Why killing one of my characters isn’t an option for me

I write fun fiction with characters I love. Sometimes I write those characters into seemingly impossible situations and even I don’t know how to get them out…like now. Dr. Arienne Cerasola has been in a basement for five days now and I have no idea how to get her out, or even what she’s supposed to do in that basement.

I’m tired of being stuck there. In my mind, Arienne and I are staring at each other expectantly, each one of us waiting for the other to make a move. I have options – like take her out of the basement, or never put her in there to begin with – but I really like the basement…but it’s getting a little old. In order to jump start this novel again, I went hunting for plot twists and came across the idea to “kill one of my main characters”.

I will never, ever do that. Ever.

I know, they’re fictional, and I know I could easily kill one of them off…but I feel like that would be betraying my readers. You see, I write FUN fiction. I want to give readers a wild and fun ride, but I want them to always trust that I will bring them back home in the end without a scratch. Killing someone they like would betray that. I’ve felt betrayed every time it was done to me.

There are a few characters that other authors have killed on me, and I don’t think I’ve really forgiven them. I remember being young and reading Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH…and nearly having a breakdown when the book ended and that was only because the author HINTED at something.

I’ve had the same reaction every time an author kills a character that I love. I keep reading the book because I hope they’re really not dead, but I am generally disappointed. (I’d like you all to note how carefully I’m avoiding naming the characters so I don’t have to put a spoiler alert on this post…but you probably have your own list). My relationship with an author who kills a character I love is forever changed because I don’t really trust them after that.

There’s one author in particular whom I usually love, but I started her latest book and she brought up the character I still haven’t forgiven her for killing several books ago. I have to admit, I read one page after she mentioned the death of the character I loved and I haven’t gone back to the book because honestly, I’m still a little mad about that. Just the mention of his name reminds me that she betrayed me…because I know she didn’t have to kill him. The decision seemed lazy and disloyal.

Even with the betrayal issue aside, I also know life is hard enough. I’ve lost people; we have all have lost people. In this pandemic, we stand to lose more. I won’t add to to body count by killing one of my fictional friends.

I’m not saying that killing a character is always a bad thing, I’m just not the author that does that. I’ve seen the death of a character move the story forward (J.K. Rowling, for instance, but note I said THE DEATH, I do not enjoy a complete massacre and I’m a little mad at her for a few of them). More often killing a character seems like a gratuitous death – like the author saying “see, there’s bad in the world…nobody’s safe.” Real life has taught me that well enough, thank you.

So I will continue to figure out how to get Arienne out of the basement – without offing one of her friends. I will continue to keep my stories light and fun. I like an emotional ride, but I’d much rather write books that make you laugh than cry.

So be warned…things may look dire at times, but I promise I will not kill our darlings.

Life’s hard enough.

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