A Character MUST Die!

A Character MUST Die!

Natalie Bright


My WIP is going great. Writing, writing, writing… until this morning.

Last night, our 13yo told me about the latest video game that he and his friends have mastered. It takes place at world’s end (of course), with a surprisingly complex back story (I’m told most games have them). Groups of people were sheltered in different bunkers and given tests of endurance. Long story short, there’s lots of killing and then the survivors commit suicide. That’s where he lost me. So what’s the point of playing this game?

If you write stories for children as I do, this is the reality of entertainment today. How can my historical western book compete against a video game and hold a young reader’s attention? I asked my 13yo his opinion about a fight scene I’m working on. We talked about body movements, hand placement, and the ability of staying on a horse while my character shoots arrows.

“Who dies?” he asked.

“No one dies,” I said.

“It’s not a good story unless someone dies,” he said.

Is that true? I thought about my favorite stories. Charlotte dies. Old Yeller-gone. Jo’s little sister in LITTLE WOMEN. Basically everyone in Hunger Games except for…well, you know. My son might be right. Except no one dies in my story. I can’t kill any of my characters. I like them all, and basically I need them for books 2 and 3. (Dreaming big for a series.)

“They learn to trust and help each other,” I said. “Bitter enemies become best friends and it’s a happy ending.”

“That’s not good,” he replied.

“I’d read it.” This from our 17yo as he studied the contents of the frig. At least I have one reader.

As I sit here staring at the words on my computer screen, I’m wondering which character must go? What’s wrong with a happy ending? All of my characters want to live and I have no idea why. They’ve completely taken over. It happens sometimes.





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