Killing Recurring Characters Hurts

Killing is part of the business when you are a thriller writer. People die in thrillers all the time. They also die a lot in fantasy novels. I write fantasy-thriller mash-ups, so, yeah, a lot of people die.

I don’t know how many characters have been killed in the Wolf Dasher series. I’m only two books into it, but a lot of people have met their ends as the result of the action. I’m not going to go back and count, but I’m sure the number is high.

blood writingSo it’s strange that I’m feeling so badly about a couple of deaths in Roses Are White, the third book in the series, which I began writing in October and which is now in my editor’s hands.

Both are major plot points in the novel. The third installment in the series finds Wolf Dasher racing against time to stop the world’s most deadly assassin from killing key individuals and toppling Alfar’s government in the process. Naturally, to raise the tension, the killer claims a couple victims along the way.

I’d planned this from the beginning. When I plotted out the novel, I’d decided these characters were going to die.

But now that I’ve done it, I feel regretful.

The issue is that these are recurring characters. Because this was the third book in the series, I didn’t think it would read very authentically if I suddenly introduced two new important characters and then immediately killed them off. Why wouldn’t we have seen these characters before, I wondered. Answer: Because I needed someone to kill. That felt like a cop out.

Furthermore, I wanted to increase the sense of danger. I wanted the reader’s heart to be pounding every time we get inside the killer’s mind. Who is he going to murder? If I’m willing to kill one character you’ve gotten to know over the course of the two previous novels, who might I be willing to take out next? And if I kill two characters you know, would I be willing to go for three?

That sense of danger raises the tension in the novel. It makes the reader want to keep turning pages. It’s an excellent literary device.

But I still feel like crap for using it. I liked these people. They were fun to write. How could I do that to them?

I suppose I could go back and change it. I’m only two drafts into this novel.

But that wouldn’t feel right either. That would be cheating. It would be inauthentic.

So I guess I’m a murderer — a callous killer, who shamelessly offs characters for the simple expediency of what’s best for the narrative structure of a book.

At least I’ll understand my villains a little better.

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