Saturday, August 28, 2010

Killing 'em Softly - or Not

~~~~~ The giveaway for Sacrifice is over. ~~~~~

The winner of the signed copy of Sacrifice is alicia0605. Alicia, please let me know your mailing address by sending me an email through the contact page of my website, Congratulations!
Thanks to everyone who responded! 
It was wonderful to see your comments.

What happens when a paranormal series character you've grown to love gets the ax, sometimes literally? Do you:

A) Cry but trust the author that it was for the best in the series?
B) Vow never to buy another of the author's books?
C) Resign yourself to a joyless life without the Loved Character (LC)?
D) Leave a nasty note on the author's website as a spoiler?
E) Thrive on tragedy and get a burst of energy from it?

Authors have different approaches to this question, ranging from "They're my characters and I'll do whatever I want with them," to "I couldn't kill off LC, he's wonderful/sexy/supportive/funny/on the cover. I'll rework the series arc (the story that spans several books of a series) to keep him alive."

Dark Time
I always thought I was in the first category. I created these characters and I'm going to treat them any way I want. When I heard authors say that their characters were leading them somewhere, I thought that was silly. The author's in charge, I'd think, and those people are      nuts.

That was before I started writing my first paranormal series, the Mortal Path.

Something about writing in this genre pushed me to become much more emotionally invested in my characters. It could be the challenges that they face are more terrifying, more demanding of everything they've got. In one of my suspense books, the protagonist was chased around by a seriously bad serial killer with a knife. Okay, that's chilling.

In a paranormal book (though not specifically in mine), the protagonist can be chased around by a pack of werewolves with inhuman ferocity and strength. That's off-the-scale horrifying. So paranormal books have a different scope, where emotions are elevated beyond the usual human experience. Fear, love, loyalty, triumph, and failure--everything can be on a heightened plane, while still being acceptable, natural, even, if the world-building is skillful. To write about those experiences, I think the author can't just sit on the sidelines and manipulate characters like chess pieces. The author has to be in the fray, living everything in his or her imagination.

That means when I write passages that are supposed to inflict horror, I have to dig down into the dark, secret place we all have where our worst fears live. I have to dredge up something from that nightmarish world and haul it into the sunlight to make the horror match the heightened demands of paranormal books. Any plain old normal horror won't do. I have to have a demon-sized horror.

It's the same with the other emotions. Is it any wonder that my emotional investment and involvement in my characters is cranked to the max? Suddenly it becomes reasonable to say, "I can't get Maliha to do what's best all the time," or "Why is she putting up with that? Why doesn't she just kick his butt?" Previously, if I thought a character shouldn't put up with something, then she didn't. Now I deal in nuanced characters who know that there are a lot of factors to be taken into account, natural and supernatural. I'm a member of Maliha's close circle of friends now, though you won't see me on the page. I could sit and chat comfortably with any of them, and sometimes in the dead of night when I'm writing, I do that. As a writing exercise, I mean. Nothing bonkers. Really. You believe me, don't you?

Would I kill off a character I loved? It's a tough question. There would have to be an ironclad reason based on the story arc. And I would cry. When I was first thinking about the story arc (no spoiler), I thought it would be good to have Maliha come full circle. She started off her life as a demon's assassin alone--wouldn't it seem right if she ended the series alone, after all the happy and tragic experiences in between? That was before I wrote down word one on page one. Since then I have grown to love her and her close circle so much that I just couldn't do that. However things turn out for her, at least I know that story arc is toast.

I’ll be giving away a signed copy of Sacrifice (newly released August 31st) to a random draw among people who make a comment. To enter to win, please post a comment below. You can earn points by:

+1 Posting in the comments section
+1 Linking to this post on Twitter
+1 Linking to this post on Facebook
+3 Following my personal blog.

Just post the total number of points that you’ve earned in your comment. Winner to be announced at the top of this post on Tuesday, August 31st. Contest ends Monday, August 30, at midnight! Please note that if I don’t hear from the winner within 3 days after the contest closes, I will select another winner. 



Katie Dalton said...

If I am picking an answer I would have to say A.
I cry but trust the author it was for the best.
And yes this HAS happened in a few series that I have read and loved.
Example: Rodney in Jeanine Frost book, I loved that ghoul. :( RIP my friend *sob sob
1 point here
3 on your blog
4 total

nymfaux said...

Ooooh!!!! Good post!!!--I love hearing the author's side of things!!!

As a reader, I'd probably lean toward C...If I love a character, I get greedy and want more...I don't like them to die or turn evil, I don't care what happens to evil/bad characters, but I want my favorite characters to live long lives and have happy endings.

+1 comment
+1 tweet:
+1 facebook:!/moviebunny?v=wall&story_fbid=142731919096390&ref=mf
+3 follower

Bella said...

Let me just say that I'm glad you threw the *full-circle* idea out the window, lol ... nothing is more upsetting to me, as a reader, when - after spending book after book growing to love a character - the series ends with that character alone ... I mean, lol, after everything UF authors put their characters through, they deserve a little happiness at the end of it all! :P

Jessica said...

Killing off characters can be hard. On both the writer and the reader. It's devastating too, especially if the "offed" one was close to the MC. If he/she was a rock for the hero or some other close bond was between them. But I can see how it can be necessary. Much as I hate it. In my WIPs I do kill off a character here and there because it becomes necessary for other events to happen. My character can't move on really and has to learn to accept the death of someone close.

It's realistic too, because our loved ones, people who were very close to us, die. And we have to get through those deaths. Accept them and try to move on. It can be hard, but moving on--eventually--is necessary.

+1 Posting comment
+1 linking post to blog in sidebar
+3 following personal blog

5 points total

Katie said...

I hate it when good characters get killed off, but I give the author the benefit of the doubt. Usually, there is method to the madness. But I will admit I have stopped reading a series because the a character got killed off and it just seemed like a waste.

bigferret at email dot com

+1 entry

Larissa said...

Really great post, thanks!

I didn't get the "I wasn't expecting [character] to do that!" until it happened to me. It's a great thing when it happens. :)

+1 comment
+3 following your blog

lchardesty at yahoo dot com

Indigo said...

*Opens mouth - decides to close it*

Sigh. In the first book I ever wrote, I killed off a great character. He wasn't my main character, but several people who had read the story loved him.

Against my better judgement, I brought him back. To say the story changed to something I wasn't happy with, is putting it lightly. Disgruntled I put the book away and refused to work on it.

This post intrigued me enough to want to work on the book again. Sometimes we just have to trust the authors instincts. Books follow life closely. In life we don't always get the 'happy ever after'.(Hugs)Indigo

Alicia0605 said...

I tend to trust the authors. I think the saddest character ever killed for me was Kisten from Kim Harrisons Hollows series. I cried about that for the following two books.

+1 commented
+1 Twitter
+3 follow personal blog


Lea U. said...

I´d probably chose answer A.
I have to trust the author. He/She was able to create a wonderful world for me. That´s why I just have to believe that the death of a LC is just ment to be. That there was no other way.

1+ Entry

Nicole said...

Ohh great question... it depends for me. Sometimes I just cry and trust the author, other times I throw the book across the room and sulk. Other times I finish the story and calmly sell the book to a used book store and silently curse! It really just depends!!
+1 comment
+3 follow blog

Patricia Lynne said...

I'd mourn the character like a real person pretty much. I'd see it almost like life and in life we can't control when some one dies so when a character I like dies, I get really sad and miss the character and mourn w/ the other characters. (or at least until I get swept back up in the story and my sadness fades a bit, but I'm usually still bummed by the end of the story that some one died)
1 entry

writtenwyrdd said...

I am okay with letting the author decide the fate of characters if they do it well. If they do it gratuitously I can be really annoyed and give up on a series...but it's really writing that I don't like that turns me off and not just because a character died.

I follow your blog on google reader

JenM said...

As long as it fits the story arc, I'm okay with a character being killed off, however, I never enjoy it. I do get emotionally invested, even with minor characters. If the dying doesn't seem to be for a good reason, then I really dislike it. For example, in Charlaine Harris's previous to the most recent book, she killed off a well-liked secondary character (trying not to spoil here) and I didn't really see the point of it. I'd like to read the newest release, but because of that death, I'm just not that eager. I'll get around to it, and I'm not dropping the series, but it's just not the same.

Barbara E. said...

I think I would trust the author to know what they were doing, since it's their story. If I really didn't like it, if it ruined the series for me, I'd stop reading that series, but that hasn't ever happened to me yet.

Tanya1224 said...

You know its funny that I came across this blog about this subject because I was just cursing about an author I just read, Kim Harrison. I so loved the hollows series until she killed off Kristen, who I fell in love with. I cried, like all out boo-hooed. My husband thought I was crazy. I was so upset I couldn't even sleep :( I just took a break from the series and started back at it a few wks later. I'm glad I did because she didn't just drop him out of the series like I thought. Still sad but I managed. i have not finished the series yet but its definitely not as good w/out that character. I would hope authors wouldn't kill off such great characters unless it was a must. Thanks for a great blog.
+5 comment,twittered about contest and follow blog.

Casey said...

I cry whenever one of my favorite characters die. Sometimes I never pick up another book in that series but usually I just throw the book, cry like a crazy peson and then pick up the book again later (once I've calmed down a bit).

+1 for comment
+1 for tweeting (
+3 for following your blog (as C4Casey)
Total: 5 pts

heatwave16 said...

I think I would have to go with A. Although I would be tempted to throw a bit of a fit and say I'll never read another book. However, I know that would wear off...just initial sadness, and I have cried before.

+1 comment
+1 for twitter
+1 for facebook -!/hcreely
+3 for following blog

6 total


Crystal said...

Great Post!
And oooo... I hate when that happens! Sometimes it results in me throwing the book across the room. But I always pick it back up.
I would have to go with both A and C. More C but some A because I cry. Def. not D, not nice and just a wee bit crazy. LoL
@Tanya1224, I loved Kisten too. =( So sad, I cried as well.

I loved Dark Time and can't wait for Sacrifice to find out what comes next for Maliha and what's up with Jake.

+1 Commented
+1 Facebook
+3 Follow Blog
5 Total

Tracey O'Hara said...

Great topic. Killing off caracters can be good and can be devastaing. I cried when I killed off one of my fav characters.

Carrie S. said...

Killing off characters does tend to make me upset. I don't believe I've cried. But I was sad and wondering why the author did such things.

Mysteriousrose said...

I have had a lot of those moments when I read a book and my favorite character die in one way or another and I cried for them so my answer is going to be A.

I can not see if this contest is international so I hope it's ok that I entered.

+1 for commenting
+3 for following blog
Total: 4

Sharon S. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sharon S. said...

I just cry in a loud and rude way, then move on . Kim Harrison still gets bombarded with questions of why she killed off one of her favorite characters. And Tracey O'Hara is another example (I let her know it made me sad. I might have whined a bit too)
The thing about paranormal stories is, dead doesn't always mean *dead. So I think we hold out hope that maybe that character will show back up.
I am currently reading Dark Time and all this talk about killing characters by you has got me a little worried .

5 points for me!

k_sunshine1977 said...

What happens when a paranormal series character you've grown to love gets the ax, sometimes literally? Do you:

A) Cry but trust the author that it was for the best in the series

i would have to agree with several other posters regarding kim harrison's choice, but i still love that series. i wouldn't stop reading a series as long as the character wasn't killed just for some plot - if it had a purpose...

+1 comment
+3 Following your personal blog

k_sunshine1977 at yahoo dot com

Karyn Gerrard said...

This was a fascinating post! It must be gut wrenching to make such a decision. I would go with A, the author knows the characters better than anyone, I would trust her to know what was best. I can live with it.

+1 comment
+3 Follow your blog

Sue S. said...

Death is never fun. Whether fictional or real. But in fiction deaths tend to help shape the protagonist in ways that are necessary. So while it may be painful to read, I see the need for it.

Claire Dawn said...

I took a 4 month hiatus from the first draft of my first WIP in order not to kill a character who was always supposed to die!

= 1 for commenting!

Lisa R/alterlisa said...

+1 The key here is the word paranormal- dead does not always mean dead(kinda like a soap opera) so I assume the author knows best until she proves otherwise then she probably gets an email from me begging like a little kid- you know that one that says please, please, please and flashes puppy dog eyes with big ole tears in them. Yeah, that's the one.
+3 follow your personal blog

alterlisa AT yahoo DOT com

Sweet Rachel! said...

I HATE it when my favorite character dies! argh! But I must be a glutton for punishment because the ones in which my character gets "the ax" are always my favorite.

+6 total

+3 following your blog
+1 here
+1 Twitter
+1 facebook!/profile.php?id=1365769490

Dakota Banks said...

The winner of the signed copy of Sacrifice is alicia0605. Alicia, please let me know your mailing address by sending me an email through the contact page of my website, Congratulations!

nymfaux said...

congrats to the winner!!!!