I finished a book last night that was one of those "I can't wait to find out what happens" stories. The author had me caring desperately for the characters, hoping against hope that they could defeat the almost certain doom that swept toward them. I read and read and read...and then they died. Greek tragedy and ANNA KARENINA aside, that's not what I read for. I read to be entertained, at least when I read genre fiction. I contend that an "entertaining" author who gives the reader false hopes then zaps his characters betrays an unwritten contract between provider and client. Yup, you surprised me. Good for you, I guess. But getting to know a person intimately, coming to believe that he isn't really such a bad guy, and then watching him get shot by the cops and bleed out on the floor is not my idea of entertainment. When I write, if I create a character readers like and root for, that character is going to triumph somehow. Not trying to give anything away. I'm just sayin'.

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Comment by Peg Herring on January 5, 2012 at 12:28am

Dana, (Sorry, I'm slow this week)

I agree with your premise. The book I'm thinking of seemed to be leading to an ending where the protags would suffer for their sins but survive...and then they didn't. Like a sit-com where they end the show by killing everyone off!

Comment by Dana King on January 3, 2012 at 5:36am

True, but the tension you get from hanging on every word to see what happens next is diminished if you know certain characters will continue. This is often the downfall of series, where the hero is placed into increasingly difficult situations until the readers can no longer suspend disbelief.

I'm not averse to killing off major characters, if there's a reason for it. The Beloved Spouse and I have a term for it: Stringer Bell Disease, after a favorite character on THE WIRE. When asked why Stringer had to die, David Simon said the story must come first. Even in character-driven fiction (such as THE WIRE), events can reach a point where someone has to go. Wondering if your favorite is one of those that doesn't make it out the other end is part of the suspense.

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