On December 27, 2007, I left a review for a writer on FanFiction.net. The title of the story was (and is) “Leitmotif.” The author’s pseudonym is “iamphantomgirl.” From the nom de plume, you’ve probably guessed that the fan fiction was about Phantom of the Opera. Yes, I’ve read (and written) fan fiction. I feel there’s nothing wrong with reading other people’s takes on character you know and love.
With that being said, I remembered writing a review of one of the chapters for the aforementioned story. Not quite sure why, but I thought it might make a nice blog topic. On FanFiction.net, a person writes their stories chapter by chapter and the readers have the ability to leave reviews chapter by chapter.
In the chapter that I am reviewing, the author killed off a main character. I am not a fan of killing off characters. I feel, well, read the review. It speaks for itself:
So, I take it that Meg’s death is the tragedy you mentioned in your story description. “The Siege of Paris forces the ghost to become a man and to take responsibility for those he loves. After a tragedy sends him to America, he finds a new life and a new love…” While I understand the need for a tragedy of truly epic proportion to drive the plot of your story, I would caution you not to rely on killing characters on a regular basis. It is a seductive trap because it is all too easy to solve a plot complication (or create a plot complication) by killing a character.
Strangely enough, Stephen King’s book, “Bag of Bones” delves into this topic and even though I read the book almost ten years ago, the idea remains fresh in my mind. The following is a synopsis of “Bag of Bones” from Books and Writers by Bamber Gascoigne:
“Bag of Bones (1998) deals with the grief process in an uncompromising way. In Bag of Bones, King returns to the theme of the loss of a family member, then adds the classic haunted house and familiar elements from his previous works: a small town where people know more than they tell, a secret collective of the guilty and a hero who can’t avoid his confrontation with evil. Hidden deep within the village of Sarah Laughs are old crimes, sins and secrets. All are gradually revealed to the reader through an analysis of the conscious and unconscious mind of the writer’s main character, as if he were spread out on Freud’s couch.
Playing with fire, King plunges into the mind of Mike Noonan, an author who suffers from writer’s block. Noonan’s wife, Jo, died unexpectedly from a brain aneurism, which causes him to suffer panic attacks every time he turns on his computer. Needing to escape the painful memories of the city, Mike retreats to his cabin in the village of Sara Laughs, where he and Jo spent happy summers together. There, Mike meets a young, widowed mother, Mattie, and her daughter, Kyra, whom he helps in a custody battle with the child’s grandfather.
Mattie is one of the liveliest characters in King’s story. Her sudden death, while a logical twist of the plot, comes like an electric shock to the reader. And, King meant for Mattie’s murder to shock the reader. In the last pages of the novel, King speaks through Mike and returns to the issue of Mattie’s death. Mike says, as an explanation why he no longer writes, that ‘to think I might have written such a hellishly convenient death in a book, ever, sickens me.’
Bag of Bones continues the series of books by King that explore the writing process and the inner workings of an author’s mind. The Shining, Misery, The Dark Half and now, Bag of Bones are among his most revealing and personal works.
King is not among those writers who claim that they don’t have time to read. Bag of Bones offers a delightful analysis of Herman Melville’s story Bartleby, and comments about various books and a number of “real life” authors. Among those included in the story is author and poet, Thomas Hardy. Hardy stopped writing novels at the peak of his career and turned solely to writing poetry. A quote, attributed to Hardy, states that the most brilliantly drawn character in a novel is but a bag of bones.”
Sorry about the long-winded review, but as a mother who lost her six year old daughter to a drunk driver, I can tell you that there are no words that can sufficiently express the devastation a parent experiences when a child dies. And, to lose a child to an act of violence…again, words fail.
On the positive side, your story evoked a strong response from me…strong…not negative, so, I end this by saying, well done, my friend! Well done…
Even after 10 years I remember the story and the review. A good story moves us. A great story stays with us – always.
Check out my latest novel, “The Heretic’s Child,” available at Amazon.com.
You can also check out my fan fiction at FanFiction.net. If you run a search for my name, you’ll find my Author’s Page and it has a listing of my silly little ditties. The stories are free. The only one I really recommend is “The Perfect Solution.” The others, well, I’ll give myself a break and say that I was new to the genre when I wrote, “Christine dans Deux” and leave it at that. The other, “The Crystal Rainbow” was ruined by a hard drive crash. I have a strange habit of writing the first chapter and soon after, the ending of the story comes into my mind and I have to write it. I had already written the ending of the story (and had no back-up – shame on me!) when the crash sent it to story nirvana. For the life of me, I can’t remember what I wrote, so that story is good up to the end and the end just kind of fizzles. Someday, maybe, I’ll re-write the ending.
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. Best wishes to all!