As a writer I get satisfaction from making readers fall into my character’s world. To experience their highs and lows, their laughter and sadness. There’s something I love even more though, and that’s to make a reader love a character and then I kill them.
To kill your darlings. This is one of the most universal aspects of creative writing. In all of my manuscripts someone dies. Spoiler Alert! Yep. They might not even be a bad character, they could be someone integral to the story and then, bye bye. Dead. Now, I can’t go around with my red pen and slash at the page, killing of the main character or the antagonist at the beginning of the book. Well, because there would be no book. Obviously. But it’s inevitable that change has to occur and it can be through death.
This also has something to do with that fact I love writing gut wrenching emotion. The kind that leaves me in a pool of my own tears, in the hope that if it makes me cry, then it will make the readers want to hurl their brand new kindle across the room without thought of the damage. Hey, what’s a little cracked screen between friends right?
Perhaps it’s a lazy tool. I mean it’s pretty easy to kill someone and have this at your plot point. It will guarantee that the protagonist will have to change, because death is an obstacle no one can overcome, unless you write paranormal/fantasy fiction. Then all bets in the death department are off. Death isn’t final. I’ve got one of these in the works, and it makes everything harder, if a character can’t/won’t die or stay dead, then you have to get even more creative if you want to elicit a dramatic emotional response from the reader.
There are other ways to kill your darlings. There are things that can happen to them that are worse than death. Death is final for the character and you can’t really kill your protagonist. Well, you can, you’re the writer, you can do whatever you want. Don’t let me stop you. I always think cheating on a partner in a story, is worse than the death of a character. In that it forces change, away from a relationship, it’s a major turning point, if that’s the character’s journey. I hate reading about cheating, and I have written about it, and it rips my heart out every time.
Some of my favourite books have the characters being tortured, and it’s all in context, generally in period fiction focusing on Ancient Roman, Greek or Egyptian fiction. I don’t like writing about it and I tend to skip over those pages when I read them, but it can be used as a way to kill your character’s spirit while leaving them alone, or to force a dramatic shift in their character arc.
I don’t really know how to kill someone. Which is a fabulous thing, because I’m not capable of it. So, I google more creative ways a person can be killed or drugged with specific poisons or weapons. I don’t want to think about people seeing my search history. The last thing I typed into google was – How to drug someone and make them immobile but still awake – I’m a writer. Also, hot tip, only go to creative writing forums or medical journals. There are some murky waters out there when you are researching this kind of thing. You’ve been warned.
So to kill or not to kill your darlings. What do you prefer to read or write?