Dead Man’s Party: I lost a character I loved today

I got my words today — 1112 of them, which was more than the 1075 I had to get.

And they absolutely flew. And mostly I loved what I got, and the part that I hated still was necessary and important to the story. It was good storytelling — and good storytelling beats being nice to your characters one hundred times out of a hundred.

Even though what I had to write broke my heart.

Had a character I’d known at the beginning would die at the end.

And then I had this absolutely great thing that happened that kept him from dying — and like the Energizer Bunny he kept going, and going, and I could see him at the end of the book, actually getting to live out the rest of a life.

But no. This morning while I was outlining, my Muse said, “So now, today, he has to die.”

And I was protesting, going, “Wait, no, no… I figured out how to save him.”

And Muse said, “No. I figure out how to save him, and I saved him because this thing he has to do today is what kills him.

And then the Muse showed me what he had to do today.

And my Muse (that monster) was right.

I have three or four SHORT chapters left to get to the end of this novel, and I’m so excited because I love the story, and I’m really looking forward to doing the revision.

But today the story broke my heart.

It did it for all the right reasons, and the guy who didn’t make it was already a hero — which I knew — and he became a bigger hero.

But dammit.

You know what I mean?

image_pdfDownload as PDFimage_printPrint Page

About the author: Novelist, writing teacher, on a mission to reprint my out-of-print books and self-publish my new ones.

6 comments… add one
  • Sylvia Apr 27, 2019 @ 17:12

    I done it, too. In the 3rd outing , not yet published, for my series featuring a female PI, she met a guy on an out-of-town trip. She has a guy in in her life, but to her surprise (and mine) she was extremely attracted to the other guy and he to her. When the out-of-town guy had to come to her town, he was killed by a hit-and-run driver, one of the bad guys. I didn’t plan it, I didn’t want him to die, though truthfully I knew I had to get rid of him, just not how! It broke all my beta readers’s hearts, too, though none asked me to change it.

  • Bruce Andis Apr 26, 2019 @ 12:09

    I wonder if any smart researcher has looked into the microtrauma — the pain — that writers experience. I suspect that the deaths and disasters we dole out have no less impact on our hearts and psyches than the ‘real’ thing. Treat yourself well, Holly. Give yourself time and space to process this. You’ll be better for it.

    • Holly Lisle Apr 26, 2019 @ 13:00

      It’s an interesting hypothesis, and considering that you experience real deaths and imagined deaths and your reactions to them in the same space between your ears, one that might bear some investigation.

      I think I may be doing some retroactive self-therapy.

      I’m still not over the death of my sister, and the grief of it took me by surprise again recently. The deaths of characters I’ve created allow me to work through the reality again, but from a position of knowing about it in advance, of having some control over the experience. I think the deaths of some of my characters, hard as they are to write, might in the long run be therapeutic.

      I had no warning about Julie… so it still catches me by surprise from time to time.

      If I stand back and look at what I’m doing, I think in some of my fiction I hand that loss to other people and have some of them deal with it well, and some badly… I come at similar situations from a lot of different directions, always working toward understanding, coming to terms with something I had no chance to prepare myself for.

  • Kate Apr 25, 2019 @ 13:47

    my first novel, Symbol & Stone, I had to kill a character I actually came to like in the story. Her death was important, because the police a clue about both the killer and a dirty cop, but yeah, it hurt.
    on the good side, it did serve to tick off the master of Stone rather spectacularly and he did play dirty to get the dirty cop to confess, but…

  • Connie Parrott Apr 25, 2019 @ 11:19

    Holly, I do know what you mean. I wrote a character once based on a rotten man I’d met in real life. But in my story, my character began to blossom and I fell so hard for him. I ended up “returning” him to his original purpose. He had to go. I cried so much! Even called my son, boohooing. (That was dumb, but thank goodness, he listened with patience and helped reason with me why my character had to exit the story.) To soothe my soul, I wrote a short story where my character had survived…just to flip a finger at my Muse.

    All the best!
    Connie

    • Holly Lisle Apr 25, 2019 @ 11:38

      Yeah, these people of our imagination come to matter to us — I suspect it’s because they’re parts of ourselves or those who have formed our lives in some way, transmuted for fiction, but still connected to who we are as human beings.

      When we kill one of them off, it feels like we’ve cut off a little piece of ourselves, of some part of our lives we won’t get back. Theory there, unproven. But that’s how I’ve been looking at it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.