Last week, I let you take a step into the inner workings of my mind. I gave you insight into why my heart pumps 50% red blood cells and 50% literary love. As I addressed in that article, I favor novels and short stories over the smooth rhythms and flow of poetry and fact filled non-fiction.
Although it takes far more time (so far it's been a two year ongoing investment) to write a novel than a short story (which I can write and perfect within two weeks), it's by far my preferred of the two media. It gives the ability to build more depth to characters, establish the environment, and let the full story play out until its final chord has been struck.
As a novelist, I promised myself I would never kill off one of my beloved characters. I had endured the pain of losing Prim, Tris, Finnick, Sirius, and many more in novels I had fallen in love with. My heart dives fully into novels I read, and I know I'm not the only one who reads like this.
After Prim died in "Mockingjay," I sulked for two days because of how powerfully my heart resonated with the grief Katniss felt. I vowed to never have this to happen to any of my readers. That I would not allow for any harm to come to the characters that gave me their lives to craft onto the page.
And then I started writing "Corrupted," and that all fell to shambles. Within the first novel alone, I have written one death. This is nowhere near George R. R. Martin-level death, but for someone who vowed to never kill, it was a lot. Crafting this character's death shook my world as I forced my remaining characters to adjust and walk through the grief.
But death is necessary. Not only for the plot, but to build the character's strength.
It hurts me just as much as it will hurt my readers to lose my characters. As it stands, this is planned to be a trilogy, with three (possibly four) major character deaths and one evil conversion over the course of all three. When I have a pool of roughly seven "main" characters in the series, that's a big impact in my mind. Not to mention minor character deaths and unnamed character deaths piled on top of it.
In all the other novel ideas I have had, there had been some death, but it had happened before the timeline of the novels, always having my characters hardened to the grief and loss.
But in this world, these characters needed to have hardship. Their worlds needed to be tipped upside down and the peace needed to shatter around them. The world was wrong and for them to realize this, they needed to endure the loss and pain.
I don't apologize for killing these characters, because I have loved them too. They told me of themselves and let me know them so fully I was able to replicate them onto the page. It was I who knew them better than any other and it was I that ended their lives. They were sacrifices that needed to happen.
There is always an excess, of course, as anything can have. Readers will cry out about the deaths, Why did they need to happen?
Not only for plot, but because of their own personalities. The situations would have never ended any other way, unless the characters were acting out of well, character. If they had, the characters that would have perished would have ended up living completely miserably as a result of not doing all they could.
As a writer, I am simply a means by which my characters tell their own stories. Most of the time, a first draft of anything, a short story or a novel, is the culmination of the characters conveying what has happened. I tweak and refine to be able to let it read easier and to fully flesh out emotions and environments.
If a character is bound and determined to slay another, I cannot protest this. If another character is adamant about dutifully protecting another to the point of possible death, that is something I must obey as well.
While other writers may have written deaths to involve plot and other literary aspects, most of mine have resulted out of character actions and personalities. I have two whole books to write to get to what I believe to be the most devastating death in the series. Based off the events that will unfold, though, this character is determined to defend, and will meet their own end to protect another. My heart is clenching as I see it play out, the screams of Seraphel ringing through my head.
But it is the will of the other character to protect her. This is why I will not apologize and why I now understand the importance of character death.
It is not to be cruel, it is not to be mean, but it is fulfilling the will of other characters. Obviously this is my own experiences as a writer. I cannot speak for J.K. Rowling, George R. R. Martin, or Susanna Collins.
At the end of the day, it remains that one must pay respects to those who have passed. They will forever live on in our hearts and on the pages they walked across.