Kill Your Characters

flipiconI belong to a few online writers groups, one of the newest ones I joined is a bulletin board style site, with categories for posting stories, asking for help, giving critiques, and writing advice. There is a lot of good advice there, such as keeping dialogue real, write every day, don’t waste words, never start a story with the phrase ‘it was a dark and stormy night’, etc…

Here is my contribution to the Writing Advice section:

The importance of killing off characters
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I wrote my first novel between 1992 and 1995, It’s a psycho-trippy jaunt through the last days of the earth just prior to Apocalypse, and focuses on one character, Hector, and his attempts to save the world. I put him through heck in this story, I say heck because this board has a built-in censor.

During the course of some Fifty thousand words, he is shot, stabbed, electrocuted, has involuntary sex changes, an accidental lobotomy due to a misuse of power tools, a very intentional lobotomy to steal information from his brain and swap it into a body that will find good use for it, he is urinated upon by dogs, etc…

Anyway, at the end of this story, I left him alive. A mistake I am finding out now, because he is mad. Mad is not the word, but again, I refer you to the built-in censor (I like to call him Mr. Frumpy; good job on catching the profanities and replacing them with less offensive homonyms, Mr. Frumpy!).

The phone rings late at night, with no name registering on the caller id, I pick up the phone and it is Hector, the character from my novel who I tortured but failed to kill off. He swears he will exact revenge.

I walk home at night and feel as if I am being followed. Even now, as I look out my window into the pitch black of night, I can make out the shape of a dark van parked in front of my house, and can almost feel a set of fictional eyes watching as I type, and I am afraid.

©Robert Emmett McWhorter

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