My good friend and critique partner, author Kelly Irvin, is questioning whether she has what it takes to kill off a character she hadn't planned on killing.
Kelly's first published novel, A Deadly Wilderness will be released in January through Five Star Gale. You can find out more about Kelly and her novel by reading a previous post here, or visiting her website.
Kelly is my guest today as she explores her own inner killer.
The killer gene
As a romantic suspense writer, I often contemplate the problem of the soggy middle in my work—and the work of others. The recommendation frequently tossed about for this ailment is to kill someone off. It works quite nicely if you can find a reason for the knife in the back or the bullet to the head that propels your plot forward. In my case, the victims are generally secondary or even tertiary characters in whom I’m not really invested or the reader hasn’t had time to really get to know so it’s not going to break their hearts or mine. A book I read recently made me ponder if I’ve been cheating readers out of a truly mind-blogging emotional, visceral experience by not allowing myself to consider the death of a major character.
I’ve written lots of murder scenes, but I wonder, do I lack the killer gene? I rarely read outside my chosen genre, but anytime Allison Pittman has a new book out, I rush to buy my fellow San Antonio novelist’s work. Her latest novel, Stealing Home, broke my heart—in a good way. I won’t say much because I refuse to be a spoiler, but suffice it to say, a tragedy occurs that I didn’t see coming until it hit me between the eyes. I found myself grieving over it even after I finished the book. As an author and writer, I was astounded by Allison’s fortitude in writing it. She says she agonized over the necessity of the death. She looked for ways to avoid doing it. But she realized it was necessary to allow the other characters to reach their destinies.
I searched my memory banks, but I could recall only a few other novels where the death of a character affected me so deeply. Karen Ball’s novel, Shattered Justice, comes to mind. Dan Justice suffers a tragedy that is unbearable for me to think about even years after having read the book. But it caused me to ask myself what I would do in Dan’s situation. Would I forsake the God I believe in? Would I seek revenge? Would I lay down and die from the sheer agony? In Dee Henderson’s O’Malley series, the death of a major character is from natural causes and not unexpected, but still devastating. Again, it forced me to consider whether I can continue to believe in God even if He doesn’t answer my prayers in the way that I think He should.
I wonder if I could kill off a character I love in order to allow a story to ring true and stands up for what it believes. It may be time to find out.
CR: I'm planning on starting a new Lisa Unger tonight.
It's all better with friends.