Song of the Day: Ten Ton Brick by Hurt
I’m emotional. More so than my half-crazed normal daily allotment.
There I was, minding my own business doing my damnedest to meet a NaNo word count for the day when the unthinkable happened. A sudden realization side-swiped me. I was going to have to kill one of my characters. Not just any run-of-the-mill extra in the cast. Noooo…. Someone who is well-liked by both the characters in the book as well as readers of my Romancing the Pirate series. Someone I like.
Keep in mind, I don’t write thrillers, horror, or suspense. I write high seas adventure and romance. People die, especially the bad guys. But not someone who is in my core group of characters. The realization hit so hard, I was knocked for a loop. It couldn’t be! It mustn’t be! What am I going to do? How can I let this happen?
I began floundering for a way out. What if someone else died instead of Well-Liked Character? Yeeessss…*kneads hands in maniacal way* Or maybe I could just maim him. Or… what if…what if…what if I just rewrite the entire scene to save Well-Liked Character.
I was grasping for straws and did what any desperate author does when faced with such a cataclysmic emotional derailment. No, I didn’t hit the bottle. I hit Facebook. I asked the masses for sage advice, aka wild-ass opinions. Should I kill my lovable fellow or pick some hapless bystander to take to fall? I probably should have hit the bottle instead. Rum is good at any time of day.
The response were all over the place. But I was thrilled with how many people weighed in. Some were silly. Others, brutal. Many of my author friends chimed in with their thoughts, so graciously pointing out the tight rope I walked. That precarious dilemma of either upsetting loyal readers or missing the emotional impact of the scene.
Secondary characters have value. They are imperative to the hero and heroine’s journey, whether as antagonists or protagonists. Secondary Characters add dimension and complexity to the story. Well-liked secondary characters are like a cozy blanket, familiar and welcome. Readers don’t want to be sucker-punched losing someone they’ve grown fond of who could go on to bigger and better things. And Well-Liked Character does have future plans.
I remember a book I read where a secondary character died an avoidable death near the end of the story. I remember feeling so betrayed.
But on the flip-side, why should anyone care if a nameless/faceless stand-in gets whacked? Would their death give the same degree of reaction or consequence as losing a friend? Of course not.
Needless to say, as I read the comments both for and against sending Well-Liked Character to his maker, it became clear what I had to do. Flip a coin. Okay, not really.
I sucked it up and put myself back there, back deep into the scene. The critical moment had come. I removed myself, my wants, my emotions, and watched the inevitable unfold as a spectator. Well-Liked Character must die. I didn’t want him to, but there was no other way. It had to be. His death will escalate the stakes for the survivors. The impact will be greater. He will be a martyr for the story.
He’s not the first character I’ve killed—I’ve killed many. Oh yes, this author has a dark side. But Well-Liked Character is the first one that I will mourn.
Have you ever mourned for a character, either one you read or written? If so, who? Share your thoughts, I’d love to hear them.