If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com

Our April author interviews: Perennial author Susan Wittig Albert--4/5, Sasscer Hill, horse racing insider--4/12, English historical, cozy author, TE Kinsey--4/19, Debut author, Susan Bickford--4/26.

Saturday Guest Bloggers in April: Heather Baker Weidner (4/1), Christina Hoag (4/8), Susan Boles (4/29). WWK Saturday bloggers write on 4/15--Margaret S. Hamilton and on 4/22--Kait Carson.

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Warren Bull's new Lincoln mystery, Abraham Lincoln In Court & Campaign has been released. Look for the Kindle version on February 3.

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published. Her short story "Goldie" will be published in the Busted anthology, which will be released by Level Best Books on April 25th. In addition, our prolific KM will have the following shorts published as well: "Sight Unseen" in Fish Out of Water, Guppie (SinC) anthology, just released, and "Making Tracks" in Passport to Murder, Bouchercon anthology, October 2017.

Margaret S. Hamilton's short story, "Once a Kappa" was published as a finalist in the Southern Writer's Magazine annual short story contest issue. Mysterical-E published her "Double Crust Corpse" in the Fall 2016 issue. "Baby Killer" will appear in the 2017 solar eclipse anthology Day of the Dark to be published this summer prior to the eclipse in August.

Linda Rodriquez has two pending book publications. Plotting the Character-Driven Novel will be released by Scapegoat Press on November 29th. Every Family Doubt, the fourth Skeet Bannion mystery, is scheduled for release on June, 13, 2017. Look for E. B. Davis's interview with Linda here in June!

Cross Genre Publications anthology, Hidden Youth, will contain Warren Bull's "The Girl, The Devil, and The Coal Mine." The anthology will be released in late November 2016. The We've Been Trumped anthology released by Dark House Press on September 28th contains Warren Bull's "The Wall" short story and KM Rockwood's "A Phone Call to the White House." KM writes under the name Pat Anne Sirs for this volume.

James M. Jackson's 4th book in the Seamus McCree series, Doubtful Relations, is now available. His novella "Low Tide at Tybee" appears February 7 as part of Lowcountry Crimes: Four Novellas, which is available for order.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Too Big to Fail?

“Characters can grow larger than their creators. That's when authors attempt to kill them off, with very mixed results.” ~ Warren Bull

Warren wrote the above as a blog post comment, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. Is it really possible for characters to grow so large that their creator tries to kill them off?  I understand that an author might sacrifice a minor character in order for the main character to change. For instance, a secondary character could die while heroically saving someone’s life thus spurring the main character or the story to change. But why would an author kill off a main character?

It seems that there are a number of reasons.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle attempted to kill off Sherlock Holmes by having him tumble over the Reichenbach Falls. Why? Well, Conan Doyle saw himself as a historical novelist and thought that Holmes kept him from better things. Resentful of his character, he tried to scare off The Strand Magazine from requesting more stories by demanding increasingly outrageous rates. They agreed to pay his price and eventually Conan Doyle felt that he had no choice but to kill off the detective.

Sherlock Holmes fans protested his death so vehemently, even wearing black arm bands in mourning, that Holmes was “resurrected” in a later story. Readers in the 1800s saw something special about this larger than life character that many of us see today. I predict that Holmes will still be around, in one form or another, in the next century.

Some authors are ready to eliminate an important character, but decide against it. Tess Gerritsen admitted that she was prepared to kill off Jane Rizzoli in The Surgeon during a climactic scene in a cellar. Gerritsen wrote, “But as I was about to perform the coup de gras on her … something stopped me. You know what it was? She’d grown on me. She had so much heart, she’d faced so many struggles, that to end her life there struck me as appallingly unfair. So I let her live.” At the time Jane Rizzoli was a secondary character. I’m glad that Gerritsen let her live and become a main character. Can you imagine Isles without Rizzoli?

J.K. Rowling almost pulled the plug on Ron Weasley. Originally she planned for none of the kids to be killed. But midway through the series she almost offed him “out of sheer spite” because she “wasn’t in a very happy place.” Fans were relieved for many reasons but mainly because Ron was Hermione’s true love.

What are the consequences for eliminating a well-liked main character? Author Karin Slaughter received hate mail when she killed off a main character, Jeffrey, in Beyond Reach. In an interview with Lee Child she said that killing off Jeffrey was difficult but the best thing for the series because there wasn’t anything new or interesting to say about him. However, angry readers didn’t agree with her decision. They wrote that she hated men, hoped she never sold another book, and that she should die.

How do authors cushion the blow for readers when killing a main character…and avoid hate mail? Tess Gerritsen says that she gives the reader time to grieve by not abruptly ending the book but lengthening it by a few chapters. She believes this allows the readers time with the remaining characters to see how their lives change for the better.

Has an author killed off one of your favorite characters?

13 comments:

James Montgomery Jackson said...

It an interesting post, but I am not coming up with examples off the top of my head of the main character in a series dying. I’ve seen authors spin off series so the main character becomes a minor character.

The bigger problem for me are authors who hold onto a character long past their use by date. They might kill them later, but I’ve already scratched the author off my list as same old, same old.

~ Jim

E. B. Davis said...

If you haven't read Ann Cleeve's Blue Lightning, don't read this--spoiler.

Ann Cleeves killed off her main character's fiancee, Fran, another main character in her Shetland mystery series. I think most fans read the book, Blue Lightning, which was published in 2010. Reading the book in which she killed off Jimmy Perez's fiancee was shocking. It led to some interesting developments, more angst in the MC, his responsibility to her child, and to a new detective partner. I wasn't sure if the fiancee was really the one for him, but I didn't want to see her killed.

Jo Dereske finished her character arc and stopped her Helma Zukas mystery series. She said it was finished. I understood she brought Helma to her finale. But I will miss the strange, but clever character.

The real question because it has gotten no press is whether or not Diane Mott Davidson finished her series. In the last book, she, too, finished Goldy's character arc. No one says anything about the series being at an end. But she started the series in 1990 and continued almost every year with another book. After seventeen books, the last one was titled, The Whole Enchilada (2013), and I think it was just that--the end of the whole story!

Of course, Ian Rankin tried to kill off Rebus. But then he brought back at least one book in which Rebus is no longer the boss. I didn't take to it, which is strange because I love Rebus.

Whether or not we like what an author does, it is their choice. If we like the change in the characters, we continue reading. If not, we have our own choices to make.

Warren Bull said...

The television show THE WALKING DEAD is famous for killing off well-liked characters. In the environment of the show, anyone might die. I have seen movies about war that killed off characters I liked. In both cases the deaths remind viewers of the dangerous world they live in.

Gloria Alden said...

Elizabeth George killed off Inspector Lynleys' wife Helen and their unborn child. While I wasn't extremely attached to Helen, I felt horrible for Lynley.

As for main characters, I can't think of any.

Kara Cerise said...

Jim, I’ve also seen authors hold onto a character that I felt was past her/his prime. That’s why I was intrigued about larger than life characters that the writer kills off or wants to kill. I didn't understand their motivation until I dug deeper.

Kara Cerise said...

Great examples, E.B. I haven’t read Blue Lightning, but it sounds gripping.

I wonder if Diane Mott Davison has finished her series. I’d like for The Hallmark Channel to make it a television series. They’ve started emphasizing mystery dramas and I think it would be a good fit.

Kara Cerise said...

Warren, thank you for the intriguing comment that led to this blog.

I think you’re right that death, especially if it’s unexpected, reminds us of the dangerous and unpredictable world we inhabit.

Kara Cerise said...

Gloria, I also had a difficult time thinking of main characters that an author killed off. I didn’t realize until I did my research that we almost lost Jane Rizzoli and Ron Weasley.

Shari Randall said...

My daughter won't continue with the Game of Thrones series because she said that every time she starts to like a character, George Martin kills them off!
I am glad EB mentioned Miss Zukas - what a good series that was. I was sad that the series ended, but it wrapped up in a way that was so right for the character that I made peace with it. (Tried to avoid spoiler there!) I guess that's the trick, as Tess Gerritsen said, a writer has to make the character's death meaningful, and not just a stunt to reboot a series.

Kara Cerise said...

Shari, I don’t think there’s much job security for an actor on Game of Thrones.

I thought Tess Gerritsen had good advice for writers who are contemplating killing off a character. My favorite is that well-written characters can feel so real that it’s important to give the reader time to grieve when one dies.

KM Rockwood said...

I have trouble killing off the "bad" characters, much less one of my main ones. I know it might be the right thing to do sometimes,but so far I haven't been able to do it.

Sometimes an author does hold onto a character for too long. But many series readers want the delicious familiarity of similar situations for the same characters. Hopefully there's a character arc throughout the series, but not always. I feel like my main series is one of those, and that people who want new & different will not continue reading the series.

One problem I'd have with killing off a main character is that they are very real to me, and I'd have to go through an intense mourning myself. At the present time I'm not willing to do that.

Linda Rodriguez said...

Agatha Christie, quite famously, came to hate Poirot and wanted to kill him off, but there was too much demand for his books. So she invented a character who is an amusing self-caricature of herself, Ariadne Oliver, who detects with Poirot in many books and moans about how she hates her 60-year-old Finn who'd a vegetarian and asexual and regrets ever saddling herself with him.

Kara Cerise said...

Your main characters feel real to me too, KM. I understand how it would be painful for you to even think about eliminating any of them.

Linda, I didn’t know that Ariadne Oliver was a caricature of Agatha Christie! What a unique solution to the problem of hating a character and not being able to kill him off. I love how she inserted herself into the stories.