Writers love the clean, easy, glamorous parts of writing. Don’t we? I mean, c’mon – sitting around, drinking coffee, complaining, and making stuff up? Oh, we got that part of writing down cold.
But the harder parts of writing – the getting into your chair and doing it when you’re not happy, not “feeling inspired”, not in a great mood? How are you at those?
And then, there’s the really difficult part of writing. The ugly part. The part where you have to put your characters through really hard stuff. How are you at handling that?
I told my wife about a scene I’ve had running around in my head for a while now. It comes from my current series, which I’ve bounced between calling my Spectral Analysis series and my Ghost Hunters series (which was the original name). One of the most beloved characters, at least by the readers who’ve provided feedback, dies in that scene.
Now, because he’s probably the only character people have identified as their favorite, this is likely to cause some upset. My wife feels this is going to kill the series. I’m afraid she’s right.
Certainly the surviving characters won’t be the same afterward. The one who dies is important to the interpersonal dynamic, and it will radically change. The ones left behind will change. A wound will be left in that character’s place, one that may not heal, and might fester.
There won’t be any more humor or laughter for at least one of the survivors. And he will carry a boatload of guilt over it happening.
Heck, he may not survive either. He may not want to survive.
I’ve seen the aftermath scenes in my head, too. The emotional response, the psychological response, and the empty, aching spot left when it’s all over. This changes everything, absolutely everything, for every character left in the series.
And I know it will be powerful, hard to write, and emotional. It will be raw, and open up areas in the other characters they’re not aware of yet. Areas in their psyche, areas in their character (internal character, I mean). The survivors will be PTSD, for lack of a better term, and at least one of them will never, ever be the same. Ever. And I know how he will be.
So I can write this.
Problem is, I’m afraid to. Yes, afraid.
I’m afraid to kill this series. I don’t know whether anyone will still enjoy the stories – or if they ever did or were just being kind – if I go down this road. I think the series will die a horrible, painful death. I think readers will be angry with me.
On the other hand, George R. R. Martin did this and people still flock to his books, and to their televisions sets to watch Game of Thrones. Despite the bomb-drop of a few seasons back, they keep coming. To find out what happens next, to find out how things will shake out, how the ship will right itself after capsizing. Or appearing to.
It’s a tough thing to do. Or maybe I’m just a wuss, because I’ve become fond of these people, have come to care about what happens to them. I want them to be scared and in danger and in fear of their lives, and then I want them to come through and live happily ever after…until the next story, when they’ll go through it all again.
Problem is, there’s no payoff for a reader that way. Is there? I mean, don’t readers want to see characters in books go through insurmountable things, and come out on the other side different, changed? Isn’t that what makes stories memorable? Isn’t that what makes a reader weep, and read on late into the night, and call in the next day so they can finish the book on no sleep?
Isn’t that what people want from their fiction? Something tough, hard to face, something they’re glad they aren’t going through?
Maybe I’m just too attached to the characters. Maybe I’m too sensitive, too sissy-boy-modern-man, too lacking in guts to really write. Can I make readers care about those characters? Can I develop them enough to make them seem real? Can I make a reader worry for them, then grieve for them if I put them through something they can’t get out of?
If I kill the favorite one? or the main one?
It’s a hard thing to get through, and it’s not been an easy thing to come to. All series must end. There is always an end point. No matter how many ideas you can keep running through your head, no matter how many different scenarios seem like they might be cool, at some point, the series must close out. It must resolve. It must end.
And I guess that’s when these scenes could be used. If I ever muster the courage to write those scenes.
My wife would rather I didn’t.
I wonder what other readers think?