Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Ummm. No thanks...

[image courtesy Flickr Creative Commons; The Knowles Gallery]

There is a popular phrase in writing, "kill your darlings".

According to my ashamedly brief exploration on the topic, there seems to be some confusion on who coined the phrase first - either William Faulkner or Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch. Personally, I don't much care because I disagree with phrase on principle.

The phrase refers to the practice of killing off an author's favourite or pivotal character/s. There are so many examples of this out there, that I won't list many, but the sad end of Albus Dumbledore comes immediately to mind and also that character in Val McDermids "Wire in the Blood".

Well, I am frankly not a fan of killing off characters. In fact, when an author gets too slash happy with their creations, I simply put the book down and refuse to pick it up. I really do not enjoy getting to know a main character and then have them die on me. It's sad, it's morose, it's often macabre and totally not what I want to get out of a book. Which is also why select with care the books I want to read!

I know you're thinking but it can develop the story. It creates tension, it makes you want to read on... Ummm. No. No it doesn't - not for me at any rate. There are often other ways of developing stories, creating tension and engaging me, you don't have to kill of a character to do that. That doesn't mean I'm not riveted to a near death fight, or a close escape. That's great! I like the escape part!

Let it be said I'm not entirely adverse to the occasional and necessary death of a character - if it truly develops the plot. When that occurs, I'll take I'll on the chin, and keep reading, but there really has to be a good reason for it. Alas, I read a series recently and in nearly every book a character or two (close to the heroine) died. It was annoying and miserable. One death would have developed the story just fine, but two, three, four? Oh my goodness. The heroine spent more time beside a grave than she did doing anything remotely interesting... I am probably one of the few paranormal authors who feel this way, and that's why I specialise in romance. You can have nastiness, intrigue, tension and excitement without the sadness, or if the sadness is necessary it's a backstory, not in your face gut wrenching misery. I've said it before there's too much of that in the real world, and I'll leave it to the news bulletin!

So despite my intitial wrinkle inducing disapproval, I'll reluctantly admit there can be a place for killing characters - obviously. Genre differences make for differences in character mortality too. I've never been one for straight horror or thrillers, so I am not talking about these. Paranormal romance however sometimes walks a fine line. Me, well, I write for pure escapism, I want readers  to enter into a world of romance, fantasy, intrigue and a happily ever after.

So "kill your darlings?"... Umm. No thanks, I like them just the way they are!

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