Monday, March 1, 2010

"Of love, Daroga. I am dying of love."

From love, we move to death (how dramatic!).

There are few things more perilous than being one of my characters. Chances are good that you’ll either die or be horribly mutilated by the end of the story (if you weren’t deformed to begin with). I’m not sure why I kill off so many characters. It’s not because I don’t like happy endings. Quite the contrary, actually – all of my favorite books have characters go through extreme trial, but then (for the most part) they come out all right. Books with sad endings break me. I cry over them; I ruminate. The ending of His Dark Materials, for example, while not strictly tragic, depressed me enough that I didn’t read another book for months. It’s a grieving process.

So why do my characters have a penchant for noble sacrifices and the misfortune of falling prey to deadly diseases? I’m not sure. Some people say that killing characters is lazy storytelling. It’s more difficult, they claim, to think of what happens to someone next than to drop a piano on him. My characters’ deaths, they would say, illustrate a severe lack of imagination. If I were a better writer, I would create futures for characters instead of dropping them so neatly.

I disagree with this logic. When one of my characters dies, I feel that I don’t have a choice in the matter. In fact, many times I have struggled to rewrite plots with a happier outcome, but I’ve always felt that this betrayed the integrity of the story. There is no other way, as much as it hurts.

The novel that I’m working on now is less bloody than the first one (actually, that’s kind of an ironic statement for those who know the plot), but there are still a couple of characters who don’t make it out alive. That’s just the way it is.

This topic will continue next week.



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