An Intriguing Dilemma

Writing-writing-writing-writing . . .

And suddenly there is a problem.  Not with the story; with me.  Not writer’s block; a dilemma. I need to kill a character and I don’t want to.

I’ve been mulling this over for several days, and it has – quite frankly – been causing me stress.  I like this character.  She’s interesting.  She’s funny. And she has to die.  Not because I need some traumatic scene in the story. Not because I want to manipulate the reader.  Because in the real world, people we love die.  People who are important to us die.  And they do so in very unexpected ways sometimes.  My character is going to be murdered.

But I don’t want to write it.

There are all kinds of reasons why I don’t want to write it.  Like I said – I like this girl.  Granted, she isn’t the main character in the story, but she is a very important character in the story, and her death has far-reaching consequences.  Her murder will go unsolved for more than 20 years, and when it is solved, it will cause even more pain to those involved. 

It’s going to be very difficult to write about this because I connect with this girl at a very deep level.  The places I have to visit in my own psyche in order to make this ring true are very troubling to me, and that is part of why I’m struggling. It scares me to dig around in my past and revisit old wounds. To put it bluntly – this is messing with my head.

Then there is the timing of this whole dilemma.  December marks the anniversary of my dad’s death just three years ago.  I’m missing him terribly these days. My head is filled with thoughts of sitting with his lifeless body as it lay at the top of the stairs where the paramedics tried so earnestly to bring him back. His blue-grey skin, the cold feel of his face against my hand; all still clinging diligently in my memory. Grief is a weird emotion, and one which I try frequently to understand more completely.

Then there are the conversations with my cousin Michael.  He just retired from the police force in Wilmington, North Carolina.  He was a detective. He worked on many homicide cases. He worked on the accidental shooting of Brandon Lee (Bruce Lee’s son – star of “The Crow”).  He is my consultant for accuracy and an amazing and dreadful source. He is so willing to provide me with the necessary information, and I am often left stunned at how evil some human beings can be. I watch a lot of true-crime shows – 48 Hours, Dateline, I Survived – but hearing these tales through my cousin’s experience brings a level of intimacy that I was not well prepared for when I started this project.

I keep trying to step back from this and bring objectivity into the process, but then the writing begins to sound clinical.  So I slip into those dark corners, and I give myself permission to be sad, and afraid, and horrified. Now that I’ve crawled into that hole, I am intrigued by how difficult it is to climb back out.

Last night, I lay in bed with tears streaming down my cheeks.  God bless my wonderful husband – he didn’t ask questions.  He simply wrapped his arms around me and held me until I brought my emotions under control.  This morning he asked if I was alright.  I tried to explain what I was dealing with, but it came out muddled and confused.  He pulled me close and held me again, kissed my forehead, and let me know it would be okay.

I’m taking a few days off from working on this story, and turning my attention to something more light-hearted instead. I’m surprised by how all of this is affecting me, and I’m trying to keep it all in perspective.  At some point, this may also work its way into a story.

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One thought on “An Intriguing Dilemma

  1. drtombibey says:

    When you write from the heart to the point you cry over your characters you have fallen in love with them. My bet is the reader will too.

    When a doc has a patient die and they just shrug it off I wonder what kind of doctor they really are. If the writer didn’t care about her characters, I’d wonder about that too.

    Dr. B

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