The latest book is A Twist of Fortune. For more information, reviews and buy links visit the website or follow Sgt. Windflower Mysteries on Facebook. www.sgtwindflowermysteries.com
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This post originally appeared on Lisa K’s Book Blog
One thought on “Killing Off Characters”
“How do you feel when one of your favorite characters gets bumped off?”
Maybe because I’m a writer as well as a reader, I understand narrative causality. Sometimes someone has to die. Anything else would be cheating the story. So, if I feel that it was something that had to happen, I understand and forgive the author.
I’m sad. Someone I let into my life via reading (or watching a good TV series) is now gone. Sad can turn to mad pretty quickly if there is not an appropriate sized response from the other characters. I’m not talking a nice funeral, here. I’m talking a hole in their lives that lasts into the next book/episodes.
Fiction is an escape from our own lives, but if the other lives we share don’t ring true… well, you’ve lost me.