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Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
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Sunday, 2 December 2012

Power of life and death

I am into the final furlong of Blest Redeemer (146,792 words done) where smaller and smaller passages are gathered together, seamlessly, to end in an arrowhead climax representing a single brief event. Another 2500 words will do it, about the length of a complaint letter to HMRC. I asked VR if there was an embroidering equivalent to what I was doing but she said it sounded like finishing off a knitted item. I’ll take her word for it.

There are literary attractions in killing off a fairly prominent character who’s there in the story to be nice. Her death would offer a sweet-smelling bouquet of possibilities. As I weighed the pros and cons I became aware of voices, getting louder, on behalf of humanity in general. Assassin, they said. To kill so casually, they added.

I note from my back-up hard drive that serious work on BR started thirteen months ago. Imagine sharing a 1930s semi for that length of time with a dozen and half people, unable to leave and breathe fresh air. And now I’m about to garrotte, strangle, behead, gas or electrocute a saintly member of their company for my own convenience.  That woman is more real than most of my flesh-and-blood neighbours.

There’s a moral issue here. Not least because I’m relishing the drama and its potential. Should she suffer? Would that help?

Perhaps you believe I’m too sensitive for my own good. And that I’ve painted myself into this corner and I can jolly well de-corner myself all on my own. True on both counts. But it’s still bloody painful. Poor X, she was so sympathetic to Judith.

You’ve got to be tough as old boots to write novels. I’m inclined to let her live. I will! Ah! She’s so glad, and so strangely am I.

5 comments:

Joe Hyam said...

Dickens had the same problem. "Let not poor Nellie die!"

Rouchswalwe said...

I've just finished a novel where one is shot and the other drowned. The one did nothing for the story, and the other simply prolonged it.

Sir Hugh said...

I'm trying to think of a plausible way she could depart the scene involving a draining rack but I'm stumped.

I have some sympathy with you. I have created a number of paintings in Photoshop, but others have been left half completed like orphaned children, leaving me with some kind of guilt complex.

Julia said...

Killing a character for convenience is too easy. A little cogitation (or just letting her simmer for a bit) and the puzzle will unravel nicely I bet, and just think of the satisfaction.

Roderick Robinson said...

Joe: But he did, didn't he? And hard as it seems Oscar Wilde seems to have been in the minority.

RW (zS): A case of cardboard characters. Shoot 'em and the bullet goes straight through right into the next county, drown 'em and they turn into pulp. If you want a real three-dimensional death try Bulmer, Bulawayo, Bulbous (forgotten the name) in Graham Greene's The Human Factor. He's a boxer dog.

Sir Hugh: You would think that having created this woman (not without some difficulty) I'd be entitled to knock her off. Not so, it seems.

Julia: I fear you might have misunderstood me; using "convenience" I didn't mean "casually" or "lightly". I meant I could see plotting advantages in killing her, notably the effects it would have on Judith the central character and how it would help draw the final strands of the story together. In the end I decided not to do it because it might be seen as a plot-driven death. And perhaps because I was slightly sentimental. A more ambiguous solution occurred although I have to be careful, ambiguity is a tendency I can sometimes push too far.