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Killed Anybody Recently?

Discussion in 'Café Life' started by Paul Whybrow, Aug 7, 2017.

  1. Paul Whybrow

    Paul Whybrow Venerated Member

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    Following on from my ramblings about disposable characters, I'm currently writing a 6,000-word short story for the Galley Beggar Prize.

    This has caused me a few dilemmas, in the setting of the tone of the story and whether it should have a moral message. An innocent motorist is murdered in the first segment of the tale, killed as an initiation test to join a drug gang. I'm coming to the conclusion of the tale, which is overlain with a pall of remorselessness. Nothing good has happened so far, and I'm debating whether anything should, as my villainous crew of dealers travel to a meeting with a biker gang to exchange their crystal meth for guns.

    They're all about to be ambushed by a deadly Salvadorean gang called Mara Salvatrucha—MS-13—tattooed faces and machine guns and prone to killing everybody, including innocent civilians as they muscle in on the drug scene.

    The question is, who should I kill off? Should I include the young gang member who murdered the innocent motorist, or let her escape? It's often more interesting when a baddy gets away with it. I left the fate of a serial killer undecided in my second novel The Perfect Murderer when he disappeared in a sinkhole as the earth opened to consume him. I did so, partly because I thought he might be more popular with readers than the goody two shoes coppers pursuing him, so he could return to continue his bizarre slaying.

    I'm not squeamish about bumping characters off, and have eliminated little old ladies, an animal rights campaigner, a ten-year-old schoolgirl, an American tourist, a nudist, a megalomaniac car dealer, a pornographer, a reclusive farmer, a cancer-stricken wife who went to Dignitas, a headstrong detective, a 16th-century scribe, a bumbling librarian, a mental asylum survivor and an American Civil War veteran.

    When killing a character, there's more impact if the reader relates to them in a good or bad way beforehand, through a skilful thumbnail sketch. For example, their reaction to a stray cat—do they bend to stroke it, completely ignore it or throw a rock?

    Have you killed off anyone interesting, in your writing?

    Did it feel meet and right, a fitting fate for the deceased, or did you immediately regret it?

    Have you rubbed out real life enemies in an act of wish fulfilment?

    Being a writer, a creator means that we have the power of life and death over our characters. Should we show the consequences and describe the reactions of those affected by the death? It always disappoints and annoys me, when the heroic protagonist experiences no effects from having just shot a man to death, after a face-to-face struggle. I've known veterans of many wars who were still struggling with delayed reactions decades after the conflict. I've been in enough violent confrontations, my life threatened, to know that people don't just stop thinking about it as soon as they're safe.

    As writers, we can slaughter many without compunction, but surely, our fictional characters should have consciences....

    [​IMG]
     
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  2. Katie-Ellen Hazeldine

    Katie-Ellen Hazeldine Venerated Member Founding Member

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    Why should they? They might be a psycho :) Not used writing to rub out an enemy. Haven't got any. There are people who won't like me, for sure, and people I don't like but I give them a wide berth, such that I feel no need to rub them out, and if I did, well....heh; there are other methods of magical thinking.

    I have made someone dead, and then someone else, and that triggers something for the MC in one project - case of unfinished business and now it's got to be dealt with somehow, one way and another. And in my other full length WIP, oh yes, there will be deaths. I'm going to have to kill a few lambs, and maybe puppies or kittens before any human gets it, and I'm not looking forward to it at all.

    www.truetarottales.com
     
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  3. Ancora Imparo

    Ancora Imparo Member

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    Yes, I killed off my main character's friend at the end of the first chapter in my latest work in progress. I thought my main character needed more rocks thrown at him, and more motivation to intensely dislike the baddie, but I was worried because they're both only young boys, and it felt sad. I've also killed a very beautiful swan who was a shifter child, in another work of fantasy. That was very dark, but our tutors said the darker the better, so who was I to argue. I think it has to be part of the overall plot and not just gratuitous, or it doesn't quite work.

    I have to say when a well-known, and very well liked writer killed off the fab dog in one of his books (I won't do a spoiler and mention which book or writer), it put me right off him and I haven't read anything else by him since. Odd, that.
     
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  4. Katie-Ellen Hazeldine

    Katie-Ellen Hazeldine Venerated Member Founding Member

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    Not Cujo?

    Quote from this song, included in Cujo.

    Well I had an old dog and his name was Blue
    Bet ya five dollars he's a good dog too
    Old Blue chased a possum up a holler (hollow) limb
    Blue chased a possum up a holler limb
    Blue chased a possum up a holler limb
    The possum growled, Blue whined at him
    Bye bye Blue
    You good dog you
    Bye bye Blue
    You good dog you
    When old Blue died he died so hard
    He shook the ground in my back yard
    We lowered him down with a golden chain
    And every link we called his name
    Bye bye Blue You good dog you
    Bye bye Blue
    You good dog you
    My old Blue he was a good old hound
    You'd hear him hollering miles around
    When I get to Heaven first thing I'll do
    I'll grab my horn and call for Blue
    Bye bye Blue
    You good dog you
    Bye bye Blue
    You good dog you
    My good dog Blue
    He died so hard
     
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  5. Katie-Ellen Hazeldine

    Katie-Ellen Hazeldine Venerated Member Founding Member

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    No, Not odd...Sometimes a story, like a thing in real life, makes you too sick at heart, and you can't sort it, so you have to look away.
     
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  6. Carol Rose

    Carol Rose Venerated Member Founding Member

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    I've killed off characters. Not main ones, of course. I write romance, after all. LOL!! :)
     
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  7. Boopadoo

    Boopadoo Respected Member

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    In my my current work-in-query, I killed off two of three of the protagonist's love interests, all three assassins who were after her, an innocent bystander nurse, and two research scientists. She probably would have killed the main baddie, but I talked her out of it at the last minute. o_O
     
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  8. Ancora Imparo

    Ancora Imparo Member

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    Ah, poor old Blue! :( No, #Katie-Ellen Hazeldine, it wasn't Cujo.
     
  9. James Marinero

    James Marinero Venerated Member

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    Yes @Paul Whybrow - a couple of my much loved characters died recently. One of them had it coming, but the other - well, just bad luck really. Who should you kill off? Roll a dice. Life's like that. Reminds of The Diceman (Luke Rhinehart). Did you read that?
     
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  10. Paul Whybrow

    Paul Whybrow Venerated Member

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    You mean to say that none of your horny lovers has orgasmed to death? :eek:
     
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  11. Carol Rose

    Carol Rose Venerated Member Founding Member

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    Not yet...
     
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  12. MaryA

    MaryA Member

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    You make fictional murder sound such fun!

    Work in progress. My fictional MC Danielle is alone in a house where things go missing only to turn up again in unlikely places. She's eight months pregnant and her husband has left her for another woman. Due to stress and insomnia, she unexpectedly gives birth to a very small premature girl. Despite being diagnosed with post-partum depression, a sleepless Danielle discharges herself from the clinic and returns home. She finally falls asleep at 3am. In the morning she wakes to find the cot next to her bed empty, the new-born baby gone. She calls the police and a search is launched.

    Three days later the missing baby is found on the back seat of an abandoned car parked in front of the town museum. Although this baby is wearing clothes that Danielle knitted herself, something is wrong. Danielle insists this is not her baby. She says she will kill this changeling if she has to look after it.

    Gruelling stuff and I feel quite monstrous. Twist after twist to come.
     
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  13. Katie-Ellen Hazeldine

    Katie-Ellen Hazeldine Venerated Member Founding Member

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    I knew Cujo was horror...but you know; it was! Poor Cujo. Rabies.
     
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  14. Paul Whybrow

    Paul Whybrow Venerated Member

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    Your plot sounds like the stuff of nightmares...have you had any bad dreams because of what you're writing? I did, back in 2014, when creating my first novel The Perfect Murderer. The serial killer in the story had been hardened to violence by being forced to fight as a boy soldier in the Bosnian Wars of Independence. In researching the story, I read a lot about genocide and concentration camps, which awakened sad and bad memories from childhood when I learned about the Nazi atrocities. This permeated by dreams, and one night I was stalked by a shadowy figure who was plainly out to do me harm. I attacked first, kicking him in the gonads! Except, that in reality, I'd kicked the bedroom wall—breaking my big toe!

    I was housebound for three weeks, while it healed. I took consolation in the thought that if my story had scared me that much, then it might terrify my readers.
     
  15. Patricia D

    Patricia D Venerated Member

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    I write mysteries and leave a trail of bodies like Hansel and Gretel left breadcrumbs. Usually some other character(s) mourn the deceased, but right now I'm working on a short story where no one is sorry the victim is no longer with us.

    As for who should you kill off, picking someone that somebody else cares about usually has more impact
     
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2017
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  16. Robinne Weiss

    Robinne Weiss Venerated Member

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    I killed off my MC's fiancee. Readers are shocked and dismayed by it, because he was a really good bloke, but he had to go to make way for the rest of the story to happen. She didn't love him, anyway...(and he had to be there to show she couldn't love him).
     
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  17. MaryA

    MaryA Member

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    Paul wrote: 'Your plot sounds like the stuff of nightmares...have you had any bad dreams because of what you're writing?'

    Well, no broken toes yet, but I do dream about houses often and this house is creepy, an old farmhouse in the Karoo. I stayed in an unrestored Victorian homestead once where things did seem to keep disappearing and doors would slam in the middle of the night. We loved the house and during daylight hours we'd make jokes about ghosts (Henry James' Turn of the Screw) and poltergeist kleptomaniacs, but when I woke at 2am and wondering what noise had woken me, it was not funny at all. The combination of a possibly haunted house and a woman with untreated post-partum depression who can't sleep makes for a lot of prowling around and angst.
     
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  18. Paul Whybrow

    Paul Whybrow Venerated Member

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    Damn, that's a good way of keeping the ring! o_O
     
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  19. Paul Whybrow

    Paul Whybrow Venerated Member

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    In my first novel, The Perfect Murderer, the titular character was a career detective who'd been bumping-off one hardened criminal a year for 40 years. He eliminated evil people, the dregs of society, murderers, rapists, paedophiles and drug dealers who wouldn't be missed. He was breaking the law himself, of course, but most readers would approve of his actions; it was fun to play with the moral compass of society.
     
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  20. Katie-Ellen Hazeldine

    Katie-Ellen Hazeldine Venerated Member Founding Member

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    Very unpleasant...and downright alarming if that poltergeist grabs hold of the duvet with you under it. I reckon the living activate things, as if that isn't weird enough, but is a room haunted with nobody in it? Stray electricity or something. Happened to me a few weeks ago, in the most modern, simple but lovely hotel. Even squirrels. Not a sniff of any funny feeling, then on the last night, something not nice at all, just after lights out. You've got a great story idea there, I reckon, Mary. I'd want to read it, for sure.
     
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  21. MaryA

    MaryA Member

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    That is so encouraging, Katie-Ellen. I wrote the beginning to this fiction a year or two ago and then stopped because I wasn’t sure how to match the initial intensity. A successful designer who specialises in moody 21st-century Gothic interiors clicks on a link left on her website and finds herself looking at the photograph of a dead baby in a small coffin. Her own missing baby.

    I've always found the elusive can't-put-my-finger-on-it to be more frightening than 'ghosts' in visible form. And what you describe is so true to our sceptical half-intuitions of place. I do believe that someone who is distressed or anxious projects some of that into the atmosphere of an unfamiliar place, an old house or hotel room or museum. We project, we deny, we are caught off-guard and receptive -- and sometimes some presence or energy in our surroundings manifests back at us.
     
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  22. Katie-Ellen Hazeldine

    Katie-Ellen Hazeldine Venerated Member Founding Member

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    Beautifully expressed. Exactly that. TC Lethbridge called those kind of manifestations 'ghoul' - when they were malign. But they might also manifest as a protecting or comforting presence. I lost a baby once, a long time ago, died the day he was born. People are deeply uncomfortable talking about these things, but they happen, not as often in the west as they used to, but the baby cemetery is noticeably bigger every year. Then, two years later, something 'arrived' in the house shortly before the birth of my third who a few weeks later arrived safe and sound at home...and OK, it was peculiar as anything, but it was nice. If I was religious, I might have termed it an angel, but we're a more ancient species than we know, more ancient with every new cave discovery, and what is called divinity originates within. Which does not make those manifestations any the less real. Other people may witness them in broad daylight.
     
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