Monday, August 15, 2011

To Kill or Not to Kill?

As I sit down to type this blog post there is one accusation pulsing through my brain:
"You are a murderess. You are a murderess."
It is disconcerting to say the least, and was put there by my sisters.

All that is a highly unusual way to begin a blog post, but the fact is, I need your help. I need your best writers' advice, and ASAP. You see, I took the liberty of plotting out Puddleby Lane on paper beforehand, and from the very start a particular character has been doomed to death. I can't tell you which one, for that would spoil the story entirely, but suffice it to say, someone will "pop off as y'might say."
Yes, there is to be a foreseeable end for this particular fellow. Killing him off is not an "easy way out because I'm tired of him" action, like the girls in Anne Shirley's Story Club employed. No. From the start this death has been planned for him, and it's rather necessary for the storyline I have plotted. I could get around it I suppose, by having him severely injured, but isn't that a little cliche?
You ask, "Why are you suddenly having qualms about this action?"
I had not counted on falling in love.
I had not calculated just how special this character is, just how much Cora loves him, just how much I love him. To have him killed now will be painful. I know I will drop a few tears as I write his death scene.
It comes to this: Why did I have to write this character so well? Why did I have to let myself get attached to him and make him indispensable? Why? He's only a side character, and I had to fall in love! *smacks forehead*
I could have made him dull, reserved, boring. No. I couldn't be content with that. I wrote him with the best that was in my imagination and now I'm afraid that killing him off is an unconscionable action that I'll never live down. My sisters will not speak to me if this character is nullified. I might get threats. I might get the cold shoulder. They recommend I get rid of poor, sweet little Dot over this character!
Thus my predicament. What do I do with this indecision? Stick with the original plan? I don't mind so very much killing off the fellow, since it is an honorable death I have planned...and it helps the plot along a great deal...HELP ME!
The severe injury case is still plausible and would work in the same way, but it would give the book an altogether entirely story-book happy ending that publishers mightn't like so much. Can anyone give me advice? How do you feel about killing off characters? I am beginning to wonder if I like the planning beforehand scheme. At least I could have come up on this ending for this character all of a sudden instead of having it lurking in my brain during the whole story. But no, I have known he is to receive his sentence since the first words of Puddleby Lane. I suppose I should just be a brave girl about it.


ashley tahg said...

Hmm....I was faced with this same problem in one of my books, and I decided to go through with the killing. Even in my current work, "The Halfling" I am faced with this. The characters I must kill for plots sake is one of my favorites ever, sadly. But I must kill him. Readers like to cry, at least I do. But of course, you could do the get-hurt-and-almost-die instead, if you would feel better.

I also enjoy killing off my characters. I'm a weird writer. Maybe that is why I love my bad guys so much. lol

Maria said...

Chances are, if you cry when you kill off the character, your readers will cry too, but they'll think it's a wonderful book.

Megan Langham said...

Oh, my dear, I feel your pain. Last year I went through the exact same ordeal--I was also tempted to merely traumatize the man and leave it at that, but I had a plot that needed sticking to. So I killed him, and it hurt. It hurt lots. I cried for a while afterward. But as Ashley and Maria said, the author's weeping is a good indicator that her readers will weep, too; and I think most readers prefer a story that's powerful enough to call up their tears.

My advice would be to keep a stiff upper lip and kill your darling. I don't know your plot well--perhaps you could think of a way to keep him alive without diminishing the power of the ending, and if so... go for it!

It's your story. Your decision, and not at all an easy one to make--but that's the curse (and the blessing) of the writer. ;)

Anonymous said...

Killing a character that no one cares about evokes no emotion from the readers. The readers don't feel a sense of loss because that character never mattered to them. They aren't affected or moved, which makes the death of that character rather pointless.

It is much more powerful to kill a character that everyone loves. It affects you, your readers, and the other characters in the story. It evokes emotion and enhances your plot because it matters.

P.S. It's ok to cry when killing a character. I have! :)

Carilyn said...

I think killing him off is okay. Hopefully your sisters won't shun you for life. ;) But, really, readers would probably respect you more as an author if you kill him off, otherwise they might just think "Oh, Rachel Heffington is kind of a lame author. She just used the easy way out and just did a typical injury." Of course, then the readers might deliberate, and think about how horrible it would be if you had killed him off. But, if you do kill him off, and it impacts the readers as much as it would impact you, then you have been successful. Only really good authors can make you care about the characters... right?

I'd say go for it.

Love your friend,

Abigail said...

Just.... put lots of flowers on his grave!! :'(

Rachel and Sarah said...

Thanks for all the wonderful advice, girls! :)And though I feel the teensiest bit like Harriet Smith:
"I am...almost really quite decided...I think.. to...refuse...Robert Martin?"
I have decided to move along with the plot I had planned from the beginning. :}