Killing Your Characters

i find it vaguely ironic i’m writing this while listening to the game of thrones soundtrack. George kills his darlings so much better – and more often – than i.
in the great porn soap-opera-from-hell, i’m killing off a strong secondary character, and i’m finding it both easier, and harder than i thought it would be.
easier: i’m having to let go of her, but like the character herself, age 86 or so, it’s time. she’s served her purpose, and more, and it’s time to shift the focus that’s been hers to one of the main characters. she’ll always be a part of the story as she’s been a lynchpin for a lot of the plot’s development, and after 800,000+ words, it’s not like i’m rushing her off-stage.
harder: i love the character. it’s been so much fun expanding her past her origin, developing her, finding myself surprised by the process of her telling me her story. it seems a shame to end all that. i still find myself musing about letting her live. nothing’s written in stone until this chapter is finished and posted up to Storiesonline… but it is time for her to go. dammit. too many future scenes, too many future developments hinge on her passing.
once you reach that point, where you’ve plotted beyond the death of a character, and that death figures into the plot heavily… you feel kind of damned. there are few ways you can remain true to your vision for the story’s continuation without doing as you’ve planned, but like a character in some horrid melodrama, fated to kill another character, you find yourself in dialogue with yourself, arguing over what must be done. even as i write this, it feels like i’m holding up the dagger and wondering how it got in my hand.

then there are the practical story considerations.
how long to drag it out? will the readers feel you’re shortchanging them because of the speed with which you get rid of a character?
the death of Amilyn (Paul Reubens) in the film “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” is one extreme, a humorous one, but i’m not playing this one for laughs. the character is in the hospital, there is time for final good-byes, and i’ve decided to give a few short paragraphs of those good-byes with each of the major characters. it feels like any more than those short bits would be milking it unnecessarily, but i’d be cheating my readers if they didn’t at least get those small portions.
yeah, there are some after-death teary moments planned – a last letter, the funeral, the reading of the will, a couple of others, but after that… unnecessary milking.
and where does this fit into the actual ‘chapter’ structure? hell of a way to end a chapter, tempting to use it as the centerpiece of a chapter – building the whole chapter around it. or i could go the ‘to live and die in l.a.’ route…
a bit of explanation: in my movie memory, before i saw that film, the death of a major character was a Major Event. grandiose music, slo-mo, freeze-frame, pause-in-the-flow type stuff.
then i go see ‘to live and die in l.a.’… major character enters the scene, gets blown the fuck away, and the story just keeps rolling right along.
you know, the way it is in real life.
left me absolutely gobsmacked. it seemed like a violation of one of the unwritten rules of movies to me. you simply didn’t do things that way…
but they did, it was brilliant, and it’s one of the many reasons i still love that film.
as it’s looking to work out in the g.p.s.o.f.h., it will occur off-stage, and while it will be noted, and all the little pieces that follow will happen in due course, it’s not going to end a chapter, it’s not going to be the chapter, but it still won’t be “life just goes along like it does”.
a compromise.
requiescat in pace, Minerva Eileen Cornelius, 1920 (?) – 2006

just some thoughts on what’s going on in what i’m writing.

Mood: surprisingly upbeat for someone writing a character’s death
Music: “Winter Is Coming”, Ramin Djawadi, “Game of Thrones” Season One Soundtrack

One thought on “Killing Your Characters

  1. Minerva was a TERRIFIC character! I will miss her very much! And after all, she was integral in the rise of the Grimes clan! If I had a vote, I would keep her, but then again, I am not writing Oil of Roses! RIP. Minerva!

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