When Characters Die

Thoughout much the course of Welcome to The Valleys it’s been my practice to post the continuation of the narrative on Tuesday and follow up with my “unpacking” on Wednesday. This week was different.

This week a character died.

The ending of “Intruding End” was supposed to happen on Tuesday, but I found myself running long describing the party’s travel preparations and decided to split them off into a section not found in my story outline, “The Breath.” I was quite fond of this diorama of the group’s preparations to turn South, so I don’t regret spending time exploring them. But I also couldn’t stand to put the moment when Terrin met his end any longer.

I’ve known since Riverside how Terrin would die, and I honestly wasn’t certain how I’d react to the moment when I finally typed it out. Terrin has been more noticeably present over the last few scenes, I suppose this was my way of allowing him to have some time in the Limelight before he departed from the world. I thought the story of his father treating the non-persons of The Valleys with respect and dignity was a particularly touching moment. He adored his father, and admired how he cared for people and tried listen to the wisdom of the different groups he met in pursuit of his duties. We don’t know much about any of the character’s back stories, really, so Terrin’s revelation was a true high point for his character development. I was glad to spend that moment with them as he and Jeremy discussed his past.

But he was going to die, and stretching it out another week felt cruel to me. In fact, I’d spend much of the previous week preparing myself to help Terrin meet his end, and I honestly wasn’t certain I could wait any more.

So Wednesday became a bonus “Fiction Tuesday,” and I reached the moment which I’d dreaded writing. To be honest, the first time I wrote the scene it didn’t feel all that unusual. I was caught up in the narrative and, as I said, I’ve known how Terrin would die for a while. When I went back for my blog-post edit, on the other hand, Terrin’s passing was gut-wrenching. Here was a character I’d created, and included in the story which flowed from my head, lying on the ground — cold in death. His wife is now a widow and his children have no father, and it struck me — I wrote that. It was necessary for the plot, sure, It also brought my party back into a more manageable size for storytelling, but those things still meant Terrin had to die.

I got through my first edit all right, and sent it on to WordPress for publishing. But when the time came to make the post live, I actually hesitated. Before the post went live I was the only one who knew Terrin’s fate. Once it went up on my sight, his death would be final. It didn’t feel good when I tapped the “publish” button in the WordPress app.

One of the things I’m discovering as I write this story is writers come to care for their characters. This isn’t too surprising. Many of of an author’s characters are fragments of our own personalities who happen to be roaming the halls of our imaginations. How can we not care for them?

So, no matter how necessary it might be of the plot, it hurts when a character loses their life. I’m sorry to see you go, Terrin, but you died preserving the lives of others. I know, if you had to be taken in the line of duty, this is how you would have wanted it.

I’ll chime in tomorrow with a full reflection on the last two scenes. For tonight I say, “Rest in peace, Terrin. You will be missed.”

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