Too Dear to Kill (Midweek Novel Update #9)

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I promised myself I wouldn’t do this.

Keep him alive, I mean.

I’ve had it all planned out for months. Even before I started writing a new version of my story, a prequel to better familiarize myself with the characters and storyline, I knew what I had to do. I knew, eventually, he would have to die.

I knew this book would have to end in tragedy. Tears.

And then, as writers often do, I changed my mind.

I decided I couldn’t let him go.

The story still doesn’t end as happily as some would prefer: you can’t tie up all loose ends and leave the reader in a happily-ever-after haze when there are at least three more books (maybe five) that continue on the same track. You have to leave some things hanging. You have to leave some questions unanswered.

But I just couldn’t let myself be that heartless to a character that’s basically been part of this project from the beginning. We’ve been through a lot together. His role in the later books will change now, which is fine; I’m figuring out his role in the later storylines was one of the barriers keeping it from going the way it needed to. Different characters will take on those roles. He served his purpose in the prequel, and I guess I convinced myself that meant he had to go away and never come back. You know. Literally.

One thing that bothers me about T.V. shows (going off on a tangent here but I’ll bring it back) is when characters disappear for no reason and don’t come back at all. If you think about real life, people go away for a while all the time; sometimes they come back and sometimes they don’t. But a character can’t just disappear and not be missed. So if this main character, as mysterious as he already is, needs a different place in the story, even if that means disappearing, he has to “go out with a bang” right?

Awful choice of words.

Part of me doesn’t want to stray from my original plan. Because, I’ll just say it: it was good, the way I was planning his demise (muahaha?). It was supposed to serve a purpose. It was supposed to, you know. Mean something.

As you may or may not know, sometimes characters do have minds of their own. If he would have done what I asked, and only fallen in love with my narrator, I guess you could say it would have been easier to let him go, because she’s a strong, independent woman and can handle (sort of) that sort of thing.

But then before I realized what was happening, he developed a “relationship,” if you want to call it that, with a character who happens to become important in later books, and also happens to be, well, a toddler. I can’t take a toddler’s father figure away from her. That’s not fair. She needs stability in her life. I can’t even tell you why, because, well, spoilers. Not that you’re ever guaranteed to be able to read the book because, well, it’s not finished yet. And I don’t even have an agent. Who am I? (Nobody.)

At first I was worried about changing my mind. Every character death is significant. It always means something. But maybe, if you look at it a little differently, every character you save from death is significant, too. Maybe he has a bigger “destiny” in the future of this series and I just don’t know it yet.

Okay, so he doesn’t get the girl you’d expect (sorry). He doesn’t exactly get to keep his own identity, either. (Dropping hints like it’s my job). But he doesn’t have to die, even though I’ve been warning him all along it was going to have to end that way.

I don’t know.

I just go where my brain goes.

Love&hugs, Meg<3

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

A recent graduate with a B.A. in English and a completed major in nutrition, currently seeking a graduate degree in health communication, Meg is a twenty-something workaholic with a passion for writing, coffee and dietetics. In addition to her status as an aspiring novelist and Grammar Nazi (and the mastermind behind this site), Meg is an editor for College Lifestyles magazine and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine’s Stone Soup.  She is a seven-time NaNoWriMo winner and has written several creative pieces for Teen Ink magazine. Follow Meg on Twitter.

Three Ways to Kill Off Your First-Person Narrator (without Ending the Story)

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If you’re consistently afraid your ideas aren’t original, in all honesty, they aren’t. Every basic storyline you can probably think of has already been written. One of the most challenging, but often the most fun and stimulating, parts of writing is taking a story everyone has read before and reshaping it enough to make it new, exciting and (almost) original.

We don’t see first-person narrators die all too often, and when we do, we usually get some version of The Lovely Bones I’m-dead-but-not-dead-enough-not-to-narrate scenario. If you want to play around with something a little more challenging, and try to make it your own, kill off your first-person narrator—but don’t end the story there. Here are some strategies you can try.

Switch to a new perspective

Sometimes we do see a prologue or a first chapter in a first-person narrator’s perspective before it switches over to the actual main character, but you don’t have to do it this way. One way to draw a reader into your out-of-the-box technique is to allow them to get to know your first person narrator before they, ahem, cease to exist.

You could potentially try to fill half of your story with accounts from one first-person narrator before permanently switching to a different narrator’s POV to finish out. Plot twist! Bet they won’t see that coming. 

Take the reader back in time

Playing with a plot’s chronological order is another method some writers use to keep a reader turning pages. This is one way to keep a story going even though, at some point—probably toward the beginning in this case—you reveal the storyteller is no longer alive, and therefore, more realistically, unable to continue storytelling.

Jump back-and-forth between the point they’re killed off and the events leading up to it. There’s no “I should have known then,” here, so you’re also giving the reader more of an opportunity to infer and scream “NO DON’T GO INTO THE KITCHEN” at the pages.

Bring them back to life 

Okay, this one’s a little iffy, but if you really want to try it, you can make it work with some effort. Jodi Picoult did (spoiler alert). Hey, it worked in the Bible, didn’t it? You don’t have to get fancy—there doesn’t have to be a medical explanation or even a team of people trying to figure out how a dead heart started beating again.

Don’t go into the supernatural if that’s not your intention. Maybe they were only dead for a few minutes and came back, but it feels like they missed out on years. Maybe your angle is to make the reader think your narrator is dead, even though she isn’t.

In general, we’re almost obsessively interested in what happens when we die. As a writer, you’re free to play with the concept as much or as little as you want to. There are ways to take something that’s already been done before and twist it around until it resembles something newer. If you have an unpredictable storyline, strong characters and tap into pathos like a boss, you’ll be fine.

Your narrator might not be … but that’s a sacrifice you’re probably willing to make.

Image courtesy of Kaitrosebd-Stock.