Monthly Archives: December 2013

Character Mortality and Predictable Writers

I guess you could consider this post a double-whammy… But beware: There is much following of bunny trails…

This is going to sound awful –

Twice, I have tried to kill off a certain character in my current work in progress. I had it [kind of] planned out from the beginning stages. I’d kill her off and make her a martyr, then leave her love interest reeling in agony. Both times, I’ve chickened out or found a way around it.

I partly blame this on my writing buddy. Said buddy has a very odd habit of falling in love with the characters that I eventually plan on killing off or maiming. I don’t know how he does it, but it gives me a guilt trip every time. He also loves cliches, which I try like anything to avoid –– then accidentally toss in when I’m not paying attention. And you know what the strangest thing is? I will either send him a chunk of the latest writings, or I’ll hint at what I’m working on, and he somehow already knows what I’m planning… even if I haven’t said anything.

When I told writing buddy I was not going to have things end perfectly happily, he guessed that I was going to kill off one of two characters –– one of which was the one I had targeted. I, being of a contrary nature at times, started to hesitate about going through with the plan.

But I moved on, wrote the terrible betrayal, read it through several times, then decided, “This doesn’t work.” I marked those scenes in red for later removal and pretended something else had happened. I would postpone the character’s death for a later time, in a less horrible way.

Well, that didn’t happen. I trapped her outside during a seige, handed her over to the villain (sort of), and then… her companion/love interest shot the villain with an arrow and chased the bad guys to rescue her, negotiated a cease-fire, and whisked her away to another location –– because he’s awesome like that…

I’m starting to think that this gal has some sort of magical protection on her. At first, I thought, “She’s doomed!” because I named her for a character I killed in another, semi-related story. Oh, wait… Let me explain the paradox:

  1. I originally wrote her years ago in a scrap of writing that never went anywhere.
  2. I wrote another story last year that had a character based on her with the same name –– with one letter’s difference. I killed off the one in the newer story, after putting her through some pretty rough times, and then said to myself, “What just happened?”
  3. I took the scrap of writing that never went anywhere (referred to in #1), and I expanded my favourite part of it –– the part pertaining to her –– which is what I’m working on now… but it takes place hundreds of years before the story I wrote last year….

Confusing, right? Not confusing enough, apparently.

In short, there’s been a huge conflict in me between wanting to preserve this character and wanting to avoid the “happily ever after” cliche ending… and I think that’s what’s held me back the most with this story. Not time constraints, not writer’s block…. this wrestling match with myself over this character’s mortality…

And now for a bunny trail –– This whole conundrum of deciding who lives and who dies (and how) has me looking at stories very differently. When I [finally] watched the Hunger Games, I was thinking with my writer brain, figuring out who was going to die and how. I won’t toss in any spoilers here, but the author definitely took a route with one character that I would have taken if I were in her situation with a story. I wouldn’t say that it ruins how I look at stories, but it does put them into a different light… And I’m not sure whether it’s awesome or scary when I predict where a writer is going with their story. While I tend to prefer surprises, I want to say, “AHA!” every time I do get it right.

So back to the original topic:

What to do when your writing starts getting out of hand? Mark the parts you don’t want in red, decide what you really want, then just… write. But never throw out the unused parts… You might need them for another project.

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