Why do I kill people?
Catchy headline, huh? Let’s try something a little more precise and a little less flashy. Why, as a writer, do I insist on killing characters? In the hundreds of thousands of words I’ve written, significant characters die in every single story.
It’s not because I’m a sadist. It’s not because I’m bloodthirsty. It’s not because I enjoy reading or writing death.
It’s because it creates something practically nothing else in literature can do with such easy emphasis: force other characters to totally realistic extremes and force them into unpretentious contemplation of their own mortality.
Killing a character is an absolute boon to writers. The act of ending a fictional life can open up tremendous emotions in every other character: grief, rage, passion, guilt, and pain. It depends on the type of death and on the manner of character who is killed.
Nearly five finished novels under my belt and I have beheaded, stabbed, hanged, shot, and generally made-dead a few folks. But, darling, the emotional fallout was totally worth it.
Now, to undercut everything I’ve just said, I’m not planning on killing anyone in the next series I have been outlining. I realized this with a great deal of surprise the other day, turned to my brother and said, “Everyone just might live through it.” He looked quite alarmed until he realized I was talking about fiction.
But the reason I’m straying from my usual bloodlust is because this story finds its extremes through other means: trauma, forgetfulness, lies, misunderstandings, pride, and lost love. The story takes its time and stretches out long enough that I can explore every emotion my characters need for their arcs to be beautiful, complex, and complete.
Will I tease? Oh, yes. Will my characters face death? Absolutely. Will I maybe deceive the reader into believing someone important to the story is never coming back? Don’t make me laugh; of course, I will.
What was the most tragic character death you ever read? Are you okay yet? Yeah, me neither.