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But They Want to Live: A Begining Writer’s Guide to Killing Characters

From now until Peace in an Age of Metal and Men comes out on June 7, I am writing a series of posts on writing, science fiction, and the creative process. 

Killing Characters

Writing is the act of breathing life into characters on a page and letting them thrive. Making them thrive.

Sorry, no wait. ‘Thrive’ isn’t the right word.

Suffer.

Yeah, that’s the ticket. Stories are built of conflict and suffering. Characters struggle and suffer so that maybe they might overcome their trials.

Or not.

Sometimes they exist so that they can fail over and over again, more horribly each time. They suffer and suffer and suffer, then just when you think they’re going to pull it off? They die.

Sometimes they need to die.

Look, people die in my book. No spoilers there. Peace in an Age of Metal and Men is a violent book with guns and angry people. That’s a dangerous mix. Can we have stories where guns exist and people don’t die? Sure. But this ain’t it.

But characters don’t just die, do they? It’s not something they manage on their own. They need to be KILLED. And you know what? If you’re the writer, well, you better get your murderin’ shoes on.

They don’t always deserve it. These people whom we have created and whom we love so much aren’t paying for sins. They’re living a hard life and making hard choices. Sometimes the hardest choices aren’t even theirs to make. Consequences are a bitch sometimes.

Some of these characters we would have loved to write whole novels about. They have such potential. These people in my stories have their own hopes and dreams. They have their own fears and their own. Goals.

In the end, they must bleed when the story demands it.

Writing is such great cruelty, but in that cruelty there can exist such great hope.

Because they don’t all die. They’re not all drinking the poisoned wine at the end and collapsing into a big pile of well-rounded character corpses. People suffer in my stories, but others thrive. It’s a lot like real life that way.

In the end, killing characters isn’t something writers want to do. It’s something we have to do. To survive.

So my advice:

Story is king, and it is a cruel king. When the story says your characters need to die? Kill them.

Kill them hard.

No, harder.

And never let them come back.

Peace in an Age of Metal and Men
Peace comes to Texas

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