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  • Writer's pictureSarah Tidball

A Rollercoaster of Emotions: Killing Off Characters

Happy Bank Holiday weekend fellow readers and writers! I recently come across an interesting meme that made me chuckle, and then got me thinking, so I thought I’d discuss the question it posed: "Do authors cry when they kill the best character, or do they smile, laugh, and have a cup of tea with Satan?" As the creator of the Helyan Series, I can tell you it's a complex emotional journey that involves a mix of heartache, surprise, and sometimes a celebratory cuppa.

In a series like mine, where characters are constantly thrown into perilous situations, it's almost inevitable that some will meet their untimely end. It's a tough pill to swallow, especially when it's a character you've grown fond of over the course of the story. But what's even more intriguing is that sometimes, characters take on a life of their own, irrespective of your original plans.

In the Helyan Series, I've had my fair share of characters who were never meant to die. With my "planned pantser" style of writing, where I have a general outline but let the story evolve organically, characters sometimes steer the ship in directions I hadn't anticipated. There have been instances where a character's journey led them to an unexpected demise, catching me off guard just as much as it might catch the readers.

One incident that stands out is when I managed to unintentionally kill off a character. It happened so seamlessly that I hadn't even realized it until it was too late. It just goes to show how immersed we can become in our own narratives, even to the point of surprising ourselves with the outcomes.

Now, let's talk about the delicate balance between necessary deaths for the storyline and those that arise from a sense of justice. Some characters meet their end because the narrative demands it – their demise contributes to the overall depth and authenticity of the story's arc. On the other hand, there are characters who, within the world I've created, simply deserve their fate due to their actions. In those instances, I'd be lying if I said there isn't a certain satisfaction in giving them their just desserts.

But let's address the elephant in the room: do I get emotionally invested? Absolutely. After four books of the Helyan Series, my characters have become almost like friends. There are genuine emotional attachments, and when the time comes to say goodbye, it's not uncommon to feel a lump in my throat or a tear in my eye. These characters have lived with me for a long time, and letting go is never easy.

It's also worth mentioning the peculiar procrastination that can arise when a character's death is imminent. I've found myself dragging my feet, delaying the inevitable, because a part of me doesn't want to bid them farewell. It's a strange balance between the logical demands of the story and the emotional reluctance to let go.

Of course, there are those instances where a character's demise is a cause for celebration. Whether it's poetic justice, a fitting end to a villainous arc, or just a long-awaited closure, there's a certain satisfaction that comes with seeing the story threads come together. And yes, treating myself to a cup of tea and a packet of Maltesers has become a bit of a tradition – a way to acknowledge the weight of the moment while also giving myself a small moment of reward.

The process of killing off characters in the Helyan Series is far from a straightforward one. It's a rollercoaster of emotions that involves everything from unexpected surprises to planned farewells, from heartache to satisfaction. As a writer, I've come to realize that it's a testament to the power of storytelling when the characters we create become so alive that their deaths can evoke such a wide range of feelings within us. So, as you read the series, remember that each character's journey, even the ones that end tragically, is a part of this intricate balance of emotions.

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