Sometimes, your reader will hate you

. It’s been a bit disturbing lately to be a writer on Twitter.

If you live in the UK, or are a sci-fi fan, you can hardly be unaware that last week saw a unique television event here. Five episodes of Torchwood, over five nights, one story (WARNING if you are a Torchwood fan, and haven’t seen season 3 yet, there are spoilers ahead.)

And it was GOOD. Dark, and bleak, utterly compelling, the kind of thing you remember years later. Even none sci-fi fans – the type that deride all sci-fi as crap merely because it is sci-fi – found themselves fascinated. And one of the writers, James Moran, is a highly visible presence on Twitter. Praise poured on his head from all sides (rightly so, IMHO)

But in episode 4 came the problem. One of the characters, a highly popular and almost universally loved character, died. And after episode 5, it became he wouldn’t be coming back, and what’s more, our daring, devil-may-care hero had become something dark and alien, and had left Earth, and Torchwood – perhaps for ever.

It was utterly devastating. Brilliant, but devastating. And I have to admit, as a writer, I’d would probably have done exactly the same thing.

But not all the viewers saw it that way. And the ones on Twitter started to pour scorn, and vitriol and hatred upon the head of James Moran. He was there, on Twitter, he answered queries, he chatted, and he freely admitted he ‘pulled the Death lever’. And so some people took out their anger and grief over the ending and the death on him, accusing him of betraying the fans, of lying and cheating.

It was horrible to watch. And though many of us supported him, and even joined in a #lovejamesmoran campaign, those horrible, nasty words must have stuck in his head. I’m not talking criticism here, but an actual stream of personal hatred.

If you read my fan fiction, you know I have a fondness for killing people off. In my own fiction, my heroes and heroines tend to suffer and drop dead with alarming frequency. And I’ve had some ‘hate reviews’ because of it. But I can’t help it. It’s just the way the story had to be told – and I’m guessing James Moran and the other writers of Torchwood felt the same way.

When a character is created, and becomes loved and admired, he slips out of our world, and becomes part of the readers/viewers world. And if we do something to that character they don’t like, they can react with such hate. But that shouldn’t let us stop us telling the story the way it should be told, with all the pain and love and death that involves. In the end, what happens is what had to happen.


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