Last week Linda Rodriguez wrote about the death count in Game of Thrones. The world of George R. R. Martin is a dangerous one, and Death acts accordingly in Westeros, taking innocent and guilty alike. Martin kills off beloved characters, shocking and impressing his fans with his take no prisoners – and save no favorites – literary attack. The story is all. He means business.
A writer who kills off a beloved character is taking a chance. I’ll never forget reading the scene in Jane Eyre where (SPOILER ALERT – BUT REALLY, YOU HAVEN’T READ JANE EYRE?) Jane’s friend Helen dies in her arms. I don’t know if I’ll ever forgive Charlotte Bronte for killing her.
In a murder mystery, especially a traditional mystery, part of the fun can be seeing which character is the first to get bumped off. This character is usually someone who has done people wrong – a lot of people wrong. Then there is a pool of suspects who have every reason to resort to murder.
As I was polishing the manuscript of my novel it hit me that my murder victim was an absolutely wonderful person – giving, funny, talented. I started to feel bad about his death. I started to wonder if maybe I should just, well, injure or maim him. Maybe hit him with something temporary, like a well-timed soap opera coma, and have him revive at the end?
Well, rest assured Writers Who Kill, I soon stopped that nonsense. I realized that the death of a “good” character left voids and scars that deepened the emotional lives of the surviving characters. And it made me see the depth of my killer’s depravity. Utterly despicable! Enjoyably despicable!
Who was your first victim? Was it just desserts or just a shame?