The Character I Could Not Kill

Carolyn L. Dean
image The Character I Could Not Kill

Some fictional people just won't die.

No matter what an author wants sometimes, or how he or she thinks the story is going to go, once in a while, characters have other plans.

Or they have champions who make sure nothing bad happens to them!

How do I know these imaginary people have real-life champions?

I know because I’ve gotten all sorts of emails from readers, and over and over they’ve let me know one thing: NEVER KILL OFF MRS. GRANGER!

Now, who in the fictional world can generate this sort of protective feelings from well-meaning folks who only know about her from the pages of a book? What is it that would drive someone to fire off an email to an author they've never met and make it very clear I shouldn’t touch a hair on her cottony little head, or terrible reviews and angry mobs could ensue? What makes someone love a fictional, smart-talking 90+-year-old grandmother who is known for her passion for great gossip and her fierce love for family?

I have a theory, and I have it because I am a book lover, too.

Sometimes, we readers care about a character because they bring out something in us. It may be similarities to someone we love, or admiration for their personality and adventures, or even a terrible past which makes their bad actions understandable. We may adore their big hearts or their protectiveness for kids or attempts at becoming a better person.

Have you ever read a book and suddenly thought, "That author had better not kill off so-and-so!" or had your heart broken because they did?

I know I have.

And sometimes the characters we love may not even be human.

(Don’t worry. I’ll never kill off a dog or cat in my books. I have standards, you know, and I’m an animal lover. 😉)

How, then, can authors consider axing a beloved member from their books, and then change their mind? Why would writers suddenly believe their readers’ favorite character should live on forever, creating chaos and spitting out opinions, all while offering questionable advice and fighting untold evils for their loved ones?

I'll tell you the reason: we authors probably feel the same way as the person who wrote that email. Those characters are real to us in so many ways! I've even been awakened early in the morning by my mouthy characters, bugging me with new ideas of what adventures they should have that day.

That, in my opinion, makes so many of my imaginary friends absolutely worth keeping, and that includes Mrs. Granger, even if she has a smart mouth from time to time! 😉

And, to be fair, by the time I’d started getting those emails, I’d already fallen in love with the old girl myself.

If I tried to explain how Mrs. Granger got created in the first place, I’d have to go back to my own feisty grandmother and  a lovely, elderly lady named Miss Kay. Both ladies lived well into their nineties, and both were people I’m proud of have known.  They helped me understand how someone who had seen decades of living and change could be a font of wisdom.

Or a pain in the backside to some.

Whichever Mrs. Granger is, she’ll always have a place in my heart, and also in my books.

If you’d like to know more about Mrs. Granger, check out her first adventure in BED, BREAKFAST and BONES. Hopefully, you’ll see why other people love her as much as I do.

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