Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Saying Goodbye (a.k.a. Death by Prose)

“Only a writer knows just how painful it is to kill one of her beloved characters.”

I was actually able to include that phrase in my speech last winter, and it is undeniably true.  I’ve known from the beginning of SotLC that one of my favorite characters would have to die.  There was no way to avoid it. 

Well, last night, I killed her.  Okay, an angry mob killed her (just an FYI, folks: dragons die when you smash up their wing and put an arrow through their temple.  In case you didn’t know.), but I was the one who was ultimately responsible.  I figured that after killing her I would gain some sort of angelic wisdom and would be able to post about some way to make it easier on you guys.

I was wrong. 

I’m not sure what I gained from the experience, but I learned nothing that would help you.  Only a writer would understand that killing off a character like that makes you feel like an actual murderer.  I still feel awful about it.  I feel awful because it was so easy to write.  It wasn’t even a heroic death, either.  It was just…bad.  And sad, and I’m dying to tell my other characters about it, because they don’t know, but I can’t. 

As writers, we love our characters.  And we hate them, but mostly we love them. *Harry Potter spoiler ahead!  This is the only unsafe paragraph, though.* Sometimes I wonder whether Rowling killed Harry just because she was sick of him, but then brought him back because in the end she loved him too much to get rid of him forever. 

I didn’t really cry.  I’m not walking around all depressed.  Because how on earth would I explain this to people?  “What’s wrong, Annie?”  “Oh, I just killed my fictional character. *sniff*”  They just plain won’t get it.  An avid reader might pretend to understand.  They know how it feels to lose a favorite character. 

But in the end, they have no idea how it feels.  Don’t even try to tell me otherwise, because I will almost certainly spazz out at you and get really angry.  Not even kidding.  Readers aren’t personally responsible for the death.  They won’t feel guilty about it.  They can’t possible have that same connection an author shares with their characters.  You’ll never know, unless you’re a writer.

Feel free to write me off as insane, people.  Tell me I’m a freak.  I won’t care a bit.  “It’s just a fictional character.  They don’t exist.” 

And that’s where you would be wrong.  They do exist.  They exist in the author’s heart and mind.  They live and breathe and are the author’s soul poured onto paper.  Sometimes I think writers are the bravest people alive in the world.  Who else could put so much of their hopes, dreams, and fears out into the world, for anyone to read and criticize?  It’s madness, when you really think of it. 

So, fellow writers: Killing your character hurts.  There isn’t a way to make it easier.  It just plain hurts, and you just have to deal with it and push through.  If you ever need a virtual shoulder to cry on, The Epic, the Awesome, and the Random is here for you.  Post a comment on any old post; doesn’t matter which.  Or find me and send me a message on Inkpop.  Or Goodreads.  I’m here.  

And for the rest of you: Writers are an incredibly odd bunch.  We think differently than the rest of the world.  Call us insane.  We honestly will laugh in your faces.  We don’t care what you think.  Just give us a little space and we won’t bother you.

3 comments:

  1. *hugs* I'm sorry. :( I remember last year I had to kill off one of my character's stepdad (in made his stepdaughter do it against her will) and it was horrible. I felt really bad about it especially cause the character was young and I made her kill her stepdad, I mean, how awful is that?

    Anyways, I started sobbing as I wrote the scene and my cousin who I happened to have over at the time (she'll read my magazines while I write) gave me this look and asked what was wrong. So I told her and she gave me this look and said "I can't believe I'm related to you!"...actually no she didn't but she did give me a look.

    Anyways, I agree with this post!

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  2. *hugs back* Oh, that sounds sad. I felt awful with my character, because there was a crucial piece of information she was missing, and if she knew it she would've lived. And my other characters won't find out for days yet, which is really hard because I have to write their story assuming that the dead character still lives. If that makes any sense.

    Yeah, sometimes I don't even explain those kinds of things to people. It just kind of gets old after awhile.

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  3. I'll have to kill off my main character in my book. Her death is inevitable, because the whole story is her life living with a heart condition. She has one central goal before she dies, and she's going to die without achieving it. I feel terrible. I've tried writing her death scene a few times and ended up crying with each attempt.

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