A Murderer Amongst Us…

It was Mrs. White in the library with a candlestick.  (And now, I want to play Clue or at the very least watch the movie.)

Seriously, it was me, in my novel, with the fingers of ready writer.

Today I decided to kill off one of my favorite characters.  I feel like I’m killing my family.

Let me start from the beginning…

I’m writing a pivotal scene in the revision of my WIP.  My MC is given a “warning” that she’s told too much about her parents’ murder.

And from this, I was thinking about having the murderer kill someone else close to her, but I’m having a difficult time of it.

I had already written out a blog post about murdering characters ready to go.  Then, it all changed.

My last paragraph went something like this:

Personally, I don’t have the strength to kill off my favorite characters.  I have been considering whether or not to kill one in my novel “Read Me Dead,” but I can’t decide!  I guess I’ll just have to see what happens with my characters before I make such a decision.  I’m not entirely sure where my revision is taking me yet.

When I wrote this, I hadn’t fully decided whether to kill one of my favorite characters, but while talking to my friend (Bless his heart.  He has to listen to me yammer on and on about my writing.), we decided that it would be best.  See, he read the rough draft of the novel, and so he kind of knew where my thinking was going even if I had made some drastic changes he wasn’t aware of yet.

With saying all of this, I have to admit that even though this is very difficult for me to have to do.  He’s right.  It’s the right decision to make.

Here’s why I think so.

Killing well liked characters, adds more emotions and tension to a story in my opinion.  It even makes me want to keep reading as strange as that might be.  When a character is murdered or dies in a story, I want to cry, but I also want to read on and make sure that there’s a silver lining, a happy ending.  I’m not fond of non-happy endings, and usually, if I come across one that isn’t happy and know that it’s not going to be part of a series, it frustrates me.   Such as The Time Traveler’s Wife… don’t even get me started on that one!

It’s perfectly acceptable to kill off characters in your story.  In mystery and suspense novels, it’s almost to be expected.  Fantasy and thrillers as well.  In a lot of YA fiction, well loved characters are killed too.  Death is as much a part of the fictional world as it is the real world.

I just finished reading “Divergent” by Veronica Roth, and if you’re into YA, you will definitely want to read this one.  However, *Spoiler Alert*!

One of her characters commits suicide.  I didn’t see it coming at first, but after I thought about, I was like, “You know.  It was kind of expected.”  It ends up making perfect sense.

Also, other characters die, and it just breaks your heart to read.  Especially one where the main character, Tris, has to do the killing… it’s just so emotional!

Another *Spoiler Alert*.  In the last book of The Hunger Games series (which I also recommend strongly), a lot of good people are killed.  It broke my heart to read those death scenes.  Tension and emotions run even higher because of them.

And these aren’t the only examples I can use.  There are plenty!  These two are fresh on my mind though.   (I’m really into dystopian YA Fiction apparently.)

I’m not killing him because of other YA writers killing their characters.  I just think that my story and the development of it afterwards will be much better…albeit a bit sad without him.

So, after all of this, I am sure I made the right decision in the end.  I think so anyway…

A special thanks to Zeeshan Sattar for allowing me to use his photo.

11 thoughts on “A Murderer Amongst Us…

  1. The “redshirt” option (killing a minor character who was introduced specifically for the purpose of being killed) can make things more intense, but only up to a point. Sometimes major character have to die.

    And it’s not only to add tension, it raises the stakes in other ways as well. In my second novel I have a character who is a killer, and not entirely in control of herself. It’s kind of cheating to have this fact stated, but to have her only kill redshirts, or people who deserve it or who attack her. So, she kills a major character, a harmless likeable character who was no threat to her and did not in any way “deserve to die.”

    And then she has to deal with this, and so do the other characters, which is a far more interesting story than if I’d been timid about it (as I talked about here: http://u-town.com/collins/?p=2284).


    1. I completely agree. In the end, he had to die. He started out as a minor character. Even then, I didn’t want to kill him off, but killing him as a minor character wouldn’t have done anything for the story. As a major character, his death drives forward the story in ways that it was definitely lacking before. I didn’t want to face that fact until my friend pushed me to see it.

      I read that post, and I have to face my timidity as well. I want to give the Millennium Trilogy a try to just see how this character is.


      1. One problem with always writing about the same characters is that there’s a certain core that I can’t kill, because I need them. (And there are a few who probably can’t be killed, but I’m not going to explain that. 🙂 )

        In the mystery stories I was starting to get the feeling that the victims (in the ones where there is a murder) were a bit too faceless. Either the reader never saw them alive, or only briefly. So, in this story, I brought in a very strong, memorable secondary character who got killed (I think very unexpectedly), which one reader has already said made the story a lot stronger.

        Also, it meant the detective and her family dealing with a death of someone they knew, not a stranger, and in her case there’s the possibility that she could have prevented it.


      2. BTW, if you want to find out about Lisbeth Salander, my best recommendation is to see the movie of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It’s better than the book (in some ways, as I’ve talked about on my blog), and much shorter. And the actress, Noomi Rapace, is amazing. The movies are being remade now by David Fincher, and the new ones may well be better movies than the originals, but they won’t have a better Lisbeth Salander.


  2. My main character deals with that. She has already seen her parents murdered by the same man who murdered this character. She blames herself for his death along with her parents. It gives her something else to have to deal with as she also comes to terms with finding out who the actual killer is. In the first draft of this novel, she just accepted it, and the murderer found her. In light of this new characters death, I see the story completely changing now.

    I understand how you can’t kill off the core characters though. I don’t plan on using these again. 😛 They’ve gone through enough!


  3. Like Anthony I would recommend all the Millenium Trilogy movies. I enjoyed the books but only because of what an amazing character Lisbeth Salander is (am actually planning a post for next week where she stars!). Her character is incredible – violent, crass, unsympathetic and yet she is so totally likeable. Having said that I think the books needed to have a really good edit before they were published (difficult as the author was dead but still!)


  4. Jody, I subbed to your blog in anticipation of the post. I glanced around and saw a couple of other interesting posts that I wanted to respond to, but had to remind myself that I do need to get to my job. 🙂


  5. Pingback: A Week in Writing: Suffering from “Lack of Motivation” to Actually Making Progress with Something | Emerald Barnes' Dreaming Awake Blog

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