Death In The Family

It’s very slow going–like, REALLY, REALLY slow–but I am writing a women’s fiction book (or is it woman’s fiction? In which case, which woman is it? And will she like my book?), and in it, a crucial character will die.

It has to happen, painful though it is. It has to happen, actually, because it is painful. Like in real life, I want to make things happy and okay for everyone, but in fiction, that is boring. Bo. Ring.

The cool part is, that when I told two friends who’d read my pages that I was going to off XXX, they were both really bummed because they’d identified with XXX and liked him/her. That makes me feel as though I’ve done a good job.

Sometimes people have to die in order for the character to grow and progress (see: Every Disney movie ever–parents have a very low survival rate). Other times it’s to make the fiction seem more like real life, because bad things happen to good people.

It’s rarer to read about decent characters dying in historical romances, unless it’s the ancient, doddering aunt who then leaves a fortune–our own Carolyn might have done it at some point, although I don’t want to spoil anything. I like pushing the envelope like this (being RISKY!), even though in real life, I am a wuss. I’ve cried over books, and I’d like someone, someday, to cry over mine.

How about you? Have you cried over a book? Which one? Are you okay with killing off characters in romantic fiction? Do you like women’s fiction? Or even know what it is (I confess, I’m baffled, sometimes, because it just seems then like all fiction is ‘women’s’)?



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Diane Gaston
12 years ago

I have such a romance mindset that I don’t feel very helpful when it comes to women’s fiction. I was just brainstorming with a friend about her women’s fiction and it was hard to turn my head to the differences. I want to keep coming back to the LOVE STORY.

I do know in theory that there are more stories to be told besides love stories. And I hate the ones that are love stories and then everybody dies. I mean, it was hard enough with Romeo and Juliet! And Wuthering Heights!

I commend you for taking the chance to write something different! And to push yourself into looking at hard things, like somebody dying. (I just hope it isn’t the love interest) I can’t wait to hear more!

Jane Austen
12 years ago

When I was in ninth grade I read Of Mice and Men for fun. I remember being in third period study hall when Lenny died. I couldn’t stop crying. I was walking to fourth period and everyone in the hall was asking me if I was okay and I blubbered “Lenny’s dead.” My fourth period Latin teacher was at first concerned, but then understood when I showed her the book. She loves to read and she completely understood. She said, “I cried like a baby at that too.”

Amanda McCabe
12 years ago

I read all kinds of things, and don’t mind when a character dies in a story! But I have found that the death must have meaning to the story and be essential to it, otherwise it just feels fake and emotionally manipulative (Nicholas Sparks, I’m looking at you!). Same with movies. (but I sympathize–I’ve been fiddling around with a historical fiction story where one of the main characters dies and I dread it!)

Katharine Ashe
12 years ago

I love this topic, Megan.

Do I cry over books? When don’t I?!

Truly, I’m a weeper. A touching moment or a thrilling moment… the tears dribble. But a tragic moment and the tears flow. I read women’s fiction (whatever that is, lol) because I want to feel all those emotions. Gosh, that’s why I read at all!

No, I don’t mind when a character has to die as long as it’s not gratuitous death. If it’s gratuitous it irks me. If it’s meaningful, really powerfully effecting the principal characters, it makes me want to scream “WHY DID YOU DO THAT?” then hug the author for putting me on that emotional roller coaster. 🙂 Yes, indeed, Disney knows its art.

So you go, girl. Kill off that beloved character. Just know that I’ll cry like a baby whilst smiling as I read.

12 years ago

Yes I have cried over books! Gone with the Wind, Dear John, Rebel Temptress to name a few! I enjoy reading books that make you cry every now and then! A good cry is good for the soal

12 years ago

I cry each time I read Margaret Craven’s “I Heard the Owl Call My Name”. It is a book that is seemingly simple in structure and characterization, yet it is so beautifully crafted that (for me at least) it has stood up to multiple rereadings. And each time I read it I hope the ending will be somehow different, but I love it nonetheless.

I adored Markus Zusak’s “The Book Thief”. You know up front that someone will probably die; after all, Death is the narrator and it takes place in Germany during WWII. Nothing is gratuitous, and it is one of the few books I recommend wholeheartedly to everyone.

OTOH, there have been books where a character has died and I’ve never spoken (metaphorically) to that author again.

Jane George
12 years ago

Where the Red Fern Grows in fifth grade.

I agree that a fictional death needs to be genuine, if you know what I mean. Somebody needs to tell Hollywood to stop killing women and children to provide revenge motivation, which is kinda the other end of the Nicholas Sparks trope.

And I’m going on record as saying Hedwig did NOT have to die. In fact quite a few of the deaths at the end of that book felt tacked on and needless, which is a shame because Rowling has said that the loss of her mother affected the trials she gave Harry.

Jane Austen
12 years ago

Hedwig died? Wow, I totally don’t remember that. But at that point I really wanted the book to just end. I mean it was like reading the Historian only instead of tea all the lead characters did was camp. Give me a little action all the way through the book, not just in the last few chapters…especially if it’s big enough to have its own tote bag.

Katharine Ashe
12 years ago

Susan/DC, that is exactly how I feel about Romeo and Juliet. Every time I think “No, they can’t die. That love is far too pure and powerful for them to die.” Then they do. Every time. And I feel like an absolute idiot that I hoped. And I cry. Sigh!

I just so happen to have The Book Thief on my nightstand ready to read…

12 years ago

I don’t remember the last book I teared up at, but sure was crying by the time I finished listening to my newly acquired soundtrack for Love Never Dies. Sigh. 🙁


12 years ago

Ok it wasnt a death per say, but yes! my first ever romance I was 10 and it was so cool to be able to check out books in the Young Adult section. 80)

Not a Swan by Michelle Magorian, I think I spelled that right. Any how it was this one partwhere she is reading the diary of mad Hilda I think that’s the characters name, and the woman found out in the early 1900’s that her fiance had been killed. Right after she’d found out she was pregnant and it just kept getting worse! when her family found out they had her locked away in a mental institution etc. Took her son from her. Even to this day it makes me tear up… Yes I am such a wuss I still read that book 80) but I love it, great rainy day reading. 80)

I am romantic minded so I of course love women’s fiction 80) and sometimes having a much identified with character suddenly pass adds to the shock factor.

But in general anything that hits emotionally makes me laugh, cry, sniffle or mad. I suppose I am emotional.

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