Monday, June 29, 2009

Stuck in the Proverbial Box

By Jenna Byrnes

I thought long and hard about the subject this week, "Killing your darlings."


None of my darlings has ever died.

You see, I write HEA. Happily ever after. Killing off one of the main characters works directly against the HEA affect I strive to achieve.

Do I ever put them through torment before that last page is turned? Duh. Books need conflict, or there won't be an interesting story. Most often, the conflict involves something dreadful that's keeping Boy #1 away from Boy #2 (or Girl #1, if you swing in that direction!) As with most good movies or TV shows, the conflict could usually be solved if an objective third party would sit Numbers 1 and 2 down and set them straight with the facts. But that wouldn't be nearly as much fun.

Recently, I tried to kill off a character. Not a main, but a secondary 'snitch' that had a fairly decent role in a cop short story I wrote. As usual, I sent it to my second set of eyes, Jude, for editing. She sent it back with some red marks, some nice comments, and the phrase, "I don't think killing that guy is going to work."


It was my story, and I wanted the dude to die, so I left it in. I got the acceptance back with a contract and short note from my editor, "I really don't think that guy should die at the end. Not a very 'romance novel' thing to do."

Well, whaddaya know? Jude was right. LOL (Okay, she usually is. But sometimes I fight it as much as possible.) And so, with the click of a few keyboard keys, the snitch was pulled back from the brink of death and was healing nicely by the end of the story. I didn't really mind making the change, but sometimes I question the 'in the box' parameters that romance writers have to stick with. I get tired of men who must be alpha males, and just once, I'd like to send one careening over a cliff at the end of a book. I know, I know...not a very 'romance novel' thing to do. But I've often wanted to try my hand at horror. Maybe there, it would work.

Heh heh heh!


  1. Hi, Jenna,

    As I mentioned in my post, Exposure begins with a double murder witnessed by the main character. One of the guys killed is obviously a creep, no love lost, but the other could well have been the hero, if he had lived...

    Of course, Exposure isn't strictly romance - it's a thriller and in fact the first chapter started out life as an ERWA erotic noir theme story. And it doesn't have a real hero, though there's a male romantic interest.

    The book I'm working on now IS romance. When it begins, there's already been one death, the sister of one of the two protagonists. I haven't decided whether I'm going to kill off the villain. But the hero is going to come very close... still, he'll survive.

    I think.


  2. Now that sounds fun! It's like movies and TV, none of the good guys ever used to die. Somewhere, about twenty years ago, they started killing people off here and there, and it was surprising. Made things more interesting, because you were never sure what might happen!

    Good luck with the new manuscript. Or should I say, good luck to that villian!


  3. I had to kill off one of my characters in Love is Sober, and made the mistake of giving the scene to my beta reader before it was finished. And when she got the rest of the chapter, she yelled at me for killing him off! But I had to; otherwise the rest of the book didn't make sense!

    I guess I could have put him in a coma, or made him severly disabled...but the heroine needed to move on with her life before meeting her ultimate Hero.

  4. Hey Jenna,

    The problem with killing off that one guy was, he was a nice kid who just needed some grow up time. If you'd created a monster, I bet the editor would have been fine with it. Your trouble is, your characters are so damn believable, you make them hard to dislike when they're really not bad guys.

    Uh, horror. There's a market for it. Why not try one and see if you can get a toe in THAT door?

    Great post, Jenna!


  5. I've never thought of applying that phrase to actual characters, and certainly not to main characters. To me, it is more about removing distractions.

    Now, I have and will created people in my books whose real purpose is basically the same as the red-shirted guy in Star Trek. Yes, they exist to die. And I hope the audience likes them. Because if they don't, their deaths will not have the impact I want.

    But the only way I'll ever kill the main character is if it is a ghost story...

  6. Hi Molly,

    Sometimes, you just gotta go what you just gotta do. LOL

    Thanks for stopping by!


  7. Hi Jude,

    Too many doors, and not enough time. Maybe someday! Right now, I have werewolves on the brain. *sigh*



  8. Hey Will,

    I'd actually never heard the phrase at all.

    But the red-shirted guy in Star Trek? Him I know. LOL Poor sap.

    Thanks for commenting!