It is my pleasure to welcome mystery writer Gloria Ferris to Bad Girl. Believe me, it's a good fit. Gloria writes with humour and sass. Not to mention, she has a great collection of Goth jewelry, which I covet...
KILL MY DARLINGS? I DON’T THINK SO!
Disclaimer: the opinion expressed below is that of one weird writer and does not necessarily reflect that of the un-weird ones, and good luck finding any.
I’ve reached the age where I delight in breaking rules, as long as it doesn’t land me in jail. One rule of writing I break over and over is: BE PREPARED TO KILL YOUR IMPORTANT CHARACTERS OFF TO ADVANCE YOUR PLOT, OR CREATE SUSPENSE.
Mmmm, no. Not happening.
I put a lot of time and effort into making my protagonists and other characters as real as possible. Sometimes I think they really exist on a parallel planet and I channel them into my stories. I love these folks, with all their flaws and bad attitudes. None of my recurring characters are perfect, and some are downright nasty.
My people get hurt a lot. They get shot, stabbed, hit on the head, dosed with illegal substances, get flung down flights of stairs, have anxiety attacks, contract debilitating agoraphobia, chased by wild animals, die of natural causes … And that’s just in my first two books. But I am not going to turn them into corpses.
But…, but …, you say, a good mystery story has at least one murder or mysterious death. Of course, that’s where the temporary, made-for-killing, character comes in. This character (or characters, as I like to sprinkle the bodies hither and yon throughout the story) must be fully developed, even sympathetic or appealing in some way. But I don’t have an emotional attachment to him. I know when I create this character, she is going to die or become the villain. (See how I’m using “him” and “her” indiscriminately to throw you off?)
While I may be a rebel, I won’t ignore writing fundamentals that make a story better. I try to follow the important rules of writing that create suspense, advance the plot, or develop characters. I approach writing from a reader’s viewpoint. Or, more precisely, what do I enjoy as a reader?
I love books that engage my interest, force me to read on, and prompt me to say when I reach the end, “Man, that was a good story!” That’s the kind of book I want to write. And, if the characters I have grown to love die or end up too damaged to function in a sequel, I feel cheated and probably will give the writer’s other books a miss.
I write what I love to read. Humour, interesting plot, snappy dialogue, emotional ups and downs, a touch of romance (but not too much, or I’ll go read a romance instead of a mystery), a corpse or two, a satisfying ending. And, to me, a satisfying ending is a plausible wrap-up to the tribulations the protagonist has battled from page 1. This usually means she changes a little, gets what she was after (or something different but just as good), and is ready to face the next challenge the writer comes up with. If the book is a stand-alone and I know I will never read about this protagonist again, I still want a good ending.
So, I have one word to say to those purists who want me to kill my darlings. NEVER!
Gloria has been a member of Crime Writers of Canada since 2008. Cheat the Hangman was a finalist in the 2009 Unhanged Arthur contest and has won the 2012 Bony Blithe Award. She won the 2010 Unhanged Arthur Award with Corpse Flower which is a recent release by Dundurn Press. Gloria is currently working on the sequel to Corpse Flower and is also co-authoring a mystery with sister-in-law Donna Warner.
Blog: Gloria Ferris Mysteries http://gloriaferrismysteries.blogspot.ca/
Corpse Flower on Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/nqe8qzh
Cheat the Hangman on Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/79x3lqa