Learning to Murder Your Darlings

Although most of my focus has been on releasing Salmonweird, (just two weeks away from release now!) I’ve made a lot of progress on Children of Phobetor this year. I’ve made more progress in one year than I ever thought I would for a book that’s 6 years in the making.

Now I’m staring at a possible 2019 finish in the face – again not expected. But plans can change and other projects could take my attention. Unlikely at this late stage though because I feel very much into Children of Phobetor as it stands.

So, working on the assumption that I will finish this year, I’m now facing some of the most difficult questions any writer will ever ask themselves.

Which Character(s) Should I Kill?

And when and why, how do I help the tragedy move the story along, and how will the team dynamic change following each death? That, of course, depends on who I kill and in what sequence (as well as how many).

I’ve killed characters before, of course I have. In most cases, those deaths were pre-planned so I didn’t get quite so emotionally attached to the characters or their situation. They were being set up to die and most of the time, their deaths served a narrative purpose. This is different though. I never planned to specifically kill any of them, but I knew at least one would have to die for the sake of the story.

I’ve spent nearly 7 years creating and cultivating these characters, carefully building up back stories, testing their fears and desires. More importantly, I’ve given each character a reason to survive, a reason to return home. Conceivably at this time, they could all survive and return to their lives or a better version of it, content that their personal reasons for going were vindicated, basking in the riches and prestige that Emperor Vespasian promised them.

Sadly, that is not real life though. People die with unfulfilled dreams. People go to their graves with convictions for crimes they did not commit. Young people on their way to a degree graduation are knocked over and killed by drunk drivers. A couple planning a wedding next year do not know when booking that one of them has a brain tumour and will be dead before they fly out.

As morbid as this all sounds, what I’m getting at is that because a character has a reason to survive, that isn’t a reason to let them survive and nor should it be.

Who To Kill and When?

Who deserves to live and who deserves to die? Should character death be purely for shock factor or for utility? Should I just kill a character for the hell of it to see what happens? This is all new territory to me. None of them deserves to die. Each of them deserves to make the life they desire and right the wrongs in their life.

There are married and single people, people with children and the childless/child free. Each has flaws and qualities and different motives for being there. Because I’ve spent so much effort building them up, they feel more real, more intricate, more complex, more human than any other characters I’ve created. I had/have no pre-planned destination for them unlike most other characters and that’s why I am finding this issue so difficult.

Perhaps I need a mind map to work it all out. 😀

Over to you, tell me about your tough “murder your darlings” decisions.

Published by MG Mason Creative

I'm Matt, a freelance writer, writing mostly about education, early career recruitment, tech, B2B and professional services. Dabbling with landscape and nature photography too. For this content , please look at my main site linked below. I'm also a self-published author, creator of the quirky crime comedy book series Salmonweird. If that's what you're looking for, then good news! The village has its own website listed below.

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