Don’t Fear The Reaper

grim-reaperThere are two things in life that are certain: death and taxes. Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m not interested in reading how my characters pay their taxes. Although they most certainly do. To be fair, I have briefly covered the subject of taxes in other blogs. Anyway! We’re here to talk about the death of a character.

Who’s dying? And why?

I don’t believe in unnecessary character deaths. It has to serve a purpose. Whether it’s as motivation for the remaining heroes or as a sacrifice to allow the bad guy to carry out his evile plans, don’t have death for the sake of death. It’s a fine line to walk really. A character’s death can be an obstacle the hero of the story has to push through. A character can die suddenly and alone in the night, but the jarring reality of how frail life is can be the outcome, making the hero doubt herself and creating another hurdle to clear. Of course there’s also the old revenge on the death of a loved one cliche as well. I’m not saying everyone has to die in big explosions or for an obvious reason, but don’t do it for shock factor.

How?

The how of a character dying is as important as the why. This must be calculated. This must be natural and fluid to the story. I’ve written stories where characters unexpectedly died. It threw me off. It jolted me. I can only imagine how it would jolt a reader. But that adds to the realism. I would think to myself, “How can they possibly survive this?” and then it would work out for the better. The story would somehow move on and improve and become more three dimensional. Speaking of which, be careful when putting your characters through impossible to survive situations. You want it to be believable. Speaking of making it believable…

Drama vs Realism

You have to ride that fine line in any story between drama and realism. You want the moment to be memorable, especially if it’s a main character, but not overdone. Things to keep in mind are that in real life not everyone dies in the arms of a loved one. Sometimes death is sudden and there are no last words. Last words are dramatic, but not always necessary or realistic. Sometimes it can take someone hours to die and sometimes it’s in an instant. And not everyone will die the same way. Your larger than life villain may poof unnoticed by the celebrating heroes. The old soothsayer who guided your party may die alone on the side of the road traveling to meet them.

Some other things to consider are the most common causes of death. Perhaps your hero’s father isn’t murdered by dragons, but dies of a heart attack in his sleep. Instead of the villain exploding from a sudden burst of magic, they have a stroke from all of the magic coursing through their veins. Of course in the realm of magic and mayhem people seem to be gifted with a higher constitution, but not everyone will be. There will be varying degrees of toughness just like there is in our own world.

Revival?

Sometimes a character’s death isn’t the end, but you have to be careful. There are ongoing jokes about shows like Supernatural and Buffy where the main protagonists die and come back so many times that it’s an acknowledged thing by the productions themselves. Depending on the genre and feel you want for your story, you might want to avoid the soap opera style of dun dun DUN moments. When is it appropriate to bring back a character from the dead? When you have a plan. I would only bring someone back because I had a plan for them to before they died. I mean, don’t bring someone back just for the sake of convenience or drama. If you have a plan then you can tie in the means by which they return before they even die so that it makes sense and doesn’t come out of nowhere.

When Characters Refuse To Die

The Will. That’s what I like to call it. We all know it. When a character refuses to do what you want and goes about things their own way. When a character we planned a dramatic death scene for refuses to go quietly into the night. The Will is when we mutter to ourselves about the strong will of people who live only in our imaginations and those who don’t understand smile at us while considering phoning in to the local mental health facility on our behalf. Listen to that character. If they refuse to die, then it’s worth the consideration that they will serve a better purpose later on in the story.

Until Next Time…

I’m sure you noticed that I haven’t posted as regularly as normal. I’ve been very busy and to be honest I’m running out of topics with substance. I don’t want to put in “filler” blogs or something that wastes both of our time. Instead I’m planning to post less often and if I get any urges for filler it’ll be in the form of a book review. I’d rather have substance to my blogs over spam. When I think of a good topic to cover I’ll put up a blog. Whether that’s once or five times a month, that’s what I’m shooting for.

On another, and brighter, note! Dragon Bloode: Covet is now available in paperback! If you buy the paperback you get the ebook free! Also available in ebook everywhere they’re sold.

The Literary Birds & Bees

10781463If you’ve read my book, Dragon Bloode: Covet, then you know I have sex in it. I have a lovely little 18+ warning at the beginning, but it’s not exclusively for the enthusiastic fun time in bed. It has violence, and some swearing, as well as the sex. Why did I include it? I get asked that a lot. I’m going to have to point to a quote of George R.R. Martin:

“I can describe an axe entering a human skull in great explicit detail and no one will blink twice at it. I provide a similar description, just as detailed, of a penis entering a vagina, and I get letters about it and people swearing off. To my mind this is kind of frustrating, it’s madness. Ultimately, in the history of [the] world, penises entering vaginas have given a lot of people a lot of pleasure; axes entering skulls, well, not so much.”

I’m inclined to agree. I’m not going to argue whether or not sex should be included in a story. That’s up to the writer and it’s a very personal decision. Is my own novel an erotica? No. It’s a high fantasy with sex in it. It has violence in it. And swearing. And other adult themes. It’s an adult book, but not in the pornographic sense. Although I’m sure some would argue that even though sex takes up a few thousand words of my 130k+ novel, it’s a sex book.

Do I think there’s anything wrong with eroticas? Nope! They’re a genre just like any other. Write what you want has always been my motto. If that’s a smutty smut smut go for it! But back to the point, today’s blog isn’t going to be an argument in favor of adding sex to your book. It’s like I said above, it’s the writer’s decision. For whatever reason don’t be afraid to add it or use it if it’s something you think can contribute to the story. Instead I’m going to offer suggestions for implementing sex into your own story with a focus on novels that aren’t erotica.

Don’t Just Throw It In There

Speaking of novels that aren’t erotica, don’t throw it in for the sake of titillation. Make sure the sex has a purpose. Ensure it does something to move along either a relationship or a plot point. Or if you do throw it in for the sake of having it there, don’t do it too much. In an erotica every excuse to throw in the sheet shuffle is accepted. In a regular story or depiction it can cheapen things. What I mean is throwing in a lot of unnecessary sex into a story that’s not supposed to motivate the reader with titillation takes away from the rest of, and more important points of, the story.

There Are Still Basic Rules To Follow

The simplest way to put it is this: If it’s illegal to do it, you shouldn’t include it. In other words, even though graphic sex in novels is more widely accepted you still have basic rules to follow. Don’t include rape titillation or sex with minors. You can include those elements in your story if they’re a part of the plot, but don’t include terminology that would drive the reader to titillation. This also includes incest, animals, and anything else that might come across as taboo. Like I said, if it’s illegal to do it, don’t include it.

Don’t Use Hilarious Terms

So this is definitely my opinion, but if you’re going to include the horizontal dance in your novel, commit. Unless you’re going for a comedic affect I wouldn’t use the terminology of “sword” and “rod” and “garden” and “globes of pleasure” for example. You’re not dancing around the topic or fooling anyone by using silly terms. If anything the terminology can take your reader out of the moment. If you can describe the detail of a sword withdrawing from a man’s body with entrails coming out, sex shouldn’t be different. You don’t have to be incredibly graphic, but don’t use terms that would make the reader giggle through what otherwise could be a dramatic moment.

Cut It Down

Edit the sex like you would any other sequence. Does it feel too long and drawn out? Cut out some passive verbs or unnecessary actions. Don’t use it as filler either. You also don’t always have to include every step. You can open a scene when they’re finishing up or end a scene where they begin. Too much titillation can numb the reader and not have as much affect. Make it as long or short as it needs to be like any other action.

Different Folks, Different Strokes

There are different types of sex. It can be affected by the relationship, personalities, and circumstances. Some people make love, others hate…wrestle. XD Do the people like each other? Do they love each other? Is it pure lust? Would they be willing to cater to the other’s needs? Or is it take/take? Are their lives in danger? Did they just reunite after years of separation? Not to mention any fetishes they may have. A friendly reminder: fetishes aren’t necessarily taboo. A fetish can be something as simple as wearing socks.

Until Next Time…

If you don’t want sex in your book, don’t have it. It’s simple. This isn’t about pressuring you to do something you don’t want to, only suggesting guidance if you’re looking to include it. Until next time! Keep on keeping on!

Dragon Bloode: Covet is out everywhere ebooks are sold.