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To kill a character

Or why it’s taken me 3.5 years to write the 3rd installment of this series.

Death in fiction is an end to a cycle. Sometimes it can serve a purpose beyond its face-value. The main villain finally dies. A hero is made because he or she dies in the service of making sure someone more important lives, that sort of thing. I’m working with an interesting concept in which someone must die in order to make a difference in something called The Astral Realm. I’ve italicized that because this is only a notion that works well with the book I’ve already written. The context has been set up well in advance. It’s also something readers may or may not see coming. I’m not going to give it details here because if there are other people who have read the Owen Hunter Series (the first two available books anyhow), I don’t want to provide a spoiler before the book is even out.

Even in my writing, I don’t take the death of characters as light subjects. If it can’t really further a purpose, move the storyline along well, or just seems gratuitous, I tend to skip it. Often times the characters in my books do get hurt quite badly but would make it out alive, if maimed for life in some cases. 

Here’s what I think. By and large, we are resilient creatures. Sure, we might be worried our loved ones could die of X while doing Y at any point. Everyone deals with life-and-death scenarios playing out in our heads (or is that just me?) every day. Sometimes it is truly justified–like if a loved one has type 1 diabetes for example or some other life-threatening disease that’s not curable–but most of the time our worries are just that. Most people can walk down steps on an icy winter day without incident. Oddly enough more people don’t get run over in parking lots, and very rarely do terrorists attempt to hijack the grocery store for money, fame, or some other reason we can’t know. 

Most of the time we make it home without crashing our car, falling off a bike to be crushed by an oncoming motorist, or poisoned by an ex-lover at a gala…you get my drift. 9 times out of 10 we’re alive and well despite the seemingly insurmountable odds against our very survival.

So when I do kill off a character in a book, or a series as the case may be, I want it to really count for something in the end. And this time I do have that justification. Here’s a hint: it’s someone crucial to the plot, someone, you won’t expect, and it may even be more people than you expected it to be. It all serves to save the world in which Owen Hunter and his friends live. 

I haven’t really been asked why its taken me so long to get this book out. The short answer: I must get this right. The slightly longer answer is this: I have to ensure that there’s coherence in this 3rd and final book in the series. The conclusion to this very long book has to not just make sense, but it has to evoke a feeling from me, its author. And as I approach writing scenes I don’t particularly want to write I know it’s because it is pinching a delicate nerve in my soul to do so. I’m going back to writing a scene right after this post, as a matter of fact, that I think will make me shed a tear or two. Who knows what you’ll feel when you read it?

I’m hoping that happens soon for you.