Tuesday 5 July 2011

Killing Off Characters . . .

We've recently lost a family member . . . as well as a highly valued blog follower . . . and yesterday we attended his funeral and gave him a good send off (why is it, when you concentrate really hard on not crying, you end up blubbering all over the place twice as bad? Good job my sister came equipped with a pack of tissues).

I didn't realise how big the family had grown. He left a grand total of 18 grandchildren. Some of these stood up at the funeral and read their own pieces in honour of his memory. That was the hardest part to listen to and watch when you're trying not to cry, but it was nice.

This got me thinking about death in writing. It's true what they say. You have to really hate the characters you write about. It's the hardest thing to recover from when you lose someone close to you, so why do we willingly put our characters through such pain? Why do we create someone for our protagonist to love and then cruelly rip them away - and sometimes, depending on the genre, in the most gruesome fashion?

I've created many characters who've had their lives shattered by the death of a loved one. I'd hate to meet them in person. God knows what fate they'd bestow upon me. But no matter how hard the subject is in real life, people still like reading about it in fiction.

It's called life. People can relate to it, and you can easily connect with readers using powerful, evocative emotions. By reading about a fictional death can make them realise how lucky they are to have the people they love in their lives - and make them remember those who have gone with a smile.

But I write fantasy and horror. I doubt whether some of my deaths will bring a smile to their face . . . lol . . . And I am, despite writing a piece at the moment, planning and conjuring the idea for my next manuscript which involves an assassin and, needless to say, lots of death. So I must be one wicked person . . .


  1. Oh, you are definitely wicked...I've met your cat.

  2. Well, they do say that owners turn into their pets...or is it the other way round?

  3. It is hard to let go of characters we love so much, but it is fun creating ones we can hate just so we can kill them off! I have a saying, "Writing is the only profession I know of where you can get away with murder."-T.K. Millin

  4. Owners become like their pets. I've turned into mu kids.

  5. I think George R.R. Martin handles killing of characters really well but that would be difficult to do for a debut author. Basically, he has no main character and is a soap-opera-ish type story and cycles through points-of-view per chapter. Then every once in a while, he kills off a point-of-view and replaces it with another. No sweat. No main character...no high stakes to lose, right?

  6. I don't mind killing my characters, though there was one based loosely on my youngest son that had to die at the climax of one book, and that scene always brings tears to my eyes.

  7. Ah, Ted, basing a character on your son and then killing them off - that had to be hard to imagine.

    Michael, I'm gonna be real honest and say that I haven't actually read any of G.R.R Martin (hangs head in shame). I can see what you mean about having no real main character, but does that allow the reader to actually get to know the protagonists? Interesting.

    And TK Millin, re "Writing is the only profession I know of where you can get away with murder." Very true, but does this mean we're all basically Serial Killers in the world of fiction?? Reminds me in a way of 'The Eyre Affair' by Jasper Fforde, where there's a device allowing people to jump in and out books, and where Jane Eyre is kidnapped. We're just jumping into fictional worlds and picking off characters one by one. (I shouldn't be smiling whilst writing this...lol)

    Martin, ever considered the fact that your kids are just mini-yous... :D