I killed King Arthur yesterday. Well, everybody knew it was going to happen. If you are writing about an already famous character, and in his legend he dies a tragic death, you can either:
– have him die a tragic death.
– write an alternative ending and have everybody ridicule you.
– write slapstick.
I could change the ending because I’m close enough to slapstick to get away with it. And when you write humorous fiction, it’s not so bad when people laugh at you–you can just pretend that they’re laughing at your writing.
But even if I could have gotten away with it, I went ahead and killed off King Arthur.
It was a bit of a downer, but scotch helped.
That got me to thinking about killing off characters. I don’t do it very often. Even a dastardly villain like JD, who soundly deserved it, ended up being king for a year with all the sex he wanted. Of course, the deal was, he was fated to die after that. But it doesn’t happen within the pages of the novel, so you always pretend he reformed and lived happily ever after. Or maybe he caught leprosy.
Earlier in the week I read an interview of George R.R. Martin, who’s made an art form out of killing off characters. You get about halfway through Book One of the Game of Thrones, totally identifying with Ned Stark, and then suddenly he’s dead and Martin’s got a million more readers. In the interview, he says that there’s no tension once the reader believes a character is safe because of author attraction or bonding.
My writing partner, SusanH, always tells me that I need more tension in my novels.
So I’m thinking about killing off Oswald. What do you think? Will that get me a million readers?
And would it be worth it?