(This is both an announcement and some of my thoughts, so yeah …)
So what do I mean by that title? Why, it’s quite simple.
I wrote, finished, and submitted another story to eFiction.
So what is it that I offered up this time? Is it something that’s straight-up action like Dawnstar? Is it something that is entirely cerebral like Synthetic Reality?
Echoes, as I titled the new story, is a post-modern crime story.
I haven’t been the hugest follower of crime shows or mystery novels before. I like Castle, sure, but it’s got Nathan Fillion (seriously, a pretty easy sell to me there). CSI, Law & Order, any of their spin-offs, ect? Nope, not a watcher. Should I be? Maybe.
That said, when the concept of what Echoes is about struck me, sticking it in the context of a murder mystery was something I wanted to do. It felt at home there, and seemed like a lost idea when trying to place it anywhere else.
The idea behind Echoes is that in the year 2027, Detective Nathan Marshall is trying to solve the case behind the murder of a young woman. At the same time, he’s also tasked with using the case as a trial run for an experimental system that plays back the last time a victim came into contact with an object. He’s got to use the Echo system in order to solve the case, as well as please those with an interest in the project.
This isn’t just the first time I’ve written a crime story; it’s also the first time I’ve actually written about a murder. Sure, Synthetic Reality had a murder in it, but it wasn’t the same thing. The bodycount in Dawnstar may have also been rather high, but those were deaths, not murders.
When writing this story, I came upon a realization that I’d not experienced as a writer: killing a character and murdering them are two separate things.
Killing a character can happen in any number of ways for any number of reasons. Your character’s a Vampire and needs to feast on others to survive, they get shot, there’s a horrible car crash, some lightning has impossible timing, ect. Killing a character can be impersonal, but the only real psychological effect that you need to convey is in the survivors.
When you murder a character, however, it’s different. Murder is almost always an extremely confrontational event. Someone gets shot, stabbed, set on fire, ect. You need to convey the psychology for not just those who survive, but for those that do the deed, and those that are the victim of it. You then need to construct the scene, the motive, the method, the getaway, ect.
As you can probably see, there’s a difference. Murder is much more in depth than simply putting a bullet through their bodies. As such, it rewards a different feeling when writing it. Just as well, the emotions of those that survive are different as well.
If you kill a character through any means, your characters must react accordingly. You’re not simply removing a character from a story; you’re destroying anything and everything that they were, you’re (generally) cutting every single one of their story threads. They’re remaining adventures will never be told, they’ll never have any more arguments or fights with anyone else, they’ll never hug or hold you’re character’s hand.
It’s that absence that becomes what their death is all about. Maybe your victim had a sunny and fun filled life, or perhaps their life was one of suffering and uphill battles. That doesn’t matter. They should have made some impact on your characters, and your readers through them, and so their deaths become about that void that their name now represents.
I remember that the first time I read (what I thought was) a character’s death. It was Bruenor Battlehammer, in the Icewind Dale Trilogy by R.A. Salvatore, when he fought Shimmergloom in the Mithril Halls. As I read that scene and came to believe that Bruenor was gone, it was that absence that brought tears to my eyes (I’m deadly serious about this; mock me and I’ll slap you).
Death is a powerful thing if put to use by a good storyteller. It’s something that can bring not only your characters, but your readers as well, to tears. They all will feel that loss and void, that feeling that something that was cherished on some level is now gone forever.
A storyteller who isn’t worth their salt will fall flat on their face when trying to convey a death in a story. In truth, to kill a character and fail in its delivery is worse than not killing them at all. The death of a character – murder ever more so – is a very heavy thing to deal with, in story and in life.
Seriously, do some due diligence when you try and use heavy topics in storytelling. To use such topics with little regard to their actual consequence is worse than not even trying to use them at all.