Writing Tip — Death of a Character

gravew-3775464_1280I thought I was ready.

When an agent said I could send her the proposal for my YA crime novel, she also said I could send two-paragraph blurbs describing the other books in the series. When I got home, I was so excited and settled down to the job, eager to introduce into the second novel one of my favorite characters, a mysterious stranger who helps my main character and his family and whose motivations and history are revealed over the series.

Only I couldn’t summarize the book. No matter how I approached the blurb, I kept stumbling over my mysterious stranger. He wouldn’t fit easily into the narrative. He clashed and grated on other characters. His motivations never felt right. A few days before November 11 last year, I hit on the reason: I didn’t need him any more.

In my head, I’ve been developing this series for years, adding characters, changing personalities, explored motivations. I now had other characters, who could do the job of the mysterious stranger more easily and believably.

So on November 11, 2018, I killed my character. It didn’t bother me like I thought it would. I love my characters, feeling an almost maternal protectiveness (don’t tell my kids) as I nurture and polish them. But once I killed the stranger, I felt at ease. When a story isn’t working, I obsess over how to fix it because I can’t stand the feeling that something is wrong. After I made the the final decision to axe the stranger, the relief I felt signaled I’d made the right decision.

It also signaled I’d changed as a writer. My stories weren’t just about pleasing or entertaining me, although that’s important. I could never write a story without characters I didn’t care about or a plot that wasn’t interesting and rang true to life. This time, I found myself wanting to write the best story possible, no matter how painful the path to get there.

So, sorry, mysterious stranger. I may resurrect you for another story, change you a bit, cast you in a somewhat different role.

But for now — rest in peace.

 

10 thoughts on “Writing Tip — Death of a Character

Add yours

  1. Wow, this is so very interesting, but I guess if that character wasn’t doing much for the story and was just getting in the way of writing your story, then it sounds like you did the right thing, and maybe you can give him a new home in a new book . Sounds like you made the right choice! 🙂 Have a Great weekend. God Bless you. Thank you so much for all the good pointers. 🙂 I always enjoy hearing what you have to say.

  2. I always enjoy your posts about your writing journey. Thanks for sharing this. I haven’t had to kill off a character in this way, but I have had to change a bad guy to a good guy about 3/4 way through. Had to take out all the clues and foreshadowing about the bad guy… but he needed to be good!

Leave a Reply

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: