Following the premiere, on The Talking Dead aftermath show I watched the writer of the original graphic novel as he discussed the situation. Robert Kirkman comes across as filled to the brim with twisted creativity and a bit cold and distant regarding character kill offs. I found myself admiring and even envying him.
One of the hardest things for many writers is to kill off a character, particularly a beloved one we have lived with for a while and with whom we are emotionally connected. You are zooming along writing your book, or perhaps limping, depending on such mysteries as the moon’s current astrological sign, whether Mars is retrograde, and if you have an ample supply of coffee near at hand. Perhaps an ominous feeling swirls just out of reach, and then strengthens, coming closer, invading your space, piercing your skin, and finally settling in the pit of your stomach like a stone. And not an emerald or ruby either, but a plain, hard luck, ragged, jagged rock. You have reached the point in your working manuscript where death makes sense. You have to kill someone for the sake of the story. Not the villain. If that were the case, you would probably be mulling over ways and means with a gleeful grin. No, it’s not time for justice yet. What’s going on now is injustice and heartbreak in the name of story logic. A beloved character must die.
Most often this happens in tragedies, mysteries, literary fiction, and series, where you and the reader have come to know a large cast of characters over time. It doesn’t often happen in the type of books I write, paranormal romances. I haven’t had to kill off a beloved character–yet. It can happen, though. In Loretta Rogers’ western paranormal romance, Cloud Woman’s Spirit, the wife of the hero dies tragically early in the story. Death of a beloved character is even more likely to occur if the paranormal romance is part of a series. In a blog post called Life, Death, and Fiction, Laurell K. Hamilton spoke about how saddened and affected she was upon realizing that a beloved character may have to die. She wrote the post while working on one of the books in her Anita Blake urban fantasy series.
The deaths of the heart character, Glenn Rhee, played by Steven Yeun, and the strength character, Abraham Ford, played by Michael Cudlitz, will long weigh heavy on fans of The Walking Dead. At the same time we are glad for those remaining, especially ones we thought might very well be in danger—sexy fan favorite Daryl Dixon, played by Norman Reedus, and the pregnant and oh so sick Maggie Greene, played by Lauren Cohan. Killing off a beloved character is hard on everyone involved, including the reader, the viewer, the actor, the crew, and the author. If you are a writer, have you ever had to kill off a beloved character? Was it difficult for you?
Cheers & Happy Reading!
Flossie Benton Rogers, Conjuring the Magic in Romance