My guy was reading a preface an author had put in a book, and he asked me if it was true it hurt to kill off characters.
As a writer my instant answer was, it depends.
In my last book, I didn’t kill anyone. I sure wanted to though. I have several characters I may edit right out of that thing.
In my current book, I ended up having two love interests. I am not sure what my brain thought it was doing, but the only way I could figure out how to solve it was to kill one of them off. I cried. I am still not convinced I killed off the right one. I swear during rewrites I am going to bring the other one back and try him out.
It hurts to hurt people we care about. Well, ok, there is that one woman from my past who I kill in almost every story I write. Horrible woman. I’ve never met a more disagreeable person with less to recommend them. Sometimes she’s already dead by the time the story starts, other times she’s a minor character who dies, others she is the main villain. I think I actually enjoy killing her. Repeatedly.
I had a story where I killed off a child. I can sob just thinking about how gut wrenching it felt. While it was right for the story, it killed a little piece of me. The grief still pulls at me when I think of it.
That said, I have to get in the mood to write different types of scenes. If I am going to write a love scene, I don’t watch a horror movie. I put on something sappy and romantic. If I need to write a sad scene, Steel Magnolia's or Fried Green Tomatoes gets me every time. If I want to write humor, I watch a comedy special on Netflix. It helps me to “get in the mood” so to speak.
So yes, writing a dark book can put me in a sad place until it is over. Maybe I am a bit like a method actor. If things are going well for my characters, my mood is lighter. If I am in the middle of blood, sweat and tears with them, I am probably going to be a little grumpy.
I have known some writers who say it doesn’t matter to them. It’s a book. They write it and move on. They have a skill I don’t have. I become connected to the people I write about. I feel it, and so I hope do you when you read my work.
What you read, is a heck of a lot of me. It comes out of my head, onto the page. I need to care about them, so that I can get you to care about them. Who wants to sit down and read a book and throw it against the wall when they are done? Because that’s what I do when I read a book where I could care less what happens to the people inside the cover.
So, that’s my long winded way of saying, yes. Killing off a character hurts sometimes. Sometimes murder can be a heck of a lot of fun. Getting you to give a shit, matters to me.
What do you think? Does it matter to you when you read about a long time character who dies in a series? If you are a writer, does it hurt when you kill off a character? I’d love to hear from you. Please leave me a comment below.
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