Virtually every week as I’m preparing for my post I ask my husband, “Honey, what should I blog about?” And he typically responds with “I have no idea.”
Until one week in response, he sent me the link to this article.
Gee, thanks, honey. That’s SO helpful. Really.
So, this week, as I asked my routine “What should I blog about?” I qualified it with, “And don’t say anything about killing people with ice cream cones!”
At which point my best friend said that you can totally kill people with ice cream cones. You tape their mouths shut and then stuff the ice cream cone up their nose.
Yes, this is what I have to deal with when I’m trying to post a serious and meaningful post that will grip my readers and stretch their minds with my profundity.
But, it did get me to thinking (especially as I’ve been watching old episodes of Castle where he intros the show by saying “There are two kinds of people who sit around thinking about how to kill people: psychopaths and mystery writers.”) how do you kill a character? What makes a death interesting and exciting? Do they die a slow, painful, sad death of chronic disease? And do we care because we’re fond of that character? Or do they die a horrific and violent death at the hands of someone (or something as is probably the case with many of our stories)?
I wrote a scene this week that had me reeling at my own ability to murder. I was taking a break from writing and chatting with a friend on Facebook. He had read the first two chapters of my WIP, and at the time I had told him a little of the plotline and had mentioned that I wasn’t sure whether or not a particular character was going to make it through the story. So I said to him, “Oh, by the way, I decided to murder so-and-so. I’m going to kill them either tonight or tomorrow.”
Taken out of context, I’m sure I got put on an FBI watchlist somewhere, but given the nature of the conversation, it was a perfectly logical statement.
Anyway, I sat down a short while later and began writing out the scene where this character dies, and it was bloody. A nice, jolly, horrible death, that I actually admitted out loud, “Wow, that was awful! I can’t believe I just wrote that!” And yet I love it, because, well, because I wrote it and it’s awesome.
Seriously, though, I’ve killed a handful of good characters, and sometimes I cry over them, because I love the character so much, and other times I realize they just need to die, but always because it’s the best move for the story. At least it is at the time. But the thing about deaths is they have to be unique. You can’t kill everyone the same way, just like you can’t have the same plot or the same character or the same villain or the same setting. Each death must be precise and exquisite. If it is to move the reader at all, it must be thought out and planned and executed (pun intended) with absolute perfection, otherwise it’s just mindless gore, senseless gratuitous violence.
So what about you? How do you kill a character?