Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Death and the Maiden: killing characters

by Janine Ashbless

Eight down, maybe nine, thought Veraine, spinning on his heel and shaking the hair out of his eyes, ready for the next attack. The square was in uproar, with people everywhere shouting and shrieking. But when he looked for the Slavers he saw only fallen men, some lying dead and some wounded. He paced a tight circle, adjusting his grip on the slippery hilt of his sword. People scattered before him.

It’s done, he realised, incredulous - forcing his teeth to unclench, feeling the rictus mask of battle relax only slowly. He drew himself upright, taking deeper breaths. The villagers shrank away from him like grass withering before a fire. He tried to lick his lips but his tongue was dry and there was a terrible coppery taste in his mouth. He looked for relief and gratitude in the faces around him but saw only fear. At last he turned back to Tehli. She was staring at him, holding her torn blouse closed. There was no smile on her face either: her expression was one of naked horror.

Reflected in their eyes he saw a monster.

(from Burning Bright)

I am a serial killer.

I kill characters. Lots of them. Not just the villains who deserve it either, as above – though I certainly do relish killing off villains: in Divine Torment for example the high priest collapses with dysentery and shits himself to death. But that epidemic also affect thousands of innocents. And then there’s the earthquake, which partially collapses a clifftop temple on top of a barbarian encampment during a pitched and bloody battle … thousands and thousands of deaths, all so that my two heroes can get it together and run off into the sunset.

Now that’s what I call romance.

But wait, I’m not just ruthlessly profligate with the lives of faceless minions. In Burning Bright I introduce my protagonist Myrna to Anada, a fellow slave of the Tiger Lords; a bright, resilient young woman determined to make the best of her captivity. She falls foul of the sadistic Tiger Queen and is brutally killed during sex. It’s a turning point for Myrna, who determines not to accept her fate passively. A reader told me: "When I read that I got really worried. Because I realised you might not let the heroes survive."


He could be right. My personal idea of a satisfying ending is one which includes Tragic But Redemptive.

"La Petite Mort" is a conceit expressing the dissolution of the conscious self that comes both at orgasm and death. But death is a dangerous and uneasy participant in erotic fiction.. Sometimes it seems a seductively logical extension of where the action’s going: there’s a tendency in some (usually highly literary) fiction to kill off the female protagonist (it’s almost always a female one) because the writer makes her so submissive, so self-abnegating, so yearning for humiliation and surrender that he (yep, it’s usually a he) can’t think of anywhere else to stop. It’s like the writer is aesthetically offended by the idea of someone who finds profound satisfaction in pain and submission on an evening but gets up the next morning perfectly happy and goes off to work and meet her friends.

I don’t kill my characters for that reason. I don’t think BDSM tendencies are a mental illness. I don’t think submissive women characters are "asking for it." I’ve only once fucked a character to death – in The Temptation of St Gregory (a short story in Cruel Enchantment) – and it was a man, and he was a jerk who deserved his fate, and it I wrote it because I was so irritated by the sacrificial girlies in other collections. And it wasn't a bad way to go, with an ‘angel’ at one end and a ‘demon’ at the other:

She understood. With a smile of infinite compassion, she parted her robes with one hand, revealing a small, white, and perfect breast tipped with a little nipple of maidenly pink. Gregory gazed at it with holy awe. She tilted him toward her and his mouth closed over that cool, stiff point. As his despised flesh below thrust towards its unholy apotheosis, Gregory began to suck upon the angel’s breast. Ecstasy incomprehensible exploded in him. The fire and the light became a howling flame that tore him apart. His body poured pulse after pulse of acid seed into the hungry cunt of the demon, and his soul erupted forth.

That passage - in which the actual experience of dying is portrayed as erotic - is all but unique in my writing. I usually portray death as painful, frightening and to be avoided if possible. So I ask myself why I do kill characters.

Well, partly it’s because I write in fantasy/historical settings where armed combat is part of the milieu. I love my warriors, with their honed bodies and their self-reliance and their skill and their courage and their refusal to be victims. (To set the record straight, much like Madelynne Ellis in her Bloodstained Men post below, I like my violence safely distanced by fiction – and preferably a non-contemporary setting - or by a ritual/sporting context: real violence in the real world absolutely repels me.)

Partly it’s because in the context of these settings I want my villains to be real villains. If someone is introduced as a terrifying opponent to my heroes I want him to be genuinely worth opposing, not just a bit of an irritating sod. (In an early VBL novel which I shall not name, a character in a Norman Conquest setting was introduced as being almost diabolically evil – which was certainly worrying and intriguing for me as a reader until it turned out that by "evil" the writer meant "has such incredibly good sex with his floozies that when he dumps them they CAN NEVER FALL IN LOVE WITH ANOTHER MAN". At the time I concluded that the writer either knew nothing about Anglo-Norman history, or was a complete moron. Okay, nowadays I’d be more charitable and mutter darkly about romance genre limitations but back then I naively hoped for narrative honesty.) My own villains are real bastards and they do commit murder.

So it’s about drama.

It’s about doing something that matters. My fictional worlds are (almost as much as the real one) places of injustice and cruelty and sudden violent death. In the face of these, my characters get to decide where they stand. What it is that matters to them. What they are willing to fight for and perhaps risk everything for – in other words, because this is romance, for each other.

Other authors may be able to carry this off in the setting of, say, a pastel-coloured suburban wedding, but I like to paint with a broader brush and deep shadows. I find it difficult to define what has value and is good, except in contrast to what is terrible. I write erotic romance because I think love and pleasure have value: how can this be seen except against the contrast of loneliness and pain? How can a sacrifice have worth unless it involves loss? How can an action be courageous except in the face of fear?

Here’s Veraine, fettered in the dark and waiting to be tortured to death:
He was a soldier, and he had always known it would end this way, or worse. He had never had any prospect of dying in his bed, peaceful and happy. How many people did? Civilians got to fool themselves that death was not inevitable, that it wouldn’t hurt, that that it would wait until you were ready. But a soldier knew the reality. Death was not an option; it was inevitable. What you had on your side wasn’t hope or defiance but courage. Simply courage to face it.

I shall die silent, Veraine told himself: he will not make me scream

There was one shred of comfort and he wrapped his heart around that thought. Every man died, and few in the cause of anything of worth. They lost their lives for trivial reasons; for standing in the wrong place at the wrong time, for turning their head to the left instead of the right or the right instead of the left. For a misinterpreted glance, for an incautious remark, for being too cowardly to act or too brave to run. They died by mischance, by stupidity, by ignorance, by the casual malevolence or cool indifference of others more powerful than themselves. But he, Veraine, was going to die because he’d made a choice. He had let the gods know that there was something he wanted more than fame or riches, more than anything else in the world. Something he would sell everything in his life for. His soul’s desire. And for once the gods had listened.

He’d had her. For only a few hours, but with such intense passion that even before the priests had discovered them, he’d known that he wouldn’t emerge unscathed or unchanged.

In the darkness, invisible, his dry lips tightened in a fearful smile.

(from Divine Torment)

Along with real villains I want to read about heroes who are genuinely courageous. How can you be a hero if you aren’t mortal - if you risk nothing? Superman isn’t heroic – he’s just better than everyone else. Wolverine is a fake – I actively dislike the character – because no matter how many fights he gets into the hairy bastard is incapable of really losing. At worst he walks away to fight another day. That is just so wrong!

I’ve read happy-hippy-trippy erotica where the heroine tumbles giggling from fuck to fuck and finally for no reason at all decides she Loves the hero For Ever and Ever. No pain, no stress, no drama. And you know what? - I cannot bring myself to care. And oh God I want to care, when I’m reading and when I’m writing. I’m not just in it to give my wrist some exercise, you know. Just because it’s erotica doesn’t make it vacuous! I want to believe in these characters. I want to root for them (and along with them…) I want to fall in love with them. I want to feel their emotions.

I believe love and lust both matter. I believe in passion!
Once on another website I was thoroughly castigated for apparently holding the opinion that the ultimate heat-death of the universe renders all romance worthless. No guys – you’ve got it all wrong. I think that love only has value because we are so fragile, and ultimately at the mercy of an indifferent world. Our own unique experiences as are ephemeral as sparks. There are unimaginably vast tracts of time and space out there, and only in the human sphere does any of it have meaning. I think that mercy and justice and truth have value because we nurture them into existence against all the odds. I think that the things you make a stand for are what define you. I think that if you’ll give your life for something then it has value.

I kill because I think it matters.


So when I wrote a novella for Black Lace’s forthcoming Magic & Desire collection I took the decision to start with the death of the romantic hero. And when his lover, the high priestess of Inanna, chooses to descend into the Land of the Dead to find him again, she has to confront all her worst fears and surrender everything that is most precious to her. And she has to come face to face with her own motives and see herself in her nakedness:

I’m parched, and grateful when the gatekeeper eases me into the water. I wonder briefly what it is he has left to take from me – and then he dunks me beneath the surface and begins to scrub me. He is very thorough. There are moments when I am sure I am going to drown on the very threshold of the House of Dust. I’m too exhausted to struggle, almost too exhausted to care. He scrubs every inch of my skin. He scrubs my hair. He scrubs the inside of my mouth and my cunt and my arse. Then he drops me in the pool and wades out.

I kneel in the water until I regain my balance, then rise to my feet. I feel almost empty of sensation. The water is curiously heavy, reluctant to ripple even as I wade across it. The black surface reflects better than that of a mirror, and with one glance down I am snared by my own reflection. I stare in horror.

In all my life I’ve never seen my own face without the temple makeup upon it. My face, even to me, was that of the goddess: dark-eyed, dewy-lipped, smooth and lovely. Without the paint I have the face of - Well, I could be anyone. A merchant’s wife. A domestic servant. I’m a little paler than average perhaps, through working indoors. My wet hair hangs in black strings. My eyes look small and lack drama without kohl. My lips are less full. Two lines crease my neck and tiny bird-prints bloom at the corners of my eyes. There is no seduction, no fire, no delight in this face. Instead there are freckles across the bridge of my nose.

I didn’t know I had freckles.

I close my eyes briefly, searching within. The goddess has gone. I understand what the last gatekeeper has taken from me and it fills me with cold thick despair. I am not a goddess. I am not the centre of all desire, the heart of all love. I am not Inanna anymore. I am just me.

Throwing back the bar, the gatekeeper opens the Seventh and last Gate, then turns and looks at me.

‘I can’t go before her like this,’ I tell him. Even my voice sounds thinner.

That hooked beak opens to speak: ‘The laws of the Underworld are perfect. Do not question them.’

Bowing my head, I climb from the pool and pass through the door. Beyond is a short ramp down onto a grey plain. Slowly I descend, until I sink over my toes into the dust that covers everything, and the great lead doors close behind me.
(from The House of Dust)

xxx
Janine Ashbless
Blog: Website : Fiction/Photodump

Movie Deaths: Troy – The Fellowship of the Ring – Spartacus – Gallipoli - 300

33 comments:

Ally said...

And oh God I want to care. I want to root for them (and along with them…) I want to fall in love with them. I want to feel their emotions. I believe love and lust both matter. I believe in passion!

Janine, Yes Yes Yes! Awesome post.

That is what I love about romance novels, wheather they are erotic, gothic, western. I want to love, feel joy, sadness, frustration, passion, fury and grieve with them.

My most favorate books were written by Jean M Auel. I've probably read the series well over a dozen times in my life. I loved how she gave all of her characters life. I laughed, cried, felt fear, hope, everything came together in one package. Feelings remind you that you are alive and to read a book and feel alive within it's pages is truly a gift.

Portia Da Costa said...

What an absolutely rivetting post! It's really set me pondering...

I started out thinking, well, I've never killed any characters... then I realised that I *have*, several times, although in different kinds of contexts. In fact the first ever writing I did, a series of five little stories, had a wither wringingly dramatic love-death at the end where the hero and heroine fucked themselves to extinction. It was a rubbish story, but the concept of love and death, and dying for love, is still compelling to me.

I'm fascinated by your epic, dramatic, full blooded fiction worlds. It's not a kind of writing I can do myself, and I'm not sure I'd even dare to attempt it. But I'm bloody glad you're doing it, so I can escape into something utterly different to my usual reading fare for a change. Something vivid and tempestuous and dangerous, and bursting with sacrifice, death and love.

Magic and Desire is going to be so diverse... my own thing is about as unlike The House of Dust as it's possible to be... but at the risk of posting a spoiler, there's death in my story too!

Janine Ashbless said...

Thanks Ally!

I do get so frustrated when people (my mother, ahem) assume that erotica's got to be one-note and shallow, written purely for base financial gain (Hah!). All life is here. I've never written a smut story I wasn't emotionally involved with.

Janine Ashbless said...

Your 'Magic & Desire' story is about faeries, isn't it Portia? I'm looking forward to that ... You know I have an interest in the Good People...

Portia Da Costa said...

Yeah, but you only meet one faery... and he's not exactly a green tights, wings and pointy hat type guy. LOL

Although he does have a magic wand... tee hee...

Mathilde Madden said...

This is great post. As you know I was looking forward to it. I have killed people in Silver Werewolves. It is my first time. I thought the books wouldn't work otherwise.

It is weirdly sad.

I remember reading some interview with JK Rowling about her crying over killing someone in Harry Potter and thinking, 'well, huh, it's just a book.'

But now I kind of understand. But I also like it.

Oh, also, it was great seeing a bunch of snips from your work on a similar theme, J. And why have I still not read Gregory?

Madelynne Ellis said...

Fascinating post, Janine. Emotional involvement is definitely the key. You've got to care about the characters to make it all worth while, and I like it when a story keeps me guessing. I don't want a guaranteed HEA. I want to really fear for their lives, souls, happiness.

I've killed a few characters. Sometimes you have to, but mostly I prefer to keep them alive. It's very hard to torture them if they're dead.

Olivia Knight said...

Your writing is spectacular, Janine. That wasn't a post, that was a manifesto I want to put on my wall...

- it’s about drama.
- It’s about doing something that matters.
- love and pleasure have value: how can this be seen except against the contrast of loneliness and pain? How can a sacrifice have worth unless it involves loss? How can an action be courageous except in the face of fear?
- Just because it’s erotica doesn’t make it vacuous!
- I believe love and lust both matter. I believe in passion!


The darker aspects are something I've had to learn in my writing, and similarly I think of it in terms of art - the gradations of shadow, and making white brilliant by having the black in there somewhere. As I've discussed before, I kill my characters through streaming tears, quake with fear when they're frightened, wrench myself through their turmoil - you can feel the pity but you can never act on it. We are the cruel gods we write about!

Just Craig said...

Loved this post, Janine.

I love things based in darkness, but mostly because of how beautifullly they contrast with the light.

In a series of book set in an ancient fantasy world, I've had a number of occasions to explore the deaths of both likable and detestable characters.

In my short stories, I've set stories upon a foundation that rises from death, but have rarely killed a character actively.

In a short story that appeared in Ruthie's Club titled "The Opportunity" I take a detective's operative through a BDSM odyssey as he helps investigate a woman who is suspected in the disappearance of another man.

The operative, who is the main character, is really just a pawn and finds himself at the mercy of the woman and her "assistant". He was not a detestable character who one would feel deserved to die.

My aim was to catch the character, and in doing so, the reader, off guard in the moment of his death. The original draft I submitted ended with the character's death, but the editor felt I was "throwing the reader off a cliff" in my abrupt dispatching of the poor fellow.

I adapted the story based on the editor's concerns, and while I was happy with the outcome, I'd felt that the toss off the cliff fit the story. It amplified the desperation I wanted to convey, but I recognized that this might have been a bit much!

I really labored over the scene where my character died. But the truth was, that was what the story demanded.

A lot of what I write is from darkness or delves into it. For the most part, when a death is part of my story, it is out of necessity; it's what the story demands.

Janine Ashbless said...

We are the cruel gods we write about

I want that T-shirt.

Oh, Madelynne - I prefer to keep them alive. It's very hard to torture them if they're dead. LOL! You are a very bad person...

Janine Ashbless said...

Just Craig, your story sounds interesting: I'd like to read it. I confess that the BDSM death of a male character puts my back up much less than that of a female one. That's a reflection on the world we live in, though.

Just Craig said...

Janine,

I think one of the reasons I took the angle I did with the story is that the death of a male character in this manner was atypical. It was a matter of exploring a darkness that was unfamiliar to the reader.

The darkness we know versus the darkness we do not know.

If you have a signon into Ruthie's Club, Here is a link:

http://www.ruthiesclub.com/members/fold.php?pg=story&s=2553

If not, let me know and I'll gladly send you a Word doc of it. I'd love to get your feedback on the story.

I'm off to the nine to five job now, and won't be able to come out to LB while I'm there, but I can follow up with you later today, if you like.

Erastes said...

Great post Janine and the description of your plotlines make me want to rush out and buy your books, although I'd have to have het page warnings because maidenly pink nipples and other things make me squirm!

I LIKE people to die, especially in historical fiction because that's what happened, just from living - life was very dangerous once. George RR Martin does it fabulously - he forces you to care about the characters right from the first page and then he ruthlessly cuts them down. You tell yourself "well I just won't get invested in this next character" but he's too good for you and he breaks your heart over and over again.

I've only really had the guts to kill minor characters so far, (Fleury, as people know, was SUPPOSED to die in Standish but he refused to) but my current WIP is going to change all that and will consequently probably never sell.

Again, excellent post, very thought provoking, and sorry to be have been away so long.

Madelynne Ellis said...

Oh, Madelynne - I prefer to keep them alive. It's very hard to torture them if they're dead. LOL! You are a very bad person...

I confess... It's true...

Deanna Ashford said...

Janine,
I really love this post it was amazingly written and so passionate. As you know I have already read Burning Bright and am really longing to read the prequel Divine Torment.

I so agree with what you say about your characters in your books. I've killed people in my books but never major characters so far I must confess. However most of my characters had suffered through pain and adversity before they reach their ultimate goal.

There is just something so sexy about a muscular warrior, sword in hand, fighting for his life.

Alison Tyler said...

There is just something so sexy about a muscular warrior, sword in hand, fighting for his life.

I swear to god, I just read that as "fighting for his wife."

More coffee, please.

Janine, I thought your post was intene. I killed off the main character in my first novel—a Blue Moon book, which didn't require a HEA. (I didn't know the rules of romance yet.) But it's a rarity for me. I appreciated your explanation of your hows and whys. Many of your excerpts remind me of the Greek myths I devoured as a kid.

And Mat, I remember reading that Rowling quote. It made sense to me that the writer would cry for her lost characters—since, as a reader, I've definitely cried for them. (God, Fred. Why Fred?)

XXX,
AT

Janine Ashbless said...

I'll add Ruthies Club to the list of subscription sites I'll join When I Am Rich ... (said List starts off "For the Girls", "HairyBoyz" ...) Oh, I'm so tight.

You can send me your story to janineashbless@fsmail.net if you like, Craig. I shall plunge into the Dark!

NB for US readers - Tight = tightfisted, careful with money. Not, er, the other thing!

Janine Ashbless said...

Alison - you killed your first main character? Ow! Did you know that was what was going to happen to him when you started?

I'd be in real pain if I killed Veraine (though he's come very close several times). I could do it, but it would have to be the perfect tragic sacrificial ending.

Anne Tourney said...

I think that love only has value because we are so fragile, and ultimately at the mercy of an indifferent world. Our own unique experiences as are ephemeral as sparks. There are unimaginably vast tracts of time and space out there, and only in the human sphere does any of it have meaning.

A gorgeous statement, and a powerful post, Janine. I have been sitting here trying to come up with an equally passionate, intelligent response, but I'm really just overwhelmed.

We are surrounded by small crises, ensnared in petty details, distracted by superficial pleasures on a day-to-day basis. How else can we touch the grand drama of Eros and Thanatos these days, except through art created by people whose imaginations can lead us to those heights?

This is a stunning piece.

Alison Tyler said...

No, I had no idea. It wasn't exactly the best outlined plot. He's shot by his lover. And I think it was revenge for me, as he was based on a boyfriend I'd had.

Ooops, did I just say that out loud?

Anne Tourney said...

Okay, after a bit more coffee . . . .

I agree with Ally's comment about romance, westerns, etc. I think it's the postmodern mentality that's marginalized the grand, operatic dramas to the sidelines of "genre" fiction. We're all supposed to be so detached, so impartial, so indifferent, so impeccably correct all the time. Delicately dissecting each other in contemporary fiction is "literature"; hacking each other to bits is not.

And that's why I turn to romance, erotica, science fiction, etc., when I crave intensity, blood, guts, hot sex. The passions, and the artistry with which they're portrayed, are as alive as ever. The mainstream just seems to have gotten awfully tepid. Even the violence in our own world scares many of us too much to look at it.

Janine Ashbless said...

You hit the nail right on the head there, Anne. Thank-you for expressing it so well.

I never, never got into tepid adult fiction as I was supposed to when I grew up - and I felt so guilty. I mean, it wasn't as if my reading ability wasn't up to it; I just didn't like it.

I liked Salman Rushdie, Umberto Eco - but couldn't cope with anything blander. Some of us just need spice and fireworks.

Alison said...

Wow, what an amazing post. When I saw that today's post was about death i thought uck! not for me but as the idea of death and sex just does'nt ring my bell, so to speak but this post is brilliant. It is written with such passion and really highlights for me how death in great story lines is hugely powerful. e.g romeo & juliet, west side story, even Titanic all kill off great characters. These stories are about passion rather than just sex and so the theme of death really works. More passion please, I guess. Thanks Janine - a great read
Alison

Madeline Moore said...

HI,
Well, I want the tee shirt too - We are the cruel gods we write about!

Janine, I don't honestly know what comment I can make that would add to the quality of this post. I could say this - I really love this post it was amazingly written and so passionate - but someone else already did.

I could say this - I have been sitting here trying to come up with an equally passionate, intelligent response, but I'm really just overwhelmed - which is bang on, but somebody else already did.

It's a perfect piece, and definitely one that we must consider for the 'best of blogs' contest next time it comes around.

Oh, I could talk about whether or not I've killed characters. Hmmm...yes I have, in short stories, not in my one novel. Although the novel I'm writing now starts off with a mysterious death.

I suppose I've only seen death as a plot device, because I write contemporary erotica. I'm inspired to write a big fight scene, though, by yesterday's and today's post. I might just make a point of it, now that I've read these posts...

Other than that, I am rendered speechless by this post. Well done!!

Olivia Knight said...

Bland literature - what is it about that? I wonder sometimes if it's an exclusively British phenonmenon or a plague of nothingness that is extending all over the world... I remember hearing on Radio 4 once a very serious discussion about a very serious short story competition in which they very seriously commended the winner for having managed to write a story about almost nothing at all. I nearly choked. I came very close to throwing my radio to the ground and jumping up and down till it fragmented then pounding the bits to dust. In poetry it's the same: write about nothing, as introspectively as possible, with no poetic features whatsoever, and make it so yawningly dull that even other poets can't stomach it, and then you'll be a poet, my son...
Forgive the rant. But this pious insistence on writing tedious truck no-one wants to read (or if they do, it's to feel virtuously well-read) is not even biting the hand that feeds, it's cutting off one's own hand. I say all this as a postgraduate of contemporary literature, mind; it was my metier and even I couldn't stand most of the stuff.

Meanwhile, those who care about the writing itself, who have a passion for story, wander off into the genres that allow them to do that but enforce their own house guidelines (HEA, etc) and where literary skill is not usually the foremost consideration. (Clearly I'm not counting Black Lace in the latter, and I think we're exceptionally lucky to have an editor who prioritises literariness to the extent that he does.)

Whew! Real rant. You can almost see me turning into a werewolf as my claws scrabble at the keyboard...

Kate Pearce said...

What a fabulous post and kudos to you for expressing what most writers strive to do in their fiction.

I don't have many deaths in my stories, I'm more into the torturous removal of layers, of examining what a character really needs to live, rather than the superficialities he perhaps believes. Exquisite torturer-that's me-and sex and death are the great revealer's, right?

kristina lloyd said...

Great post. I love the point about a writer being so offended by someone who gets off on pain and submission, who then goes merrily to work and is therefore not a victim, needs to be bumped off by the writer and made a victim. Cos, oooh, female desire, it's so big and scary that it can't possibly be incorporated.

I don't kill many characters. There's some carnage in my vampire novella but I think that's about it. Which is good news because I don't actually *have* many characters. My books are quite thinly populated. Lots of Pinteresque silences.

Well, not quite.

No.

Alison Tyler said...

I could not find anything Pinteresque to link to. I could only find these.

Damn.

Janine Ashbless said...

I just wanted to say Thank-you to everyone who's commented so enthusiastically. Your appreciation really means a lot to me.

kristina lloyd said...

Ha! Alison Tyler, that beats your ass!

Brilliant.

angell said...

Amazing post - and I totally agree.

I've never killed a character before - in any genre. well, once, but it was an implied death - no gory scene to write, no heart in it. Just a means to the end.

But I know better now.

Thank you for the education. I learn more from reading here than I was EVER taught in my literature or english lit classes.

Ally said...

Even though my villains deserved a horridly, painful death, I still had extreme difficulty writing their deaths and ended up snuffing them out quite swiftly after pondering their demise for a week. Their deaths were literally a protective gesture, devoid of retribution and I didn’t dwell on it. Hell, I had a hard enough time making them as evil as I did. Perhaps I'll be able one day to commit the dirtier deed on paper. I am not squeamish about blood, guts and gore, but I guess I find it too difficult to be that violent in a mental capacity. I am sure one day I'll get past it, as uncomfortable as it makes me feel, perhaps the book I am working on now would be a good start, break some personal mental barriers.

Eloise said...

I was thinking, when I first read this along two lines.

Firstly, although not to everyone's taste, as a species we tend to react to deaths (on a grand scale, like plague, war etc.) and personal life-threatening events with sex if possible, as a life-affirming act. On that basis, why don't we have more death in these books? Although not quite the same the genre, would "Gone With The Wind" have quite such an impact if it wasn't against the backdrop of a war?

Secondly, although there are obviously genres where bodies are de rigeur, and common even, deaths of main characters ought to mean something. Even, perhaps especially, if they're going to come back (Are your vampires all neat eaters? Are your werewolves?). However, if your main characters escape death too mysteriously too often, unless you're writing the eroticised James Bond will your readers buy it?

Wonderful post though Janine, and deeply thought-provoking.