Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Got Death?

I'm back from vacation... sort of. My body is here. My spirit is lying on a beach somewhere, sunning myself in the warm rays that were hidden behind Tropical Storm Fay while we were there. Here, I am struggling to get out from beneath laundry and sand toys and bags of food.

While on vacation, I had the chance to read a bit, which was awesome. I took two books with me a friends gave me for my birthday. Both great books. But both had death as a major part. In the first, death came at the end, after the main character struggled to find herself and find love and peace and friendship. Just at the moment when life went from a constant struggle to a place she felt good about, enter death.

The second book started with death. The death of a spouse and the wife's inability to deal with it, led her on the journey of the story.

Lately, it seems every book I read has death in it. What's up with that? Is death that prevalent? Or do writer's see death as the ultimate conflict? It's beginning to look like a cheap accessory lately. Especially in the first book (which I won't name), it seemed like the author had a great book and got to the end and thought, "This seems anticlimactic. It needs something to really wrap it all up. I think I'll kill her off! That way it will definitely feel like the end!"

In the second book, I'm a little more understanding. After all, the entire book is based on the death and grieving process. And, of all things that can happen to a person in life, losing a loved one is one of the hardest to deal with.

Still, if it were just these books, I'd understand and think my friend was just in a morbid mood. But it's in almost all of the books I've read lately. And not just crime books (because that's a given... with no dead body you've got no genre!). But every book. Well, almost.

In Year of Fog, which I read this summer, the young girl who disappears, and is most certainly dead, ends up alive. I almost leaped for joy. I actually really didn't see that one coming, because it isn't the easy choice. It made it a lot harder for the author to wrap up the book, and to add continued conflict that kept it from seeming all too convenient.

As a writer, I think it's important to ask yourself at every turn, is this part necessary to the book or is this just the easy way out? Because readers aren't dumb. We can tell when writers arrived at page 350 and said, well, I have to wrap this up some way. Maybe I'll just kill off the character, and when that's where the book was headed all along.


  1. I think you're right, but I always hate it when something dies in my book. I don't really plan them out at all, they just play on the videoscreen in my head, and I'm devastated when it happens.

    Just like in PS, my darling WIP, I had no idea one of the big huge characters would die.

    It kills me every time.

  2. I should do an addendum to this, but I just don't have the energy. It's not like I haven't killed people off, too. You know, when it happens, you cry, because honestly you don't always see it coming.

    I'm not offended by people dying in books. I think it's funny in our little group we have a lot of deaths: Brittany has a dying mother-in-law and a dead body; Erin has a dying friend; Heidi's main character is wrestling with the suicide of a friend, and of course you.

    It's just that it seems like I've had a rash of books lately where the character dies off. These last two books were really good: if I'd read them on their own I wouldn't have thought much of it. But book after book...

    It was just one too many, yanno?

    And yet, still, I would easily read them again, and recommend them to friends. Maybe I should think before I blog, eh? :)