As usual, the exact details of my story are worked out as I go. I need enough flexibility in my plotting to implement the good stuff which inevitably comes along after I’ve already started writing. On the other hand, sometimes figuring out the important parts when you reach them doesn’t always bode so well. Sometimes you hit a challenge which is solved in an even more difficult fashion.
Ever have a story or plot point you’re not sure if you should write for its intensity? I’ve come across the first instance of a fully justified, genuinely evil action which fits in exactly with the story. It ticks all the right boxes for reasons and rational in the world setting and for the characters in question. But I’ll be damned if it’s not one of the worst ideas I’ve ever come up with. For all the murders I’ve already written, the characters eaten alive, those betrayed and hurt beyond recovery, this one idea actually makes me pause. I got teary just coming up with it, and it sure would be hard to write.
The thing is, as I said, it slots right into place. It’s the big, awful catalyst I need. It works with all these other plots and subplots swimming around it. And I kind of want to write it. I want to be scared of what I’m creating, if only a little bit.
On that subject, I will always remember reading an interview with my favourite author, Matthew Reilly. In case you haven’t read any of his work (go fix that problem now, don’t worry, I’ll wait while you buy one of his stories), you need to know this: He kills any character. Not a single one of them is safe, no matter how important they are, and Matthew wields that power with a deftness and investment which really makes my experience reading his work superbly memorable. In one of his books, he kills a major player. It’s huge; this isn’t just killing a very important character like all those others, we’re talking “central to the setting he’s built” kind of character. In this interview, he spoke of debating over whether he could go through with it. Writing that particular death over all others he had put to paper. What it would mean to him, and to the readers, when that character is killed. He admits he had to take a break after getting the words down. But the important part was, for the story to go the right way, and for the surviving characters to face this challenge and grow, it needed to happen.
I know what it’s like now, in a surprisingly intimate way. Do I go through with this? Write this horrible event, knowing what it does to the characters, knowing how challenging it could be to readers?
You probably already know the answer.