My first novel without killing off a major (likeable) character!

I surrendered to the characters. No deaths to tear me up in this novel. NONE.

I surrendered to the characters. No deaths to tear me up in this novel. NONE.

I have written before about my plodding process in wrapping up my NaNoWriMo novel, “The Esclavan Abductions.” (See this post about what was causing me problems and why). Well, I’ve had a breakthrough these last few days. Haven’t made too much progress on my job search because of it, but I’m planning to devote major hours to that each day from this point on.

I thought I would have two major events to write about to wrap things up. I became so, so excited, because I realized the way my plots have developed in past novels have led to me having to kill off at least one major character–one of the good guys, one I loved–in each of the first four novels I’ve written. (Check out this post I wrote reflecting on times when bad things happen to good characters: how to write tragic events.)

It turns out that I had three major events left to write about;the last one had not yet revealed its possibilities to me, that’s all. I became super, super excited about the prospect of this final, action-packed confrontation. It’s much, much grander than the way I had been expecting I’d finish the novel, and it sets up for a second quite nicely, including some AWESOME plot lines about vengeance and the character development/moral ambiguity a quest for vengeance entails.

TALE OF A GUARDSMAN

like this, but more of the "sword and sorcery" variety

like this, but more of the “sword and sorcery” variety

The only problem was that, I thought for a few hours that this new plot development would mean one of my favorite and one of the most important characters–Danby, Princess Melinda’s guardsman–would have to die. The plot development involves a hostage situation of sorts in which anyone trained in weapons and wearing a military or guardsman’s uniform would immediately be killed. There was no way to avoid that and maintain any level of credibility. The princess would have to be part of this hostage situation, which means her guardsman would be shadowing her, which means he would die. I just couldn’t see any way around it.

I got kind of upset. Well, okay, I got kind of upset, to the point that I talked to my roomie about the situation. Danby’s character is somewhat undeveloped as of yet, but I like him a lot. I really do. I want more time to see what he’ll come to, and I sick and tired of killing off characters I care deeply, deeply about. It’s painful in a very real way, and it’s not something I take lightly, even though my books are about war situations and so deaths, I know, are going to happen. That comes with the subject matter, and I accept it. I don’t shy from killing characters when there’s a reason to do so and it simply has to happen.

Still, I wanted to be able to say I wrote one novel without an awesome character dying a violent death. I just couldn’t see how to do it. Lucky for me–I had begun to resign myself to killing Danby–my roomie told me, “Don’t do it! Victoria, I haven’t even read the book, and I don’t want you to do it. Find some way to avoid it.”

So I thought about it some more, and I realized I could come up with a viable excuse for Danby to be absent from duty on the night that hostage situation goes down. I decided on food poisoning. He ate some bad fish. So he’s not there and some other guardsman–one unknown to the reader–is there instead as the princess’s bodyguard. While his fate is sad, at least I don’t know him. And the readers won’t. And I can still say I finally wrote a novel without killing off a major heroic character.

Fifth time’s the charm!

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9 responses to “My first novel without killing off a major (likeable) character!

  1. Man, I hate it when characters refuse to cooperate. They get into life-threatening situations, and you’re all like, “Dude, what are you even doing here? Go home!” but they refuse to. Kudos on finding a way for Danby to live 🙂

  2. I killed off a beloved character in my YA. My daughter was so mad when she read the draft. But, like you, it’s war… you can’t exactly justify everyone you like making it out alive. :p

  3. I hit a point in my novel, when I knew what I had to do – kill off a character I loved, but it was the only way to move things forward. I was horribly depressed for a few days. I’ve started re-writes and wow, so hard to keep her dead!

  4. Pingback: Even more confessions of a writer | Creative Writing with the Crimson League

  5. Pingback: For my fellow writers: The Beauty of a Creative Writing Breakthrough | Creative Writing with the Crimson League

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