I was faced with a dreadful choice. Having eagerly awaited the next book from my favourite author and received it as a Christmas present, I was looking forward to re-joining characters I’d grown to love as friends over many years. But wait – why is the book dedicated to a major character? Within the first few pages I realised what the author was about to do. He was going to let her die.
I stopped reading, aghast. I don’t want her to die! She’s so strong, so important, and someone I look up to. What do I do? If I stop reading I’ll miss out on the whole book, but if I read on I’m condemning her to death and the sadness will colour all my memories of her. Life in this fictional world without her is unthinkable. If I put the book down and walk away, she will live on and be alive forever in my mind, always someone I can return to when I re-read previous books. I can give her eternal life by never letting her die on the page.
My hand hovered over the book as I debated whether to close it. I couldn’t walk away.
Through a mist of tears I read on, watched my favourite character prepare for death, and watched the other characters grieve for her loss just as I did. It was heart-breaking.
Several damp hankies later I was engrossed in the story as it moved forward without her, and I made it to the end of the book.
What would you do as a reader? Save the character and forgo the book? Or read on and suffer the loss?
What would you do as a writer? Could you subject your readers to such pain after giving them a character they loved? I’m guessing George R.R. Martin has no qualms about it, but I’d like to believe other authors think long and hard about the effect on readers before they kill off a favourite. Perhaps it was this particular author’s nearness to death that allowed him to bring her life to an end – but I’d really rather he hadn’t.
PS. I hope no spoilers were issued in the writing of this blog, but it was hard to avoid!