Welcome to this week’s blog hop. The topic this week is:
‘How do you feel about killing off one of your characters?’
In my debut novel ‘The Porn Detective‘ (now re-written and with the new title of ‘Mind Games‘), I decided to kill off Martin Andrews. Frances had definitely had enough of him, and it looked as though the two of them would soon be going their separate ways. Thinking back to a holiday we’d had years ago in Spain, I remembered a restaurant set out on stilts in the sea. There was a long decking-like path going out to it, and people could swim all around it if they went under the walkway.
I thought up a suitable ending for Martin. He and Frances could try one last time to patch up their differences on holiday. They went on a cruise, and visited a Spanish beach. Martin went for a swim around a restaurant that jutted out into the sea, but never returned. However, later in the story Frances discovered he had faked his own death in order to start life over again in Spain.
I sent the manuscript off to two London agents. The first one debated whether to represent me but after a week of deliberation the answer was unfortunately in the negative. The second agent sent me this reply:
‘I have read through your submission and would like to let you know that I think there are some great ideas in there.
You write well, and I would like to give you some pointers on where I think the manuscript can be improved, if I may.
I think your central premise is brilliant – man with a porn obsession, and how this takes a toll on those around him. There is a cue here for an in-depth exploration of the issues – and it’s timely with porn, and the effects of porn, in the news. I also love the thought of a character faking their own death – but I’m not convinced that this needs to be in the same story.
My advice would be to trim down your ideas for this single novel by 75%. You’ve got ideas for about three different novels in one, and it’s not necessary. You write well enough to make ‘effects of porn on family’ interesting, especially with the twist of why he has that obsession in the first place.
Build up tension, work towards a few set pieces – it’s not necessary to have things constantly happening. Make the reader look forward to your next big moment, and really explore the relationships between the main characters. For example – why exactly was your female lead saving herself for marriage – what are her issues?
A pro-active lead is more interesting – not just someone who reacts to what is thrown at her. She needs to be on a journey of her own – and I wouldn’t kill off your male lead. Remember he’s on a journey too.
To sum up – and I hope you don’t mind my feedback – I think you’ve got the makings of a very fine novel in here. Pare it back, and really expand on the issues at the heart of your story. I would be delighted to re-read your work.’
So…after about 3 years had passed I decided to re-write it completely and I didn’t kill off Martin. I sent the new manuscript back to the same agent, but she seemed to have vanished off the face of the earth. Oh well, I have taken her advice in many of my novels and now tend not to kill anybody off unless it’s absolutely necessary!
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