Have you ever killed a character in a story?
Or rather made him/her die — because it’s not you who actually kills those paper people. They die of paper diseases, or during a paper nuclear bombing, or they get shot in a duel by some other paper people, or they simply kill themselves with a paper overdose of heroin.
Like Damian. He was the main character in a story I wrote for a school contest when I was fourteen or fifteen. Damian was a depressed druggie who didn’t fit in with what was designated as “the world” in a little motto this story had. He basically sat on his arse and made drawings all the time, and went out only to buy. He had a mother, too, a tormented creature who had long since given up on him as well as on herself.
I selflessly bestowed some more pain on her when I made Damian overdose. He was taken to hospital straight from the basement I’d made him choose as his life-ending site but they couldn’t rescue him. The little fuckhead died, and the mother lived on dead inside.
I’m recalling this story here because it’s gone: I’ve deleted it from my brother’s computer (ha, now I remember the overdose wasn’t really done on paper; it was digital!), and the only paper copy I had printed is probably long since recycled.
And… now that I think of it, this story wasn’t good in any sense. The only thing that happened in it was: the guy died, so it must’ve been quite dreary reading. I guess it was pretty awful in terms of language, too. I wouldn’t try to rewrite it now, but I’m recalling it here because for some reason this story, and this Damian, have stayed with me and I sometimes catch myself thinking:
Why did I decide to kill him?
It’s a question I can’t get out of my head because even if I write of him so scathingly now, and even if I can’t really think of any other way to deal with a character like that other than making him die, I felt guilty about my decision to kill him.
Yes. I mean it. For some time in my life I kept thinking about how wrong it was, and how I could’ve made him open his fucking eyes in the end of the story, and look gratefully at his mother, and say “Yay, now we’re gonna live on dead inside together” or something.
But as you may have sensed from the way I’m writing now, I no longer think along these lines. Right now I’m rather inclined to say that some characters are just better off killing themselves.
[Spoiler alert for the film “Filth”]
After I watched Jon Baird’s “Filth”, which is also a story of a drug addict, but one that’s much more interesting and better told, and after I had more or less digested it so that I could talk about it to a friend, I realised — but only when I’d said that out loud to her — that some stories really should end with a suicide because otherwise it’s just unbearable to think that a given person is supposed to live any longer.
Yes. I mean that, too.
So why did I decide to kill Damian? I’ll leave it to myself. Here, I only want to say that a decision to kill a character in a story is…
No, no, no: not a potential milestone in every attempting writer’s life, because I don’t think so. Characters should die from time to time. Some should have terrible deaths, too, I’d say.
I want to say that a decision to kill is a fun decision to make. Seriously, it feels so good to be able to kill a character.
You probably know what I’m talking about, don’t you? Recently, I’ve heard quite a few people discussing how best to kill a character in a story — so that every detail of the killing is described plausibly — or pondering speculatively on how best to kill a person — so that no evidence is left on them. It seems like they, too, love thinking about that kind of stuff, and I’m not surprised: it’s fun!
It’s fun to think of why you decided to kill a particular character at some point in your writing life, as well. A whole new story may actually come out of it… or a blog post, as in my case.
I need to wrap up this lengthy blether, so I’ll just say: go and speculate on killing if you like to, and if you like to (and I know you like to), go and make a decision to kill. Treat it as my Sunday teaching.
Ite, ineptiae sunt.