Connecting With Your Characters (Or why some authors cry when they kill off their darlings.)

Today I killed someone. Not a real person, I hasten to add, if you’re thinking I’m some kind of closet murderer, but one of the characters that I hold dear. And as I wrote, I cried. 

As I finished writing, and closed the chapter on this person’s life – a life lived only in my imagination – I pondered on why the tears fell at the demise of someone who never existed anywhere except on the printed page. It was a sobering thought. 

I’m a somewhat emotional person, and am what I’d refer to as a ‘sympathetic crier’ – if you’re crying over something sad, it’s quite possible that I’ll join you. I’m well known in my family for crying during sad parts of movies, sad parts of books, and when my kids were little, sad commercials on TV featuring undernourished children using rocks as pillows to go to sleep. (But it did inspire us to sponsor a child, so perhaps it was a good thing.)

For a while I thought that perhaps I’m a bit weird, but then I decided that I’m probably not. (Let me know if you think otherwise!) Grief is a part of life. We all experience it in different ways, and we can’t escape it. It’s an inevitable part of the human condition. 

When we write, we draw on our life experiences, be it consciously or unconsciously. When someone writes the death of a beloved character, they have to write emotion onto the page, and this is apparently the way I do it. I have to experience the loss in order to write it.

As an adult, I’ve lived long enough to experience a number of significant losses in my life and I’ve also experienced great joys to counter them. When I write, giggling to myself, or dripping tears on the keyboard, I feel as if I’m connecting with my characters almost as if some of them are old friends who’ve been part of my life for years. In a way they have, as they’ve percolated their lives through my imagination, as they’ve grown and developed, and then poured themselves out through my fingertips and onto the electronic page in front of me.

It’s a funny thing, and I hope I’ve succeeded. Time and readers will tell. 



6 thoughts on “Connecting With Your Characters (Or why some authors cry when they kill off their darlings.)

  1. I may cringe at the thought of “killing” a character. But it’s funny that I don’t get the same reaction when I “kill” some random character that I didn’t get to “know”. (if that makes sense…)

  2. I cry when I kill off characters. Thankfully, I’ve not had to do it too often. We get so emotionally involved with them, how can we not cry? I even try and avoid killing characters – and then give myself a mental slap. If the story says it has to be that way, then so be it.
    I’m glad I’m not alone!

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