I’ll take a quick break from promoting Movie Magic (see the beautiful cover to the right) to talk a little bit about one of the most powerful and potentially addictive parts of writing: Creation. Because along with creation comes the ability to kill with impunity within the realm of your creation, that is.
There’s a saying that’s popular among writers. It’s on bumper stickers, coffee cups and t-shirts. “I’m a writer. Don’t piss me off or I’ll put you in a book and kill you.” While I’ve never actually done that, I have killed people off in books to move the story along. In fact, in my very first published book Secrets of the Lotus, I killed off the heroine’s imprisoned brother in order to bring her and the hero closer. Heartless? Cold? Maybe. But here’s the result:
Dan bolted up the stairs rather than wait for the elevator. The door of her apartment was ajar. He went in to find her standing in the kitchen drinking a glass of wine, her eyes red.
“Jo?” He closed the door. “What’s up?”
“He’s dead. James.” Josie lifted her glass as if in a toast. Dan could see tears running down her cheeks. “There was some kind of riot, something stupid. But somebody had one of those weapons, the ones they make out of spoons—what do they call them?”
“A shiv?” Dan pulled the term from some movie or other, then felt like an idiot since he was fairly certain she didn’t really care. He crossed the room and took the wineglass from her, leading her into the living room, tossing some cushions on the floor and sitting with her in his arms. “I’m sorry, baby.”
She felt good enough against him to make him feel guilty, but he also knew her well enough to realize what she needed from him at that moment, and if he let her go, he wasn’t sure what would happen to her. He touched his lips to her hair, allowed himself to breathe her scent and offered her the only real comfort he could.
Since then, in twelve books, I have only (sort of) killed off five characters. I say “sort of” because, well, two of those were characters you didn’t really know but that affected the heroines’ backstories, and one of them had a twist that’s not revealed yet. As in he died, but… (Read the Synchronicity series if you want to know what I’m talking about!)
But of all the deaths of all my characters, the only one that really surprised me was the death in Weeds and Flowers. I say it surprised me because I knew this character had more to accomplish in the story. Hell, he’s talking in the last chapter of the book! It was only after I wrote his death scene that I realized he was a ghost.
The phone rang at six thirty the next morning. I groaned and rolled over. No fair being woken up so early on a Saturday. I heard David’s voice on the phone, muffled. He talked for several minutes, his voice low and somehow ominous, like the first growls of thunder. I rolled over onto my back. Silence fell, a humid shadow over the house. Then I heard Mom’s voice, a flicker of lightning. With my eyes closed so I couldn’t see the bright sunlight that snuck past my shades, I felt a thunderstorm approaching. Them Mom cried “No!”, the lightning struck and I sat up, wide awake. Something awful had happened.
J.K. Rowling cried when she killed off Snape. Agatha Christie supposedly killed Poirot because she was falling in love with him. Arthur Conan Doyle killed Sherlock Holmes because he was tired of him…and later regretted it. I guess my point—other than trying to entice you to read two of my earliest books—is that with creation comes the ability to destroy. Even if it’s just imaginary people in an imaginary world. It’s thrilling and addicting and devastating at the same time.