Sunday, September 27, 2015

Killing Characters--Can a nice old lady do that?

What to do? What to do?

  When I wrote fan fiction for the Big Valley site, I acquired a reputation for killing my characters with diabolical determination. I don’t think I was quite that bad, but I’ll admit to a certain ability to disperse with characters who didn’t toe the mark in my stories.
  Let’s face it--you may start a story with a full stage, but at some point some of them really need to exit stage left--or stage right--or even face forward into the orchestra pit! So, let’s see what I’ve done.
Wait--if I tell you which characters I’ve offed in my novels, you’ll have no reason to read them! So let me just tell you how I did the dirty deeds:

·        an explosion on a ferry full of tourists crossing the English Channel
·        a sneak attack from the rear using a neck-breaking technique taught for close combat purposes
·        a purported suicide by hanging
·        a cold-blooded shooting with just enough time for some tender last words
·        a skidding car on an icy road
·        a push from a balcony
·        a broken neck from a fall down the stairs after a head-bashing with a wrench
·        being ‘scared to death’ by a ghost from the past
·        a car bomb

  But here’s the problem, you see. In my application to The Writers’ Colony in Eureka Springs AR, I had to submit a proposal for what I wanted to work on during the two weeks in November I requested (and got). I unearthed Blest Be the Tie, the “great American novel” I’ve only been working on for something like forty years. Yes, f-o-r-t-y years. And why have I never finished it? Because I love my characters so much I can’t bear the thought of turning loose of them forever, that’s why!
  Oh, I’ve “finished” it. It spans a time period from the Depression (with roots in WW I) through the 1990s, and I’ve tied up all the loose ends and sent all my characters peacefully (more or less) to their final reward with many tears and lamentations. BUT. . .
  If I really, truly go back and do the rewrites and the revisions, then I’ll have to let them go. . .and I’ve already cried buckets as I’ve written death scenes and remembrances. So if  don’t write THE END, I can keep spinning new scenes and events in their lives and. . .
  Oh, yes, I can “kill” with the best of them, and sometimes it’s okay.
  Sometimes it’s not okay.

  And since I don’t have another forty years to deal with Peggy and Vic and Francie and Tank and Peaches and Bix and Dutch and Miss Grace, I’ll have to figure it out, won’t I?
  Or not.

   Meanwhile, visit my website and check out my books. Some of my characters remain alive and well, believe it or not! 


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