I burst into tears whilst writing the death of a character this week. They had to be killed, their death was absolutely necessary, given I write crime novels and that usually involves a murder or two, but I liked this person. I could see them very clearly in my mind. They were full of life, and I just killed them. Never mind the actual killer, I felt like a murderer myself.
But as I had such a reaction to their death, hopefully the reader will too. It seems to me that if a writer is emotionally invested in their characters, the reader will be too. If I love them, or hate them, or admire them, or think they’re funny, or kind, so will the reader.
I’ve read books where it’s obvious the author doesn’t care about the characters. They’re just ciphers, there to fulfil the function of the plot, to cause the events to happen. When they die, or suffer, or even fall in love, I don’t care either. And when the book is closed, I forget they ever existed.
I don’t want to write like that about characters. I want them to live, even if only in my head. I dream about them, I think about them all the time, I know their favourite books, and what they think about jam and who they love and what irritates them and how a rainy day makes them feel. Hardly any of that may make it onto the page, but it’s there in my mind.
I hope that makes the characters real for my readers too. And I hope, though it may sound a bit cruel, that they cry too, when they read about this death.