Why Must a Favorite Character Die? Or, why Authors have Murderous Hearts.

When I’m watching a movie, especially thrillers or films with plenty of characters, I’m always looking for the ‘dead meat’ , or DM’s for short. DM characters are usually primed to attract our sympathies but are guaranteed to be bumped off somewhere before the end of the movie. It’s kind of a predictable, watch-for-it moment, but it still gets me every time. After all, I cared about those characters. They snaked their way into my heart with good deeds and decent, good-guy actions until I had no choice but to feel their loss, regardless of whether I saw it coming.

Movies reveal their DMs more easily than novels which, due to the differences in length and form, take longer to unfold and may include more subtle character detail. Still, almost all engrossing fiction has a character or two who will meet an untimely end. Remember Little Women?  Louisa May Alcott breathed life into a cast of characters, made us love them all, and then killed off  beloved Beth. I can think of hundreds of examples, as probably you can, too. Nearly every piece of literature features the death of a beloved character. In fact, when you think of it, we writers are a murderous lot. Fellow writers, hold up your hands.

In a recent book club meeting, one of my readers asked why I felt it necessary to kill off a certain character. I felt on trial, she was that unhappy with this character’s passing. She liked that person, identified with the personality, and hoped to become reacquainted in a future book. I explained that, in fictional terms, I was only doing my job. If you’re not experiencing real human emotions, if you don’t care about the people you spend time with inside the covers of a book, the author hasn’t hooked you.

But, all that aside, what turns a writer’s heart to murder?  The simple answer is because we must. In many cases, we love our characters, too. They emerge from our imaginations in some alchemy of creativity and intense observation, and almost like children, we watch them develop. In my case, I don’t give  birth to a character to see him or her die, but as the story world unfolds, often someone must. Writing, like art, should move you. Readers want to laugh and cry so that, when they turn the last page of the fictive world, they feel as though they’ve experienced something authentic.

Were you moved? Did you shed a tear? Good, because I did, too. I promise never to take a reader anywhere I wouldn’t go myself.  Rest assured that while you cry over the demise of a favorite character, I did the same while bumping them off. Otherwise, I am guilty as charged.

Warp in the Weave…

Publication June 2015

book banner lighter b righter shorter

The loose ends of her past keep threatening to hang Phoebe McCabe as she begins her new life as a London textile gallery owner. Every crook believes Phoebe knows where her missing brother and his friends hid the hoard; Interpol insists the thieves may have stashed the priceless artifacts under her nose; and she’s being stalked by multiple interests, none of them friendly.

As the black market continues to infiltrate her life,  one of the thieves shows up unexpectedly, setting off a deadly chain of events that includes an unexplained corpse and gallery break-ins where nothing is stolen. If she didn’t have such strong feelings for the man, maybe she could have stopped him from escaping. Love is hard enough without falling for a crook.

And then something else extraordinary arrives in the gallery: a mysterious kilim with an ancient motif that holds a clue not only to the thieves’ whereabouts, but also to an ancient religion where God was a Goddess. Fueled by desperation, hope, and fury, Phoebe escapes for Turkey to track down  the source of the kilim and, hopefully, her brother.  Along the way, she meets an archaeologist who offers to help find the kilim’s source for reasons of her own, and together, they race across Turkey with Interpol and black market cutthroats at their heels

Against the panorama of Central Turkey’s underground cities and ancient caves, magnified by its rich textile and cultural heritage, Phoebe and Eva follow a trail that leads deep into the prehistoric past, hurling them against competing ideologies, and the mire that is the black market antiquities trade. What Phoebe discovers along the way is more than just about ancient shrines, missing relatives, and love betrayed.  She finds that what’s at the heart of the human weave may be the pattern that illuminates everything that matters.

This fast-moving suspense blends intrigue, humor, and romance against a textile-rich world interwoven with archaeology, ideology, and one woman’s quest for the ultimate truth.

Coming in June