It has been pointed out to me that I have a tendency to kill off characters in my books. It is something I have been aware of for some time but, as much as I resist, I cannot seem to help myself.
In both High Speed and Where the Flag Floats, the mother dies within the first chapter and I’ve even had someone say to me that her daughter could not read High Speed any further than this because she was too upset. One part of me was satisfied that my writing could provoke such emotion; the other part was disappointed that she couldn’t get past this scene to read the rest of the book.
In each story, the death of the mother sets off subsequent events that would not be possible if she had remained alive. Would Jason have solved the mystery in High Speed without his mother’s death? Would Sam have boarded HMS Orpheus if he’d not been orphaned?
The similarity in the first chapters of these books is obvious and yet they were written several years apart. It is coincidence that they came out within a year of each other.
No one dies in In Too Deep although there is a character who is dealing with his father’s sudden death but this happens off stage and before we meet the character. The follow up to that is Three Times Dead. Oh dear, I guess there is no hope.
I have to consider this predilection with death. I’m not a melancholy person by nature but have experienced tragedy in my life. Maybe that’s the source? But then most people will experience a tragedy in their lives but not everyone writes about it.
As I think about a story, and realize that a death may occur, I find myself considering, is this death necessary? Each time the answer has been in the affirmative, yes to get my character to do what must be done, this character must die. Stick in the knife and twist it. And deal with the aftermath.
To a large extent we don’t deal with death on a daily basis like they used to in the ‘old days’. The Victorians had a whole swag of rituals and customs around death and yet these days they have largely fallen away. With the advent of modern medicine, people only die when all medical options have been exhausted; or by accident, or by design, for which there is punishment. But for the majority of us death happens and then we get on with our lives, those that aren’t directly affected anyway.
Perhaps I’m being too sensitive about this, maybe I should just write the story that needs to be written and leave the body count for someone else to add up. Maybe I should accept that this is the bone I have to gnaw and get on with it. Maybe one day I will write a book in which no one dies. I can do it; I know I can, just as soon as I kill off this character….