The Writer and Playing God (To Kill or Not to Kill)
Regardless of your plot, genre, story points, scenes, goals, antagonists, or protagonist, when you write fiction, characters are the center of your story. In fact, without characters, you don't have a story. As an author it pays to become intimate with your characters. You are, after all, their creator.
Anyone who's written fiction has had good characters and bad characters. Minor characters and major characters. Men, women, children, hermaphrodites, and everything in between. You'll also have characters you like, and others you hate.
After a while, you'll have characters who grate on your nerves like fingernails against a chalkboard. And eventually, you'll feel like you have no choice but to kill them off. In thrillers and horror stories, this is easier than it is for romance or young adult. But even they'll find a way to kill them off if they drive 'em crazy often enough.
Sometimes this hate comes on slow, after several chapters, or even books in a series. Other times, you start hating them almost immediately. Just the other day, I killed a character I thought I liked and had big plans for. But alas, after one scene of only about 1500 words, I had no choice but put a couple bullets in his head. The bastard pissed me off on a bad day, and that was it for him. Bang bang. No more chapter 5 cameo I had planned. Or even the fun twist that turned him into a bigger character.
Oh well, he missed his big break. You win some you lose some.
One thing we often forget as authors though, is when it comes to our story we are god. At least in our sick twisted imagination. And sometimes, killing off a character isn't enough. Sometimes, we have to go back in time, and make sure the son of a bitch was never born.
I ran into this the other day. A character who just wasn't working for me. Don't get me wrong, he was a pretty cool guy. A real fun buddy to hang out with on the holidays. Or head to the nudie bar for a few beers. But he just wasn't needed in the story.
He had some cool moves and everything, but he didn't need to be there. He kept trying to steal the story, but didn't have anything to add. Kind of like that relative that hangs around all the time, but you just can't stand.
One day, I discovered myself looking for places I could kill him off. And creative ways to do it – a bullet was too good for him. I had him in meat grinders, blown up, decapitated, dropped off a building, run over by a bus (and a herd of horses), and more fun stuff. And the prick deserved them all for being such a scene hog and no talent hack.
Then it hit me — in this book, I am god. Or, at least I control the delete key. And a few thousand backspaces later, poof, it was like he never existed. Ok, sure, he's still sitting in my trash bin in case I stop hating him and change by mind. Or maybe bring him back for a novelette or cameo.
But for now, the douche is banished to the story netherworld, and for the purposes of this book, he never existed.
Yeah it took some time. And yeah, my daily word count sucked and moved into the negative for a couple of days. But he's gone, and the story is much stronger because of it.