I normally read 3-4 books a week. I have an hour commute each way to work and am one of those people who has to read a bit before falling asleep. I've learned not to read Lisa Gardner before bed but Jo Davis gives me fascinating dreams. Mariah Stewart gives me something to think about and Shirley Rousseau Murphy gives me something to chuckle about. But characters come and at the end of a book or series they go. Some stay in our memory; others fade away.
Today while I was out walking on a break I found myself thinking about a book I'd just finished reading. I loved the hero.
Okay, reality check? I lusted after the hero and tried to figure out who in my real life was just like him. No one.
No, it wasn't that he was too good to be true. He was actually very well drawn and three dimensional. He had personality, charisma, charm, was intelligent and while emotionally vulnerable, he knew he was and resolved it for himself. It was marvelous to see his development through the story.
What turned me off on the story was the death of one of the characters. I didn't particularly care for her. She didn't resonate with me. She reminded me of one of those women who thinks she's hot stuff and doesn't care who she stomps on while completing her agenda. Still, there was something about her that, I felt, in a future story could be redeemed.
The book is part of a series featuring one profession. I can see from the introduction of a character in book 2, who shows up in book 3 that here may be a story in his future -- errr, I mean a story about him in our future. And from his there would be others in featuring this second profession -- if that makes sense.
To clarify, say for instance the initial series is about doctors and they have a police officer showing up in the ER. So the series about the ER doctors finishes out and then you have this hottie cop who leads off a second series. Does that make a bit more sense?
So while I was thinking this secondary "cop" character would make for an interesting story of his own with this female as his heroine, she's killed off. And not in a very nice way. I was stunned. It made no sense. Here was all this potential and she's just killed off. And the author made her really ugly in death. She was crushed and rendered totally unrecognizable.
Why? I couldn't see any reason for it. And the hero, who was her best friend, just moves on with his lady. Goes to the funeral but his life just moves along, as does the heroine, without the nightmares or sadness or remorse at the other woman dying. It read, to me, like gratuitious drama rather than an inherent thread that added to the story. Such a missed opportunity!
A few weeks ago I read another book that was the third in a series. Two secondary characters in book 2 were hysterical. I totally enjoyed reading them. The author treated her readers to some marvelous banter between the two and I was delighted to see one of them had his own story in book 3. It was an okay story, nothing special, but still an enjoyable read. And then the best friend gets killed off. And he wasn't just killed with a conk on the head or a bullet that hit a vital organ. Oh no, it was a long, lingering death that, again, read like gratuitous drama, not something that enhanced the story.
Okay, now I've had characters with qualities of people I haven't particularly had a good experience with die off. When you write fiction you can have the ending you would like to have seen in real life with the benefit of no one getting hurt. You have a moment (or longer) of catharsis, you have closure to a rotten experience and move on.
After reading these two books I've looked at the upcoming death of one of my characters. Does she really need to die to make the story work? Given the bad guy is someone awfully like Jack the Ripper that would be a yes. Jack didn't just scratch your arm and move on. He sliced and diced in a very definitive way. So yeah, in that case, killing off the secondary character fits.
How do you, as a reader, feel when a character dies? Have you pined for a well-liked secondary character that was killed off? Did you feel something else could have happened to achieve the same emotional ending without the needless drama? When is a character's death the right thing?