Sunday, May 15, 2011
Killing Off Characters
Every now and then, I have to kill someone.
I never like to do it, and I have in fact been known to try to save them, in my rewrites, from that necessary if untimely end. In one case I created a character specifically to kill him later on, to give my heroine the push she'd need to launch her into action, but as the book went on I grew so very fond of him that, when the moment came for him to die, I really suffered. Tried a hundred other ways to write that scene, to let him live, but in the end it wasn't any good. The story simply didn't work unless he died. But I still mourn him, and I know that there are readers out there now who don't forgive me for that scene, and never will.
I understand. For me, there's always been a difference between killing off a character I barely know, and killing someone I have come to care about.
To illustrate: For years now I've watched countless Star Trek redshirts meet their ends without it making me feel more than passing sympathy, if that.
But watching this scene did me in completely. (Still does, even now).
It think that it's the level of the loss. The way it changes things. Because a death should change things, in my view, at least in fiction—it should never go unnoticed.
If you know me, then you'll know my books will always have a happy ending. Nothing ruins my own enjoyment as a reader more than having everything end badly, with the central couple torn apart by death or war or circumstance (unless I can imagine their reunion for myself, and "end" the story where I feel it should have ended).
But because I rarely plan my books, I sometimes never know myself just who will be left standing at the end and who, in rewrites, I'll be trying to revive. I only know that those who die (except for villains, maybe) will not die for nothing. And I know that if their death upsets me, then I've done it right. If that makes sense.
Have you killed characters yourself? Or do you know a character whose death, in your opinion, was unnecessary?
(Don't forget to come back Thursday, when the less bloodthirsty Julie Cohen will be posting..)