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

August Interview Schedule
8/7 Rhys Bowen Love and Death Among the Cheetahs
8/14 Heather Gilbert Belinda Blake and the Snake in the Grass
8/21 Lynn Chandler Willis Tell Me No Secrets
8/28 Cynthia Kuhn The Subject of Malice
8/31 Bernard Schaffer An Unsettled Grave

Saturday Guest Bloggers: 8/3 M. S. Spencer, 8/10 Zaida Alfaro

WWK Satuday Bloggers: 8/24 Kait Carson


Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Shari Randall will be writing again for St. Martin's, perhaps under a pseudonym. We look forward to reading Shari's Ice Cream Shop Mystery series debuting next year. Congratulations, Shari!

Susan Van Kirk's A Death At Tippett Pond was released on June 15th. Read E. B. Davis's interview with Susan.

KM Rockwood's "Frozen Daiquiris" appears in The Best Laid Plans: 21 Stories of Mystery & Suspense, edited by Judy Penz Sheluk. The anthology will be released on June 18th.

Congratulations to Margaret S. Hamilton for being a finalist in the Daphne Du Maurier contest. Margaret competes in the Unpublished/Mainstream mystery/suspense category.

Congratulations to Shari Randall for WINNING the Agatha Award for Best First Novel. Her book, Curses, Boiled Again was published by St. Martin's last year. Read the interview about the book here. Yay, Shari!

Fishy Business anthology authors include KM Rockwood, Debra Goldstein, and James M. Jackson. This volume was edited by Linda Rodriguez.

Please read Margaret S. Hamilton and Debra Goldstein's short stories (don't ask about their modus operandi) in a new anthology, Cooked To Death Vol. IV: Cold Cut Files

Warren Bull's Abraham Lincoln: Seldom Told Stories was released. It is available at: GoRead: https://www.goread.com/book/abraham-lincoln-seldom-told-stories or at Amazon: https://tinyurl.com/ydaklx8p

Grace Topping's mystery, Staging is Murder was released April 30.

James M. Jackson extends the Seamus McCree series with the May 25th publication of #6, False Bottom.


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Murdering Our Characters

Agatha Christie who has murdered more than I have.
I delight in telling people I meet that I’m the little white-haired lady who murders people. The look of surprise on their face is worth my little jest. I’m sure writers who don’t write mysteries or readers of books other than mysteries must think I’m rather strange.

However, it’s not only mystery writers who kill off their characters. I just read that J.K. Rowling recently apologized for killing off the character Fred Weasley in the series’ final book. “Today I would just like to say: I’m really sorry about Fred,” she said. Rowling plans to issue several more character death mea culpas overtime according to the recent issue of TIME Magazine. I’m sure she got a lot of flak from fans of the Harry Potter series. I know Elizabeth George really upset people when she killed off Chief Inspector Thomas Lindley’s wife and unborn child. It upset me, too. 

A real furor arrived when Sir Author Conan Doyle killed off Sherlock Holmes: so much so that he had to revive him eventually even though he’d grown tired of his character. In the first Maisie Dobbs book by Jacqueline Winspear, I was unhappy when the man she loved died.

I think killing off characters readers love seems to be more common in literary books. In All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr I was upset when one of the main characters died. However, it was an excellent book that I’ve recommended to many people. It was the same with Jodie Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper, and ever so many other literary books I’ve read. Most of the books chosen for both of my book clubs are rarely mysteries, and unless it’s a book by Fannie Flagg, all too often there are endings that are sad. Invisible Ellen by Shari Shattuck had a happy ending. However, one or two members of our book club thought the happy ever after was too contrived. Maybe so, but after a series of books with depressing endings, it’s nice to have an ending that leaves a reader smiling and satisfied.

However, I think writers of series like Rowling, Doyle and George upset readers more than writers of stand-alone books. Yes, we get attached to the characters in a well-written book, but in a series, the readers get attached to the small town – if the series takes place in a small town or someplace like Hogwarts – over time the returning characters start to seem like friends we know.
The End of Sherlock Holmes - temporarily.
That is one of the reasons I won’t kill returning characters – at least I haven’t so far. Also, there’s the fact that I know them and would miss them. If I’m not particularly fond of a character, or find them funny, I won’t bring them back very often, or not at all. Almost all my murder victims are not nice people, even nasty. And if they aren’t dislikeable characters, they are victims who for various reasons no reader will be upset by their death. And, of course, I would never harm a child or animal.

What books have you read where the death of a character upset you?

Have you killed off characters that upset your readers? Will you ever do so?


James Montgomery Jackson said...

In an early draft of Cabin Fever I ended the story with a gunshot. It was not clear who shot whom. It was the third Seamus McCree mystery i had written. The first two had not yet been placed, and I was ambivalent about whether to kill the series and try something else.

My critique group HATED it. I should probably have used a larger font for the “hated” to express the depth and breadth of their hate.

~ Jim

Gloria Alden said...

Jim, I would have hated it, too. I hope you never decide to end the series again.

Warren Bull said...

I was upset when a cartoon writer killed a dog who was a recurring character in the strip. Kill human characters if you must, but leave the animals alone.

E. B. Davis said...

Spoiler Alert: Don't read this if you haven't read Ann Cleeve's Shetland Island Series.

Ann Cleeves killed off a main character who appeared in the first few books, I think in book four. Her POV was presented, and she became the main character's fiancee. Her child became a character. The woman was killed during a trip to meet her to-be in-laws. It showed how an amateur sleuth can die by "helping" in a police case. So although I can't say it was unrealistic, it was very upsetting. Although the kill didn't change the series, of course, the main character changed in personality and worsened how he functioned.

I know throwing every adversity at our main characters is essential for their character arc. But, in this case, the reader had an emotional investment in the character. It was a bit cruel. Perhaps it is realism that the author wanted to portray. But I'm unsure if I could do that. Even though she wasn't "the" main character, she was "a" main character.

But then, maybe being ruthless is what makes a great writer.

Gloria Alden said...

Warren, I totally agree with you. The only critter I've ever killed was a possum eating my chickens in one poem.

E.B. I bought Ann Cleeeves RAVEN BLACK at Malice. I think it's the first in her Shetland Island Series. It sounds sort of like what happened in Elizabeth George's Inspector Lynley series. Now, I'm having 2nd thoughts about starting Cleeves' series, although, I'm sure I still will.

E. B. Davis said...

Gloria--I put up a spoiler alert! Read it as though you don't know what's coming. But, yes--you're right, it was very much like Elizabeth George did in her series. I have some issues with Elizabeth George and have stopped reading her series. I'll probably continue with Cleeves's series--but I'm not sure if I want to be entertained in that manner. Can I charge them with "character abuse"?

Patg said...

I stopped reading George when she killed off Helen. Boo hisssss.

Kara Cerise said...

I read a series where the main character's significant other was killed off in the third (I think) book. It threw me for a loop, but I continued reading more books in the series. However, I would be horrified if a child or pet was murdered and would stop reading.

KM Rockwood said...

I know the saying "kill your babies," aimed at writers who are too squeamish to both cut their prose & kill off their characters.

To tell the truth, one reason I don't care much for "literary" fiction is that it's often so depressing.

When I was teaching (emotionally disturbed high school kids) almost all of the reading selections were depressing. When I could, I substituted works with a more positive outlook. Kids who are already at risk because of depression & suicidal ideation really don't need a constant diet of reading where the outcomes tend to be death and destruction. I don't know why curriculum developers emphasis those types of works so much. It' not "reality" any more than the "happily ever after" stories are reality.

My leisure reading is for pleasure. I don't mind difficult situations, and I can cheer for a character who has a success that I wouldn't particularly care for, but I do want a sense of hope at the end.

Anonymous said...

I like your writing because sometimes everybody is secretly glad the "bad guy" got murdered and often, not always, you create sympathy for the killer. I love your secondary characters in Portage Falls! Don't kill them please! LOL ~ Laura Byrnes

Gloria Alden said...

Pat, she still writes a good book, and I love Barbara Havers.

KM, I agree with you about the depressing literary fiction. For my next month's book club - the one where the hostess picks the book, I'm picking the book "Invisible Ellen" about several people who deal with disabilities, but a satisfactory ending. That's why I like your Jesse Damon books so much. He has a difficult life, but he always has hope at the end that things will get better.

Thanks, Laura. No, I won't kill any of my characters that you like. If I even think of doing that, I'll consult you first. :-)

Shari Randall said...

Gloria, you probably remember Gordon Korman's book No More Dead Dogs, about a kid who gives a bad review to his "classic" required reading, because he's so tired of books where the dog dies.
Hope you'll still read Raven Black - it was good.

KB Inglee said...

I began my first book with Emily retuning to her childhood home after her husband had been killed. Later I write short stories set earlier in which he appears. I have never been able to write the story in which he is killed.

Grace Topping said...

Excellent blog, Gloria.

I'm still in mourning that Lady Isobel died in childbirth in "Downton Abbey." It was so traumatic and unexpected that I walked around for days feeling as though a member of my family had died. And many people felt that way. It's really strange that we can mourn for people who don't even exist.

Gloria Alden said...

Shari, I never heard of that book by Gordon Korman. I know The Story of Edgar Sawtelle and Old Yeller were sad stories as was My Friend Flicka.I am still going to read Raven Black.

KB, the main character in my series not only lost her husband but her only child, a daughter, ten years before she appears in my book. I have considered writing a prequel in which it wasn't an accident, but that someone deliberately ran them off the road, but I actually don't think I'll ever get around to it because I'd probably be crying much of the time I was writing it.

Gloria Alden said...

Grace, it was sad both when Lady Isobel died and when Mary's husband Mathew died. I think these people become real to us, maybe even more so when we can see and hear them on TV or in movies. Of course, I'm a crier when I read sad books or see sad movies.