I recently fell in love with someone else’s series. That’s happened to me a lot over the years. I stumble across an author whose work I absolutely love and proceed to gobble up their books, one after another, becoming horribly depressed when I reach the last one and am forced to wait months or even a year for the next installment.
I remember when I first discovered John Sandford’s Prey series, and couldn’t get enough of Lucas Davenport. Ditto with Janet Evanovich’s Plum series. So to find a new one was a treat. I tore through the books, one after the other, slowing down my reading pace as I approached the final pages of the last book to relish it.
And then, it happened. After the climax, when things finally appeared to be working out for two of the characters after they had suffered horrible tragedies throughout the novels, one of them was killed off. Mind you, this wasn’t one of the second tier characters populating this world, but someone who every storyline had pivoted around. And truth be told, it was my favorite character.
Another of my favorite writers had recently done this with his series, but at the end he coyly hinted that the character might indeed have survived. Despite the fact that when we last saw him he was being dragged to the bottom of a bay under the weight of an enormous steel net, surrounded by ravening monsters, hey, I bought it. Anything to believe he’d be there for me in the next book.
But not here. I finished the last few pages in shock. Even though it was the middle of the night I got on my computer and went to the author’s site. There was a letter which explained the motivation behind eliminating the character. It confirmed that he was indeed really, truly dead.
I actually had trouble sleeping that night, turning it over in my mind. I came under considerable heat for killing off a major character in my first book, a decision that hadn’t been made lightly, either.
But hey, mine was only in the one book, I hadn’t devoted thousands of pages to him. I pondered whether or not I could continue reading the series, especially since I wasn’t nearly as attached to some of the other main characters. And clearly, when a writer does this, the gloves have come off. Anyone could be next. As fellow fans of the series “LOST” know, the last season was a humdinger, major characters dropped like flies as they wound down to the finale. It was shocking for someone who had followed the show from the outset, because there’s a certain tacit agreement made. They’ll be placed in perilous situations, but rest assured that somehow the main characters will survive. Don’t waste your emotional energy on Ensign #4, he’ll be blasted off the Enterprise bridge before the credits, but Kirk isn’t going anywhere.
I’ve thought about this a lot since I finished the final book, debating. Did the author do the right thing, the brave thing? In some ways, I think not. The problem with a series is that frequently you’re forced to subject your main characters to all sorts of unpleasantness, much of which no one would ever encounter in the course of everyday life no matter what their job is. The trials can quickly become Job-like. Remember the season of “Six Feet Under” when the Fisher family just could not get a break? After David was carjacked, I almost quit watching. I felt they’d veered off the skids into the realm of soap opera. Killing off the character in this book felt much the same way to me, unnecessarily melodramatic, when what I’d appreciated about the writing was how that wasn’t usually the case.
So will I continue reading the series? It’ll be difficult for me not to, if for no other reason than I’m curious to see how the author handles it. I’m guessing a large leap forward in the timeline, otherwise it will simply be too depressing watching the other characters deal with their grief. But part of me clings to an alternate ending of the story, one that I’ve created in my own mind, where the character survives and goes on to live happily ever after. Delusional, I know, but then again it is fiction. And what’s wrong with a fairy tale now and again?
So how do you feel about losing a character that you love? Has that ever stopped you from reading a series? Include your email and I’ll draw a name out of the hat for a signed first edition of Boneyard. Or better yet, sign up for my newsletter at www.michellegagnon.com and be entered to win fabulous prizes such as an Amazon Kindle, iPod shuffle, and Starbucks & Amazon gift cards.
Michelle Gagnon is a former modern dancer, bartender, dog walker, model, personal trainer, and Russian supper club performer. Her debut thriller THE TUNNELS was an IMBA bestseller. Her next book, BONEYARD, depicts a cat and mouse game between dueling serial killers. In her spare time she’s still trying to recover from the loss of Jin.