When you write mysteries, you write about murder. It's tricky to have a murder mystery without one. So kill you do. Sometimes you kill only one, sometimes more. Sometimes the method makes it a 'clean' murder (i.e. poison) sometimes it's grisly, and honestly (in some of mine) it's funny. But the unescapable fact is that as a murder mystery writer you transform into a fictional serial killer.
The problem can be: You created these victims. I've written many victims that were so nasty, so filled with evil that anyone's only question would be "Why weren't they bumped off years ago?" On the other hand, there are the hapless ones who are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. And then there are the characters you love and how on earth could you kill them? But you have to...
"Stranger Than Fiction" is a wonderful movie about a writer
(pause for a moment of tribute to the amazing Emma Thompson)
trying to find a way to kill off her main character only to discover that she's writing about a real person and if she kills off her character the real 'Harold Crick' will die as well. Major dilemma. Major nightmare for a mystery writer. The first time I saw this movie I was horrified by the idea. How many deaths am I responsible for? How many deaths have made me money? Chilling thoughts...
Past victims ran through my head. My eyes widened as I started counting up the numbers and the even more un-nerving thought was 'I knew I wasn't remembering all of them'; so not only was I a serial killer, but one that couldn't even be bothered to remember the names of my prey.
I commend the screenwriter (Zach Helm) for a brilliant premise, but I really don't need these thoughts running through my brain. I have enough issues when I am forced to kill a character I like; so many issues that I put off writing that particular bit until the last possible moment...and then I cry as I write it. (This is sad but true).
How do you handle situations like this? Do you mind putting your characters in terrible situations or can you handle it from a safe and sane distance? Or do you discover, like Harold Crick, that love and warm cookies make any situation seem better?