On Writing & Publishing by Robin D. Owens

Personal notes on writing techniques, writing a novel, my writing career and threading your way through publishing a book.

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Location: Denver, United States

RITA Award Winning Author -- that's like the Oscar, folks! Futuristic/Fantasy Romance and Fantasy with Romantic Subplots.

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Sunday, June 05, 2005

Killing Off Viewpoint Characters and Secondary Characters

I don't like view point characters dying. I don't like killing animals either (and I know if I killed off one of my telepathic cats or dogs I'd lose my readership FOREVER as a betrayal).

But I was working around the house a while back, listening to a tape of a suspense novel by an author I loved for her romances, and thinking, I'll put off my errands until XX gets out of this mess. XX didn't. XX died, and we were in XX's head almost until the bitter end. I was shocked. This character had had a strong viewpoint, not a few pages of "in the head at the beginning to see how the evil villain works and then dead". And I'll say that after this, the author lost me in that book, and I'll be less emotionally involved in the rest of the books I read by her. Some readers may like the "punch" of this, but I didn't. I'm sure the author believed she had to do this to make the story work, I can see why that might be true in this instance, but she lost me.

How To Handle Killing Off Secondary Characters. I've done this. Now do you telegraph this to the reader or not? I'd say that most readers think about this in suspenses and fantasies and mysteries. Some authors "bathe the character in a golden glow" so the impact can be greater. I usually make them unsympathetic, which I think is a little amateurish. Sure, he's unsympathetic, he get's it, so that's telegraphing, too. Some writers make the characters personally happy, then whack them, or unbearably sad and grief stricken and death is a release. All these can clue in an astute reader, and a reader LOVES to figure out your plot before something occurs – as long as you don't make it too easy. Giving the reader a little information to make them satisfied with themselves at figuring it out (and satisfied with your book) is important.

That's all for today,


Blogger sex scenes at starbucks said...

It's tough to kill them off, because we love them so, right?

I guess if you've done your job well, the reader's emotion as to losing a character, good or bad, is reflective of that. The worst is when someone new is brought in just to die. That happens on TV a lot. What a cop out.

8:49 AM  

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