Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Death Toll

So I am helping critique a friend's novel (and it's really good) and at one point one of her other critters suggested a change that would save a secondary character's life. My knee-jerk reaction was, "No way! It adds drama and tension and huge emotion to the scene." (And it does!) And my next thought after that was, "Of course, this comes from me; I kill a lot of people in my book. If I just count named characters who you actually get to know, I kill . . ." And it took me a long time to count up my answer.

Now first things first, there are a LOT of characters in my novel. When you have a magic system that requires two people, all of your main, magical characters come in twos. . .so I have about a zillion characters. (One of the main reasons I couldn't cut it anymore; lots of characters who are essential to the plot.

So anyhow, I counted up all the named, important characters who are killed. None that die accidentally or from diseases or something, but those who are killed. (Head smashed in, neck snapped, run through with a sword, etc.)

You ready?


I was amazed and rather appalled with myself. Because on top of that there are a ton of unnamed characters (soldiers, guards, etc.) who die. (And just to give you an idea of how many people are in this book, there are a further 20 or so front row characters who do not die. I have a HUGE cast.)

People I agonized over killing? (And this is part of the twenty-one, not on top of):


People I ended up saving from death?


I'm not very merciful, am I?

Anyone else kill as many people in their book as I do?



Emily Hendricks said...

Okay, I don't kill 21. However, in the current book I'm writing, I'm up to 3. And I'm barely 10K words in.

I promise it's essential to the plot! :)

Heidi the Hick said...

Have you seen Stranger Than Fiction? "How many people have I killed?"

Aprilynne Pike said...

"Have you seen Stranger Than Fiction? "How many people have I killed?""

I haven't. But I have heard that, depending on the kind of movies you like, it is either hilarious, or absolutely ridiculous.:)


Sharon Maas said...

Well - in THIS book I kill about 1000! But - none of them are people the reader will know or care much about. I kill one person the reader will hate and love to see dead. And four others in a way that will shock readers.

In my other books:
Book one: I killed one of the three Very Main Characters. Many readers told me it broke their hearts.

Book two: I killed one secondary characters, two minor ones.

Book three: I killed one very minor character, one secondary character.
Gruesoome, ain't I!

Anonymous said...

I love you story. The deaths do add drama and tug at your heart. I am SO glad you saved the 2. Thank you.

By the way...you switched your background. Looks nice.


Tyhitia Green said...

I killed off mostly bad guys in mine. You've piqued my curiosity. I'll have to go back and count them now! I like the new look of your blog!

LadyBronco said...

Let's see...

I killed 32 crew members in a crash-landing, and I killed off one main character.

So far.

I am actually contemplating killing off two more (secondary characters), but I am not sure yet.

Kaitiana said...

Hee! I think I'm the friend in question. It's funny, I used to have to MAKE myself kill characters off just because I'm a sunshiney kind of gal, but reading a lot of dark and urban fantasy has rubbed off on me. Plus, I think it raises the stakes when you know that not everyone in the book IS safe and will necessarily make it to the end. Now, I don't think I've killed any main characters off in any WIP's yet, but the secondary characters are another thing entirely! =) Oh, and minor characters are becoming more and more like cannon fodder for me. *lol*

--Kasey Mackenzie/Kait

Michelle Zink said...

I killed one central character in my most recent book and am still catching grief for it from my readers...

My poor mother, who has read the book at least 10 times in various incarnations, called me crying the last time.

I was like, "Yeah, but it's bee that way since the beginning, and it had to happen because of..."

She said, "I know (sob, sniffle), but it's SO SAD!"

Aprilynne Pike said...

*laugh* Hope I was vague enough . . . and I guess now you know how I am going to respond to yur e-mail.:)

Anyway, I am just having a short break before I get back to your book.:)

See Ya!

Holly Kennedy said...

Wow. Twenty-one dead, huh?
No, I haven't killed anyone yet, although I thought of it, but my agent wouldn't let me. She said it would be too depressing, so instead I maimed my character, but left him alive, which made for strong dramatic tension and grand sympathy from readers... I think.

However, when or if I decide to nuke someone, I know EXACTLY who I'm going to email for advice.
Too funny!

Kaitiana said...

Plenty vague! =) I hadn't checked in on your blog in awhile but finally remembered to. Hope I didn't weird you out, piping up! =) And I truly am glad--and relieved--to hear you are enjoying it so far.

Nathan Bransford said...

That's quite a body count! But hey, if it works it works.

ORION said...

I like your new look!
I LOVED Stranger than Fiction and if you write - you will too!!!
You know I posted about this on another blog. Although it's good to get feedback -- on the whole I think writing by committee is a bad idea.

Anonymous said...

I don't kill 21, but there are several deaths of main/secondary characters that are heartwrenching and cruel (yet necessary). I don't enjoy writing it, but when I have to reach for a tissue, I get this twisted feeling that I did the right thing.

I don't kill someone for the sake of an emotional punch, but it's a pseudo-medieval world, and my characters are in the midst of chaos more often than most. It's inevitable that some of them are going to die.

The one thing that really irks me in a fantasy novel is when NO ONE but the bad guys die. Blech. So not realistic. :)

ORION said...

I realize now my last post made little sense and was off topic.
I belong to the John Irving school of novel writing: Kill off at least two endearing characters per book.

Anonymous said...

yay, i love the no-pink set up!!!

Anonymous said...

Pisarz from AW weighing in. (What does is say about me that "kill" and "body count" prompt me to move from lurking to posting?). Total: 17, 14 of them in the opening scene.