Characters Die And I Feel Terrible About It

Chatting with Son 1 the other day brought up a question. Why did you kill her? This isn’t a new question. Folks frequently ask me about why events happen in the novel. I loved her, why did you kill her? Oh, he’s so interesting. Is he going to be in the second book? Why is your protagonist such an asshole?!

Here’s the skinny, I don’t often make conscientious decisions about my characters. They come to me whole and complete. Sometimes enlightened, but often damaged and carrying baggage. I work out details in the plot. I smooth over transitions and dialogue. The overarching movement of the plot typically comes intact. Sure, I have to figure out sometimes how to get from here to there.

The death of a character isn’t something I plot with glee, unlike some authors I know…ahem G.R.R. I know some collateral damage is unavoidable and even necessary. In the thriller genre, death is a familiar companion. It’s equally shocking to me when I’m writing and suddenly I’m presented with the death of a character. Believe me, I’m as fond of my characters as I hope you are.

Yes, the bad guy is going to die…usually. Maybe I’m bloodthirsty, but I think the bad guys should die once in a while. I loved the scene in Open Range when without fanfare Kevin Costner plugs the sharp shooter in the forehead, bam! No talking, no monologuing, just elimination of the biggest threat with efficiency. Some folks didn’t enjoy the end of my recent novel…too simplistic. I’m here to say, sometimes justice, vengeance, or whatever way you characterize it, comes swift.

Picture by from The Art of Dragonlance
Picture from The Art of Dragonlance

I will not arbitrarily murder a main character for the gratuitous WTF moment….ahem G.R.R. If you’re a ScFi Fantasy reader, you too have devoured the Dragonlance Chronicles. My copies literally fell apart I read them so much.

I purchased the Annotated Chronicles and Legends to read aloud when my kids were little. We all sobbed together when Sturm Brightblade dies in battle and I knew it was coming! My kids cried out when I stopped for the evening leaving poor Tas stuck in the Abyss. I still get a catch in my throat at the end of Legends when Caramon saves Raistlin’s soul with bunnies.

Even if some books aren’t great literature, we grow to love or hate characters. SPOILER ALERT: IF YOU HAVEN’T READ BOOK 5 OF GOT STOP READING! Seriously, I’ve alienated friends who were watching the show and not reading the books. I don’t care if there’s a bit of Jon Snow left….you killed him you motherf*&%er!

It will take me a long time to recover and I won’t be reading any more of his books. I don’t care if I don’t find out what happens to Arya. I’ll Google it after the series is complete…and don’t hold your breath. Have you seen that guy? I still haven’t recovered from Robert Jordan’s death and I didn’t finish those books either.

Excuse me while I gather my composure and believe me, I don’t take my characters lightly…except Seamus. No one can take him too seriously.