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 A quandry: to bump off a character or not

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Al Stevens
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Al Stevens

Number of posts : 1727
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Location : Florida

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PostSubject: A quandry: to bump off a character or not   A quandry: to bump off a character or not EmptyThu Aug 19, 2010 1:34 pm

I have a secondary character who is essential to the story and plays a strong role. He is a father figure and mentor to the protagonist. He is also a sympathetic character, which is to say, the reader should like him.

Toward the end of the book, he gets killed. I am having second thoughts about that. I am thinking about having him seriously wounded and then surviving.

This change achieves two purposes (more, actually, but that's too much detail just now). First, it adds action to the ending as the protagonist and other characters rush to save him before he bleeds out. Second, it keeps him alive for a sequel, if there is to be one.

The down side is that the manuscript is completed. This change will affect several chapters. Which adds up to more work.

Have any of you had this quandry--whether to kill or not kill one of your favorite characters? What did you do about it?
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alj
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alj

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Age : 76
Location : San Antonio

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PostSubject: Re: A quandry: to bump off a character or not   A quandry: to bump off a character or not EmptyThu Aug 19, 2010 2:04 pm

I once killed a character off, and was totally surprised when I did so. The protagonist was involved with two men: A very powerful computer magnate and a folksinger. About two-thirds of the way through, I found myself bumping off the folksinger and having the character realize she was in love with the CEO. It was totally backwards to my conscious feelings and choices, and to the way I thought the book would turn out when I started it.

I had set up the story so that the readers would (hopefully) wonder which of the two men was the savior hinted at in the beginning. I guess the the "good" guy had to be a Christ figure for the whole thing to work, but it took letting go so the story could write itself to get there.

What does you heart tell you should happen?

Ann
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dkchristi
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dkchristi

Number of posts : 8594
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Location : Florida

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PostSubject: Re: A quandry: to bump off a character or not   A quandry: to bump off a character or not EmptyThu Aug 19, 2010 3:28 pm

I have two experiences with this. The first is a short story.
The original ending has the heroine die in an ice storm and while dying her last thoughts are of a beach where whe reunites with her lover, both in the flower of their youth. I thought that was a happy ending. My publisher asked me to change the ending and have her live. So, my original ending became a dream sequence while she is freezing to death; but the story end with her rescue and race to the hospital where she is saved and awakes to the arms of her very real love in the present day. I personally found the second ending less satisfying and less true to the direction of the entire plot. However, I sold the story with the second ending.

A novel ended with two main characters finding each other - end story. However, it was not long enough. I added another 20,000 words that included the death of one of these two. In this case, that death revealed a final peace in the collection to complete a puzzle, so it was appropriate. It made the additional pages feel less contrived. The death was necessary.

If you write for commercial purposes, you need to think like your reader. My very first novel had three endings: hero dies, hero ends up with heroine, hero and heroine might end up together. My manuscript reviewer said that most people prefer a happy ending. She told me not to kill off the hero; but I could pick either the HEA (Happy Ever After) ending or HFM (Happy for the moment) ending and she would feel satisfied after 488 pages of hoping....
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Shelagh
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Shelagh

Number of posts : 12624
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Location : UK

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PostSubject: Re: A quandry: to bump off a character or not   A quandry: to bump off a character or not EmptyThu Aug 19, 2010 3:33 pm

I killed a character off too and had to rewrite the whole book.

Al,

You can read the two opening chapters to The Power of Persuasion here (version 1):

http://www.publishedauthors.org/first-chapters-f12/the-power-of-persuasion-version-1-part-1-t2955.htm

and here (version 2):

http://www.publishedauthors.org/first-chapters-f12/the-power-of-persuasion-version-2-t2957.htm

I removed the Brunette (BB) from the story. The story improved, as did the flow of the writing, but I still enjoy reading the first draft. Just me.

_________________
A quandry: to bump off a character or not 81KU-cLOw3L._SX110_ A quandry: to bump off a character or not 41C9GeFDNWL._SX110_ A quandry: to bump off a character or not 41%2BmGkZJdOL._SX110_ A quandry: to bump off a character or not 51eDGllZXhL._SX115_ A quandry: to bump off a character or not 41y7VHKoszL._SX115_ A quandry: to bump off a character or not 51Zs4N4T4eL._SX115_
Amazon Author Central: Shelagh Watkins
I shall never be old. It doesn't suit me -- ©️Shelagh Watkins
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Al Stevens
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Al Stevens

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PostSubject: Re: A quandry: to bump off a character or not   A quandry: to bump off a character or not EmptyFri Aug 20, 2010 7:21 am

Some of the accounts reported here remind me of the Thornton Wilder play, Our Town. In the play, the heroine, Emily, dies in childbirth in Act III. She is allowed to revisit and relive one day in her life. It is a beautiful story.

In the 1940 movie, apparently the empty suits could not abide an unhappy ending. So, they plugged in a ending in which the whole death thing is a dream, Emily wakes up, and they all live happily ever after. The changed ending is contrived, in my opinion, and ruins everything. I was really mad when I saw it.
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dkchristi
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dkchristi

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PostSubject: Re: A quandry: to bump off a character or not   A quandry: to bump off a character or not EmptyFri Aug 20, 2010 7:59 am

I know what you mean, Al. My story where the woman dies with a vision of herself in the arms of her lover in the flower of their youth had a very satisfying ending, appropriate to the entire flow of the story. The new ending feels contrived and I don't even like the story myself anymore. It will be published soon. The publishers have the beat on the market; I need to listen if I wish to be in that market.

My publisher also frowns on first person; so, I have changed much of my writing from first person to third. I think it removes some of the life from my characters. However, what do I know?
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LC
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LC

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PostSubject: Re: A quandry: to bump off a character or not   A quandry: to bump off a character or not EmptyFri Aug 20, 2010 3:17 pm

dkchristi wrote:
However, what do I know?

Haha, that could be my sig when I'm writing. On all three of my books, that phrase occured to me repeatedly. I also had plenty of heavy thought sessions on something, to end up waving my hand dismissively at the screen, saying, "eh," and writing whatever, hoping it was on point. I wonder if the super-successful authors have loads of confidence in everything they write.
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Shelagh
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PostSubject: Re: A quandry: to bump off a character or not   A quandry: to bump off a character or not EmptyFri Aug 20, 2010 4:02 pm

Ignorance is bliss? The more we know, the more we become aware of how little that is.

_________________
A quandry: to bump off a character or not 81KU-cLOw3L._SX110_ A quandry: to bump off a character or not 41C9GeFDNWL._SX110_ A quandry: to bump off a character or not 41%2BmGkZJdOL._SX110_ A quandry: to bump off a character or not 51eDGllZXhL._SX115_ A quandry: to bump off a character or not 41y7VHKoszL._SX115_ A quandry: to bump off a character or not 51Zs4N4T4eL._SX115_
Amazon Author Central: Shelagh Watkins
I shall never be old. It doesn't suit me -- ©️Shelagh Watkins
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dkchristi
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PostSubject: Re: A quandry: to bump off a character or not   A quandry: to bump off a character or not EmptyFri Aug 20, 2010 6:45 pm

Confidence remains high as sales escalate and diminishes as they diminish. One less than stellar review among dozens of stellar ones can dig.
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LC
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LC

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PostSubject: Re: A quandry: to bump off a character or not   A quandry: to bump off a character or not EmptyFri Aug 20, 2010 7:36 pm

I meant during the process. I wonder if the authors of best sellers knew they were writing one.
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Abe F. March
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Abe F. March

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PostSubject: Re: A quandry: to bump off a character or not   A quandry: to bump off a character or not EmptyFri Aug 20, 2010 9:56 pm

There are lots of great works that have yet to gain recognition. How to get the recognition is the problem. Notariety and connections help. Then there is the "poor man's" method.
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Al Stevens
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Al Stevens

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PostSubject: Re: A quandry: to bump off a character or not   A quandry: to bump off a character or not EmptySat Aug 21, 2010 7:41 am

I am writing the alternative ending now. I will have two sets of the last four chapters when I am finished. Then I will run both past my proof-readers. Then I will decide.
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Al Stevens
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Al Stevens

Number of posts : 1727
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Location : Florida

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PostSubject: Re: A quandry: to bump off a character or not   A quandry: to bump off a character or not EmptySun Aug 22, 2010 11:41 am

I finished the alternative ending. I like it better.

My writing coach/proof reader hasn't read either ending yet. But she already voted for the new one. She said that was because she fell in love with the character in the early chapters and doesn't want him to die. Now that makes it tough. I fell guilty that I bumped him off in the frst place.

One of the hard parts is dealing with the infirmity and recovery in a believable narrative and storyline. I understand dead. I've seen that. I don't understand gravely wounded. I never observed the aftermath of that.
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Abe F. March
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Abe F. March

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PostSubject: Re: A quandry: to bump off a character or not   A quandry: to bump off a character or not EmptySun Aug 22, 2010 12:13 pm

In my book, "Journey into the Past" I put a character in coma where she remains for five years. She comes out of the coma just as her husband is about to leave her for another woman.
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