DEAD CHARACTER WALKINGby Clare O'Donohue
Q: Have you ever had a change of heart about a character you intended to dispatch, and found you had become attached to him or her?
In my first Kate Conway mystery, Missing Persons, I killed Kate's husband Frank. (This is not really a spoiler, it says so on the book jacket.) I didn't intend to like Frank. He was an adulterer who had left her, a wanna-be artist who mostly wasted his time and talents, and a bit of a spoiled brat. So when I killed him, I was fine with it. Good riddance.
But the end of a relationships aren't as neat as that, are they? She hated him. And she loved him. She missed him, and she felt guilty, stupid, sad, angry, hurt... pretty much everything you feel under the circumstances.
As I wrote the story, and let Kate explore her feelings as she looked for answers in her husband's death, I realized there was a lot of good in Frank. And maybe people don't fit neatly into categories of good or bad.
By the end, I was sad about having lost Frank before I ever really knew him. I've even had emails from people asking if Frank will appear in some future book, but no. Frank (in the words of the Wizard of Oz) is not merely dead, he is most sincerely dead.
In the 2nd Kate book, Life Without Parole, I introduced a character named Brick, a 3-time killer in prison for life. On the surface he was an ex gang member with little respect for Kate or for anyone. But as she got to know him, I did too. I became very attached to him. I won't tell you what happened to him, or whether he lives or dies, but I can tell you that when I finished writing that book, I realized that Brick is not an easy character to leave behind.
I suppose that's the nice and terrible thing about creating characters. If I make them real enough, then they take up space, not just in my imagination, but in my heart.