Have you ever wanted to go back and change something in your story? We all have. And most of the time, we want to change a story we have written, or a story we are going to write, for good reasons. But not all the time. Sometimes, we want to change something for the wrong reasons.
Letting a character live for fear of backlash
I cannot say I have personally upset an audience by killing a character off, because my fiction doesn’t really have an audience to upset yet (and that is okay). But I’ve killed plenty of lovable characters in my lifetime as a writer, and I don’t regret a single one of them. Why should I? Why should you? Every death I have ever caused has been for a good reason, and other writers will tell you the exact same thing.
Never apologize for killing someone off. You are not doing it to be ‘mean’ or ‘unfair’ or whatever other accusations your audience might come up with to throw at you. You’re doing it for a reason. For the good of your story. If the death of a character is meant to say something, or teach something, let it happen. The quality of your story as a literary work is more important than what other people think of it.
Doing something different for the sake of doing something different
As a new writer many, many years ago (yeah ….), I was a little obsessed with making sure my stories stood out. And who isn’t? I went a little overboard, though. I kept trying to make things different on purpose. Because I figured, if my characters and setting were ‘weird’ enough, that would mean I would stand out enough to one day get published. Logic. Right?
Sure. But don’t do something different just to be different. I eventually figured out that I’m not as good at sci-fi/fantasy as I would like to be, and generally stick with young adult fiction, at least for now (hint, hint). There are authors out there who are really good at doing things differently, and you might be one of them. Do it if it’s your style, do it if it fits the story, but don’t do it just to make sure you’re going to stand out. If you have a good story to tell and you’re a good writer, you will get someone’s attention. Eventually.
Addressing trending issues to be more ‘culturally aware’
Whether or not Elsa might want a girlfriend is up to Elsa. But just because audiences demand it be part of a future storyline because … well, because, doesn’t mean you have to give them what they want. Sure, go ahead, make Elsa fall in love with a princess from a distant land, there’s nothing wrong with that. But don’t do it simply because it’s more culturally acceptable now than it used to be.
The novella I published last month features two female characters who are romantically involved. It is not part of the storyline in the sense that it is the main focus or problem, it is never addressed or spelled out, it just is. Why? Because those two characters wanted to be together and that is how the story ended up playing out. I didn’t do it to make a statement. I am neither showing my support nor denying support to a current cultural topic. It is just the way it is, and that is it.
Your story always, always, ALWAYS comes first. Your audience is important, but they do not write your story for you. They do not have the authority to make you regret a storytelling decision. Do what YOU want to do, for your story, not to please anyone else.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter.