First of all, I have to reassure you that I don’t plan or intend to kill anyone! I am a pacifist so killing, wounding or hurting is right out of the window! However, as a fiction writer, sometimes things occur in my books which are just that, fiction. I don’t write thrillers or horror stories so compared to some novels, mine are rather tame – but gripping and engaging all the same!!
Going back to the question in the title… I am writing another Thomas Radwinter story; Thomas is an ordinary bloke, a small town part-time solicitor, part-time stay-at-home dad, and the books chart his genealogical investigations which started off when he explored his own family history. As the series has progressed he has been asked to ‘investigate’ other things, mostly the sort of things which would not involve the police, a mysterious Moroccan brought back from a cruise by an old lady, a sinister Tibetan lama who has power over an ordinary teacher and father, the suspicious death of a school girl in 1931…
So now in the new story, Thomas has several things going on as well as juggling life with five children… you will have to read the stories to find out how he managed to have a big family so quickly… and an increasingly busy work-life as well as researching his wife’s family tree. One story line which has been poddling along (much like Thomas poddles along trying to cope with his hectic life) is of Darius who works at the local museum at the old Umbrella Factory who is being stalked by someone who regularly visits the place. It is a busy and popular venue for all sorts of activities and has a new and busy café; and Darius has no idea who the stalker is; at first he pays no attention, but he becomes increasingly irritated and unsettled by it. As Thomas says
the stalker business, although creepy seems unthreatening. I know it can’t be nice to be watched… I mean supposing you accidental scratched your bum, or blew your nose in a not very successful way, or poured coffee down yourself… you wouldn’t want someone watching you, would you?
Darius is someone I have written about a couple of times… a character in search of a story, I guess, and he now has a place in this one… or has he? Sometimes with my writing unexpected things happen, unexpected to me, I mean, not just unexpected to the characters. Thomas was going round in circles a bit with this stalker-business and really not making any progress… and then Darius disappears, he just doesn’t turn up for work. Thomas is passing by his home and decides to knock on his door; knowing Darius had become very depressed, he thinks he might be just sitting at home unhappy and alone. However when Thomas arrives at his house, the door is open, and on going in Thomas finds him dead, and not only dead, but obviously murdered!
This was a terrible shock to Thomas as you might imagine, but it was also a surprise to me! When I sat back to think about what should happen next I became a little unsettled… I’d had Darius as a character for quite a while, and I didn’t really want him dead before he had told his story or had his story told… so I changed him. I took him out of this story and he has gone back in the ‘waiting’ file, to be replaced in this narrative by Fergus, who is a nerdy sort of a weedy chap with a look of Rupert Brooke (if anyone remembers him)
So now Fergus, not Darius is dead and I have had not exactly a crisis, but a sudden thought that maybe this is all getting too complicated. The police would be involved, Thomas’s investigation would be revealed, and it would all be taken out of Thomas’s hands. However, I really felt the story was getting a bit uninteresting, that there needed to be an incident of some sort to liven it up (I know in real life, the death of someone is dreadful, but in fiction it can keep the reader gripped trying to find out the who and why done it!)
Maybe instead of dying, Fergus should disappear – kidnapped/gone missing/run away/ trapped/breakdown – but wait, in my story this is a plot-line already with another character!! This needs thinking about…
Am I juggling too many balls? Are there too many different things going on? Will the readers be groaning and tearing their hair out and hurling my book across the room or out of the window?
I must ponder on this, as Thomas would say (he does a lot of pondering) I’ve been in similar dilemmas before, lain awake wondering about story-lines and characters, or driven to the wrong destination because I’ve been thinking about the narrative, or got lost because I’m concentrating on the people inside my head not the real people I’m supposed to be meeting… Does this make it sound as if I’m losing my marbles? I’m sure other writers have similar issues… don’t they?