So you’re writing your story and you’re thrilled because it’s flowing along smoothly. Then, the next thing you know, you’re heading for rapids. Your characters have to make a crucial decision. Maybe they are inherently selfish, perhaps they will sacrifice themselves for the sake of the ultimate goal, or any other number of choices. I absolutely HATE killing off my characters, even the bad ones. I can most easily part with those ones, but then I have to ask myself if that is fair. That won’t resonate, there’s a reason we have a saying: “the good die young”. It is not believable (depending on a story) to only kill the bad characters, which of course you already know, just like I know that to be true. Knowing this doesn’t make it much easier, but writing the demise of a much-loved character can accomplish many things.
Deep inside, I know this to be true. Really I do. It’s just that when I right about Susie with her innocence, her wide-eyed wonder of the world and perpetual optimism, I have such a hard time sacrificing her to the whims of a nefarious character. There are times when I can see a way out, depending on the backstory of the villain and my other character. I like those alternatives, but really there are times when losing a character is inevitable. It’s very sad, and what is even worse is having to keep a villain because you understand that something crucial will happen to turn them (like Darth Vader) and so you must keep that character, while at the same time losing one who is inherently good. The wrong choice makes your story flat. Choosing the wrong character, or the wrong timing to lose a character can instead lose your readers altogether. My mission lately is to jump into the fray with realistic intentions, but I will not lose my characters senselessly (unless trying to prove a point).
That being said, I think it’s important to make sure even the villainous characters have depth (hence the cartoon reminder to myself). I don’t want to write an uninteresting one-dimensional villain. That is boring. So I have to give him (or her) vices, temptations, weaknesses and faults. To make him/her sympathetic (at least to a certain extent) I need to also give that character their own goals, beliefs and a few admirable traits which perhaps became a little derailed during their path. It is with sadness and regret that I should write the demise of any character, good or “bad”. I don’t recall where I heard it, but I remember this quote “no one is ever all good, or all bad”. So, I challenge myself to write a complex character and to march forward, unafraid of the outcome, towards the story that is in my heart. We’ll see how that goes.