We are delighted to share with you a guest post from Stephen Hunt, author of the forthcoming Foul Tide’s Turning (in bookshops and online Thursday) about . . . well, getting away with ficitonal murder. Are any characters safe? Stephen Hunt discusses the problem of whether to kill or not kill your fictional characters.
One of the many issues that an author faces is the perennial problem of killing off the ones you love – not your editor at your publishing company, obviously (that would see you in jail). No, I’m talking about the only kind of murder that doesn’t carry a jail sentence – the slaughter of one of your beloved (and hopefully your readers’ equally beloved) totally fictional characters.
It’s a problem that faces every fiction writer, sooner or later. To kill or not to kill, that is the question.
JK Rowling faced the problem with the murder of her wise, cheerful old Dumbledore, and Arthur Conan Doyle finally arranged to have Sherlock Holmes tumble to his death fighting the evil Professor Moriarty.
Suzanne Collins faces the problem twenty-four times a book in the Hunger Games, as the number of young Tributes are slowly whittled down.
But what happens when you go too far in the opposite direction? Dear reader, I give you author George RR Martin’s fantasy epic, Game of Thrones. Here, everyone dies. Bad guys. Good guys (and by guys, I mean guys and gals – Uncle George doesn’t discriminate). Fall in love with a fascinating character in one book? Tough luck. Two books later in the series they are almost guaranteed to have met their end in a horribly grisly manner.
The trouble with the Game of Thrones books – and I should say I love the novels and am a fan – is that the almost certain demise of every main character has become for me, just a little too predictable. A regular 99% death rate in your cast list is almost as predictable as a zero percent death rate.
So . . . which character to kill, and how many of them?
I tend towards a halfway house . . . a few have to go, just to keep everyone on his or her toes, but have so far avoided the bloodbath of Game of Thrones. Or maybe I’m just saying that to play with your mind . . . and my next book is going to have a Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid-ending where everyone you care about charges the massed guns in the final scene, and they all die all at once.
Betcha didn’t expect that!
Stephen Hunt is a fantasy and science fiction author who regularly phones up George RR Martin and berates him until he agrees to kill off another character. Stephen has a new book coming out from Gollancz in May called Foul Tide’s Turning (part 2 of the Far-called series) which can be ordered at http://amzn.to/17cZIxI
You can start reading the first chapter of Stephen Hunt’s new novel, Foul Tide’s Turning, here.