Friday, April 13, 2007

Killing your loved ones

After watching the Will Ferrell movie "Stranger Than Fiction," a question has popped into my head: Do you feel bad when you kill one of your characters? Or, do you have any emotional reaction whatsoever when you kill off a character?

For me, the answer has always been "No." At least so far. There have been characters I've liked, but I've still killed them. A character's death is always planned by me. Usually the death is because it is a plot point for the ongoing story, but I have to admit I have killed a character or two because I had no further use for them and they were just cluttering up things. Is that bad? Or, at least, bad planning? Maybe.

I could see a point where killing off a character might upset me, but I've yet to reach it.


Howard von Darkmoor said...

Interesting (and sort of reminiscient of crystalwizard's post on SFReader).

When I'm reading a novel and the author kills off a character I love I've been blown away several times. But in my personal writing . . . not yet. BUT, unless the character in question was designed to be killed (and such characters do exist), I don't much like doing it. And I've actually yet to do it to a major character of mine, though for a long time I have known of a certain character in my novel's impending death and it was with much reluctance I chose him. Yet he's not one of my personal favorites, and I know right now I could not kill one of them. I have decided to maim one, probably make him lose an arm, and that's devestating enough to me, because I know what that will do to him.

Ah, well; initially, I'd say no, too, but the truth of the matter is, while I will do it, it will hurt.

Howard von Darkmoor said...

You know, Ty (another comment here), I've been meaning to see that flick and forgot all about it. Doesn't matter what you say, I'll still see it, but what did you think of it?

Ty said...

On a scale of 1-10, about a 6.5. Which for me is fairly high praise when it comes to movies. It's an okay flick, but nothing great. Ferrell has his moments, but I think he was funnier in Elf or Ron Burgundy. It's not a laugh-a-minute movie, which is sort of what I expect from Ferrell. Maybe my expectations were too much. It's really a romantic comedy at heart.

And about killing my characters ... I guess another reason I don't cry over their deaths is that I usually know when most of them are going to die. Especially with my main characters, in my head I sort of know the basic outlines of their lives from beginning to end. That doesn't mean Kron Darkbow will necessarily die during my current trilogy, but I do know when and how he will buy the farm. Same goes for Belgad or Wyck or Adara or Fortisquo or anybody.

In fact, it's kind of nutty in that I have roughly worked out a 2,000 year history for my trilogy's world. Almost none of this makes it into the trilogy, other than a comment here and there as it might be related to the current story. I've got marked certain major events, along with major eras of time and such (my world's Renaissance-like era, for example, which is beginning about the time of this curren trilogy) and this has given me ideas for about another dozen trilogies.

I think I'm nuts.

gere said...

Of course you're nuts. Surely you're not just now figuring that out?

I think there's a real difference between knowing how/when a major character will die and actually writing it. The latter's a bit more personal, I think.

I know when most of my major characters will die, but I've never really tackled offing one in text — or on screen, so to speak. That's simply because I haven't told those stories, though: I don't think it would give me a problem. I'd probably want to make sure I wrote the scene particularly well and all, sort of as a tribute... but so it goes.

That said, I'll confess to a big old blind spot for Chaim's demise.

Along these lines and since you just mentioned Salinger in another post: All through high school I was fascinated with the way J.D. managed to develop the character of Seymour Glass post-mortem. The character offs himself the first time we see him, and from there on Salinger seemed to become increasingly obsessed with Seymour.

The few times J.D.'s come close to letting anything new loose in the bookstores, the stories have all had Seymour connections.

Boy, did I get a lot of mileage out of Salinger essays in high school and college!

Ty said...

For some reason, I picture Chaim passing away gently in bed, surrounded by family, the wife and lots of kids.