I am delighted to be welcoming Liz Mistry to my blog today to talk about killing off her characters, as part of the blog tour for her book Dark Memories. Many thanks to Liz for taking the time to talk to us, and to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to be a part of the tour.
Three letters. Three murders. The clock is ticking…
When the body of a homeless woman is found under Bradford’s railway arches, DS Nikki Parekh and her trusty partner DC Sajid Malik are on the case.
With little evidence, it’s impossible to make a breakthrough, and when Nikki receives a newspaper clipping taunting her about her lack of progress in catching the killer, she wonders if she has a personal link to the case.
When another seemingly unrelated body is discovered, Nikki receives another note. Someone is clearly trying to send her clues… but who?
And then a third body is found.
This time on Nikki’s old street, opposite the house she used to live in as a child. And there’s another message… underneath the victim’s body.
With nothing but the notes to connect the murders, Nikki must revisit the traumatic events of her childhood to work out her connection to the investigation.
But some memories are best left forgotten, and it’s going to take all Nikki’s inner strength to catch the killer…
Before they strike again.
Why I Sometimes Kill Good Characters.
I remember reading JK Rowling’s last Harry Potter novel and getting to the point (SPOILER ALERT!!!!) where Dobby the House Elf dies. I was in tears and was really affected by the death of this brave quirky and loveable character. I was sooooo angry that Rowling had done it …. Then … I realised that it had to be done. Dobby had to die for many reasons and as a writer, I realised that sometimes making the hard choices are the best for the story.
In the Dobby instance, Dobby’s death allowed the reader to connect wholeheartedly with the raw emotion involved in grieving. It made us angry and exposed the Dark Arts for the evil they are. It also gave us more insight into the characters affected by the death and it was a tool to make us even more firmly on board with the good wizards. Dobby’s death also reflected the reality of life and death; Good people die and sometimes bad people get away with it … if we, as readers, want to run the whole gamut of emotions and really engage with the narrative then sometimes the authors decisions will be unpalatable.
In my Gus McGuire series, I have killed off a few characters that I liked and was emotionally attached to and again in Dark Memories (Book 3 of my Nikki Parekh series) I chose to kill off one of the good characters. It is never an easy decision to make, but sometimes it is the only way forward for the series or the narrative. When I kill off a loved character, I often cry and suffer from a minor form of grief. When a character is dear to the author they become a friend and part of the tapestry of the writer’s life. Writing their death can be traumatic, but that trauma is offset by the knowledge that it will open up countless possibilities for future narratives.
So, here’s three reasons why it’s healthy to make the final cut on a well-loved character.
- Sometimes, for the author, although the character is loved, they may have come to the end of their usefulness in terms of future storylines. They may have to be side-lined in order to allow a new character to emerge. This was definitely the case when I killed off a much loved character in Uncommon Cruelty. I had a new character in mind and that new character wouldn’t let go. The problem was that I had to choose between them and so my existing character had to go.
- Often the character being killed off is a way of allowing a detailed exploration of the main character’s emotions through their connection to that character. It’s a way of making existing characters more three-dimensional and sometimes it can be the catalyst for erratic behaviour – it helps push the remaining characters in different directions and allows the author to really turn the screws on the characters which of course leads to dynamic scenes and often opens characters up to new experiences. It also provides the element of surprise for the reader when a character acts out of character.
- I use it as a way of exposing the fight between Good and Evil, which is what any good crime fiction is about. It makes things real for the reader. After all life isn’t always a bed of roses its it? There are always thorns in that bed and it’s when those thorns pierce the readers heart that the author has done their job well. The connection between reader, characters and author is tenuous – it lasts for the duration of the novel, but if it is to linger in our readers’ thoughts for a while, then we as authors sometimes have to make difficult decisions.
- The evolution of the series is also a reason for deleting a character permanently from the series. Whilst I sometimes retire characters on a temporary basis because I have plans for them in the future, likewise, I sometimes make the decision to end a character in order to provoke future storylines. We all know there are consequences for every action and sometimes those consequences make future storylines or character development stronger.
Thanks so much for reading this guest post and if you read and enjoy Dark Memories, I’d love to hear from you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Born in Scotland, Made in Bradford sums up Liz Mistry’s life. Over thirty years ago she moved from a small village in West Lothian to Yorkshire to get her teaching degree. Once here, Liz fell in love with three things; curries, the rich cultural diversity of the city … and her Indian husband (not necessarily in this order). Now thirty years, three children, two cats (Winky and Scumpy) and a huge extended family later, Liz uses her experiences of living and working in the inner city to flavour her writing. Her gritty crime fiction police procedural novels set in Bradford embrace the city she describes as ‘Warm, Rich and Fearless’ whilst exploring the darkness that lurks beneath.
Struggling with severe clinical depression and anxiety for a large number of years, Liz often includes mental health themes in her writing. She credits the MA in Creative Writing she took at Leeds Trinity University with helping her find a way of using her writing to navigate her ongoing mental health struggles. Being a debut novelist in her fifties was something Liz had only dreamed of and she counts herself lucky, whilst pinching herself regularly to make sure it’s all real. One of the nicest things about being a published author is chatting with and responding to readers’ feedback and Liz regularly does events at local libraries, universities, literature festivals and open mics. She also teaches creative writing too. Now, having nearly completed a PhD in Creative Writing focussing on ‘the absence of the teen voice in adult crime fiction’ and ‘why expansive narratives matter’, Liz is chock full of ideas to continue writing.
In her spare time, Liz loves pub quizzes (although she admits to being rubbish at them), dancing (she does a mean jig to Proud Mary – her opinion, not ratified by her family), visiting the varied Yorkshire landscape, with Robin Hoods Bay being one of her favourite coastal destinations, listening to music, reading and blogging about all things crime fiction on her blog, The Crime Warp.
Make sure you visit the other blogs taking part on the tour to read more about Dark Memories.