So I’m a sucker for tragedies.
As much as I hate the tragicness (okay, I know that’s not a real word, but work with me here) of a tragedy, I just LOVE the outcome – even though heart-wrenching pain comes with it.
Take Romeo and Juliet for example. We all know they die in the end (sorry for the spoiler if you’ve never read Shakespeare’s work), but even so I still read on (or watch on, if it’s a movie) hoping that Juliet will wake up in time and they could live happily ever after. But when they die, it’s incredibly amazing because there is a lesson learned, and because they ended their lives together. I don’t know. I guess I’m saying that death can be beautiful…I guess.
So how can we write a tragedy and keep our fans happy? How did Shakespeare do it?
I did write a novel where I killed off one of the main characters (yes, it was quite tragic), but I’m not even close to publishing that series yet. I’m not sure on the reaction I’ll get from readers. I mean, how can you make so many fall in love with someone you are ultimately going to kill?
Will my readers hate me?
Does it matter?
We shouldn't be afraid of what our audience will think. Our story is just that - OUR story. Yes, we write it for our audience, but we can't make EVERYONE happy. Besides, it's fiction...as in fake. We could write several versions of the same story with different paths and various endings but ultimately, it's what we feel in our hearts and minds that really matter. We are the writers, the creators, and if the story feels right, then it is, and it shouldn't matter what others think. There will be those out there (like myself) who will eat up those tragedies.
I think of it this way: We are people. People in real life die. We aren’t in a novel where we can live forever or go anywhere and do anything the author writes. We live, and we die. So, why can’t we write our characters as if they were real? When we read, we imagine that they ARE real, so let’s make it more realistic. Accidents happen. Hopefully not too often, but from time to time we all have to endure heartache. So why can’t our characters? We can’t ALL have a happily ever after. I mean, if Juliet would have woken up on time then Romeo wouldn’t have died (and neither would she). But their families wouldn’t have learned a lesson, would they? The two would have run off together and the families would have blamed each other for the disappearance of their children, and more deaths would have ensued. Which tells me: they should have died to teach a lesson. So why can’t my characters die, too? (for a great purpose, of course)
So I say, write tragedies. Make people love your characters with every ounce of affection in their hearts, and then give them a tragic (but purposeful) death. Why not?
It is your story after all.