Monday, 28 September 2015

When Characters Must Die…

My hubby and I have an ongoing joke. When a character is killed off or leaves a TV show, we call it a contract dispute. For example, the character of Lance Sweets from the show Bones was killed in the Season 10 opener. Boy that was a shocker! Other major characters have left or met their demise on other popular shows such as NCIS and CSI. The most recent contract dispute falls in the lap of Doctor Derek Shepherd who went out with a bang (literally) when his car gets T-boned by a truck, and he hangs on for dear life for at least a couple more episodes of Grey’s Anatomy. A sad day indeed. Sniff.

The exit of these characters got me thinking. When is it the right time to kill or remove a character from an ongoing book series? Is it when the character stops meeting the readers’ needs and expectations? Do the characters become boring? Stop growing? Refuse to change? Perhaps. I guess the best sounding board would be the readers. Listening to them on the social media or reading the reviews they post. Are they sick of Character X? Does Character Y make them want to vomit? Or do readers even relate to Character Z? Mind you, I’m not sure killing a character off would have the same effect in sales as it does for TV ratings, but you never know until you try. Bahaha…

However, if you kill the wrong character you’ll have blood on your hands and angry readers. Case in point—when Arthur Conan Doyle killed Sherlock Holmes by sending him over a waterfall with his arch enemy Professor Moriarty in tow, it wasn’t pretty. I mean for Sir Arthur, and the readers demanded satisfaction. Seriously? What was he thinking? Note to self: don’t piss your fans off!

In my time travel series, The Last Timekeepers, I’ve seriously thought about replacing certain characters to freshen up the series as it progresses, although nothing is written in stone yet. Readers are continually looking for new and improved characters to keep them invested in any series. That’s the reason why TV shows keep introducing new characters into a series. Even J.K. Rowling added new characters (and killed off a bunch) throughout her Harry Potter series.

So my question is: when must a character die or leave? I’m guessing there are so many answers to that question, but the reason I’d off one of my characters is when there’s no more room for character development or growth. That’s what Sir Arthur Conan Doyle attempted to do when he killed off Sherlock Holmes—he tied up all the loose ends and made sure Holmes lived a full life. Unfortunately, Doyle underestimated his readers, even though he wanted to cash out and move on to writing other books. And to this day, Sherlock Holmes has survived his creator, and duped death. Now that’s one loved character!

Thank you for reading my blog! So, what characters would you like to see killed/removed from your favorite book series? Love to hear your answers! Cheers! 

10 comments:

  1. Serious subject you've undertaken. In present day, James Patterson wanted to stop/end/something His Alex Cross books. Readers protested. Alex, love of my life, is hanging in there with no more than 2 books a year. I think it's the author who gets tired of certain characters and takes great delight in assassinating them.:)

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  2. Methinks you're correct, Sloane! The game is afoot... LOL! Cheers for taking time to comment!

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  3. Killing them off - not a big deal for Game of Thrones watchers. I remember my daughter showing me a tumblr post of JK saying how she regretting killing some characters off & how George RR Martin said. "LOL." tee hee
    There are some big heart breakers for me - and now 2 more to look forward to. You needed a spoiler alert! gah!
    *Goes to kill a Sharon named character off in a book*
    ;)

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    1. LOL! Sorry about that June! I thought everyone already saw those episodes. Be gentle with my character! Cheers and hugs!

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  4. As a writer, you do have to be careful. I stopped reading a series when the author killed off one of the two main characters a few books in. Some TV series survive doing that and other don't. I've killed off some supporting characters but not my main ones.

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    1. I guess if those characters stopped growing and never change or be challenged, then it's time for the author to cut them loose. However, another idea is that the characters leave the series, and make 'guest' appearances. I'm toying with that! Cheers, Susan! Appreciate your input!

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  5. Great post, Sharon. As writers it's always fun to add new characters to a series. But I'm always reluctant to add a new character unless I can off an old one. Sooner or later, the story gets too crowded. But we don't have to throw them off a cliff! They can move away, get a job out of town, go on a long journey....I know I just took the fun out of it.

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    1. True, Rita. I'm toying with some of those options. But if the character is a nasty piece of work, then it does make the hit easier. Wink. Cheers and thanks for your input!

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  6. Killing off a beloved character would be so hard for me. When Matthew was killed in Downton Abby I cried for a week. As a child I couldn´t watch or read Bambi because his mother gets killed. I tend to add new characters in each book while others go their separate ways. I guess it depends on the type of book.

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    1. Oh, yes! I would hate to kill off a beloved character, but I have done it in one particular manuscript which actually worked. Still cried. Adding new characters is definitely a bonus and keeps the stories fresh. Thanks for your input, Darlene! Cheers!

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