Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Killing Barthomolew Wood

Now in the writing world there is the phrase, "Kill your Darlings." Now for some, this means don't be afraid to put your characters through hell and back. Sometimes this means we have to actually kill them off.

In one of my books, THE CAPTAIN'S LADY, I am going to have to kill off one of my characters. Barthomolew Wood. He's the heroine's (Amanda) husband. And in Regency romance, the heroine is typically not married, and  if she is, she's certainly not supposed to want her husband to die.

However, Barthomolew Wood is an evil man. He's lied, beaten her, kidnapped their daughter, left her penniless and alone in Boston, sold slaves, beaten them, and is just a nasty piece of work.

I can honestly say it's going to be fun when I get to off his sleazy hide.

Now, the problem I'm having is, do I allow Richard (the hero of this story), a man of honor and integrity, a former Captain in the Royal Navy, do the deed?

This causes all kinds of repercussions for me. Although I think the readers won't care, (and might actually be thrilled this toad of a man is dead and Richard did the right thing) however, Amanda may care a great deal. Barthomolew is the father of her child, despicable cad that he is. He does love his daughter, and has given her everything money can buy. He's treated her well (despite the fact he took her away from her mother) and has shown great affection to her.

How is a mother supposed to tell her daughter that her new love interest has killed her father? See where I'm going with this. The daughter only knows her father to be a loving and generous man. If Richard kills him, the child will never love him no matter what.

Now I also know this is all very heavy and deep, and may not even be something any of you think about for your characters. But every action has an equal reaction. What if Richard's killing of Barthomolew does have a negative reaction from my readers? How many will I let down?

And unfortunately Barthomolew does indeed need to die in order for Richard and Amanda to be together. I can't just let them get divorced, I've already played that card.

Tell me -- Do you really think through the actions of your characters before writing a major scene like this? Do you delve into their psyche or just write how you want the story to go?

29 comments:

Em-Musing said...

Ooooh, this is a toughie. But you're correct to worry about the daughter. My husband was a stinker to me but doted on my daughter. When I left, she never forgave me. Ever! I think even if Richard killed Bart by accident, the daughter would never forgive. Good luck figuring this out, but this kind of tension makes for a great story.

Yvonne Osborne said...

I write how I want the story to go. But that coincides with their psyche, which I already know better than my own by the time I get into the meat of the story. Know what I mean? Does Richard have to kill the toad? Couldn't he just fall off his horse or something and break his neck?:)
I expect the killing can be carried off depending on the method: a sword across the chest rather than a knife in the back, etal. Your readers will trush you.

Yvonne Osborne said...

They'll "trust" you. Trust me!

Stacy McKitrick said...

If you're aiming for the HEA, then the daughter's feelings will also count. I'd say make it that Richard WANTS to kill Bartholomew, but maybe have someone beat him to the punch.

I always have to look at the reactions of ALL the characters if I want a scene to work (and move the story in the direction I want it to go). I find when I'm stuck, I've not taken that into account.

Anne Gallagher said...

Em -- Thanks for the personal input. It's what I needed to reaffirm what I was thinking.

Yvonne -- You must be reading my mind because that's exactly how I was going to kill him, in a sword fight. I just don't know how yet. Yeah, I do have to let the readers trust me.

Stacy -- Oh yes, Richard WANTS to kill Barthomolew, but he doesn't get the chance until the end of the book. And it will be explosive one way or the other.

Creepy Query Girl said...

I'd go with the fortunate accident. Think 'beauty and the beast' where the beast tries to save gaston from falling to his death but he...just...can't...hold..on:)

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I'm not so sure about Katie's suggestion. It's too convenient. You have to do what's right for your story, and I think you've got the right idea, Anne. Especially if she has doubts. That's so much better than if she decides he needs to go and kills him. She should be battling with herself as what's the right thing to do.

February Grace said...

I didn't read the other comments because I didn't want to see what others said before I gave you my gut impression: which is this.

If killing him is in self defense then a military man should really have no issue with it (nor should his love interest)

alternately- let her intervene during the fight and accidentally kill him- hit him over the head with something, I don't know.

As far as the daughter- by the time she's old enough (I'm assuming) to know the truth, she'd be old enough to understand.

Just my thoughts on it! Sorry if I'm repeating what anyone else said.

bru

February Grace said...

PS and love the Dalton picture- he was the best Rochester EVER.

Liza said...

Oh...this is so intriguing! Really! If Richard has to kill Bartholomew, then perhaps he does so because he is backed into a corner by Bart and has no choice. Then, the only way I can see you resolving this is for the daughter to discover (on her own) that her father is not the good man she thought he was. is she old enough for that? This is a terrific "what if" exercise Anne!

Sarah Ahiers said...

oh man, but just think of all the lovely conflict it will create if richard kills him! I say do it! Have him kill her husband!

Linda G. said...

You do have to think about this sort of thing when you write. The story is an iceberg--seven-eighths of it is beneath the surface, but even the part that doesn't show (i.e., considering all the ramifications of every action by a character) has a big impact.

Laura Diamond said...

Nice post!!! I think "killing" a character is okay, as long as the it's in the personality/pervue of the character committing the murder. ;)

Writer Pat Newcombe said...

I think I'd go with the accident too but you have to be careful it doesn't look too fortunate or contrived.

Cynthia Chapman Willis said...

This is so interesting! Could Richard kill Barthomolew and keep this (or try to keep this) to himself? Secrets can add such tension and suspense.

And yes, I do give a lot of thought to the actions of my characters and all the outcomes. I don't ever want to paint myself into a corner, as they say. Every action does have an equal reaction.

Talli Roland said...

Oh, yikes. I don't envy you this one!


I used to just charge ahead and let the chips fall where they may, but then that meant I had to do loads of rewriting. Now, I sift through the consequences of my characters' behaviour and make sure they're on track with what I want.

Good luck!

Johanna Garth said...

Totally off topic, sort of, but I always thought kill your darlings meant you should cut out those sentences of beautiful prose that you just don't think you can live without...if they make no relevant addition to the story line.

Anne Gallagher said...

Katie -- I was thinking along those lines. There are other people there in the scene, so anything could happen.

Stina -- Amanda won't kill him, she doesn't really want him dead. She just wants her daughter back. It's what Barthomolew does that gets HIM into the kefluffle.

Bru -- You're right, Richard doesn't have any problem with killing him in self defense. It's only because Amanda is there that he doesn't want to do it in front of her. However, he does know the ramifications in such an act.

He was the best Rochester!

Liza -- It's a little more complicated than backed into a corner, but you get the idea. The daughter is 6, so she knows some things, and remembers others.

Sarah -- lol. Not too bloodthirsty are we? We'll see what Richard says when I write the scene.

Linda -- Yup, that's it exactly. In the heat of the moment is one thing, but when you KNOW your actions are going to have an equal reaction, then it's a whole other ball game.

Laura -- Yeah, that's the hard part. Richard is a military man, and has no problem with killing, Barthomolew or anyone else. It's just that he knows what's going to happen if he does.

Pat -- There is that consideration. I like the idea of him falling on his sword, but it's so cliche. We'll have to see how it all plays out.

Cynthia -- You know, I had thought of this. And I might even use this idea in some form to let everyone THINK Barthomolew is dead, but in the end he's really not.

Talli -- Yes, I learned that lesson the hard way too. I hate rewriting.

Johanna -- Yes, it does. Technically it means to cut something that isn't working. It can also mean to literally kill someone off, depending on who you talk to.

Ed Pilolla said...

this is amazing drama development. the daughter is the product of the action. i've never dealt with murder or death like this in a story. killing darlings, or whatever variation of it, organically or during the editing phase, changes the energy of the piece. this was exciting to read. comments, too. i was like february and waited to read others.

Al said...

You have to explore things from how your character sees them.
So often the inform you that things would just not happen that way if they were in charge!
I know I have written a good character when I cry as I kill them off. I have even been known to shed a tear when I kill off my villains.

Anonymous said...

Tough when a character needs to die, isn't it?
Is there anyone else who could kill him? I think having Amanda kill him would be too tough. Perhaps he and Richard fight but Barthomolew falls off a cliff? (Or something MUCH better than that idea!)

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

That's some great conflict. I would really have to think about that one. I feel a parent should put their children first so how could your hero and heroine be together if the hero kills the bad guy? MMmm. Hope you figure out what will work.

Lydia Kang said...

I often let my gut instinct take over, but later on, I think about all those consequences. And then I decide again!

Bish Denham said...

If Barthomolew (not Bartholemew?) is such a despicable person, he could die under any kind of mysterious circumstance. He could be killed in a duel over some slight. He could be poisoned by his cook, or be beaten to death in a bar fight, or he mysteriously disappear at sea during a storm (thrown over board by a righteous first mate.) He could have a hunting accident, or be thrown from his horse that's spooked by a snake.

I think there are any number of ways to kill him off without jeopardizing Richard's relationship to Amanda and her daughter. You could make things a tense by having suspicious rumors float around that he is somehow involved, but Amanda doesn't believe them and he could be totally exonerated when the true culprit is found.

Crystal Jigsaw said...

I didn't actually think through the major scenes of my debut novel Discovery at Rosehill, but I have done with my 2nd novel Hideaway. I think it's important to do it because the reader has to make sense of the scene, not just the book.

CJ x

Andrea Franco-Cook said...

Oh yes, I always think through the actions of my characters. It saves lots of trees (don't have to re-write a bunch of drafts).

Sounds like you have an interesting antagonist. You've done a good job painting him as an evil SOB. Yet, the love he holds for his daughter gives him a redeeming quality. This is very important for the antagonist. I like to see them with several layers.

As for how to proceed with Barth's fate, I can think of lots of scenarios. I know the worst advice is unsolicited advice, but it's fun to come up with "What if's" so here goes nothing.

Richard could kill off Barhomolew, but it might build more tension (keep the reader turning pages) if the M.C. does it. Perhaps the daughter could walk in while he was attacking her mother. The girl could try to help, but in his anger Barth pushes her away,and she hits her head. The mother goes nuts, and clubs him in the head. Then the duo bury the body. IN the meantime, the police investigate Barth's disappearance and Richard helps the woman get out of the investigation.

Also, you could have the M.C. set Barthomolew up, and get him arrested. Have him shackled and taken to the worst prison in the country (kind of like the Count of Monte Cristo, except this time the reader's glad to be rid of the character).

Sorry, for going on and on, but I love this stuff. Guess that's why I'm a writer, huh? Just thought I'd throw a few ideas out there. Let me know when your book is done. I usually don't read romance, but your plot sounds interesting. Best of luck with it.

Jennifer Shirk said...

That is tough. But it creates great conflict!!! So it is something worth thinking about him doing.
You can always work on making him seem more reademable in the child's eyes as well as the readers'.

Old Kitty said...

Oooh Bartholomew needs to DIE! Awww but can't he die by his own hand?!!? Or perhaps Richard kills him in self-defence infront of witnesses so Amanda's daughter will know the truth - her father tried to kill Richard and Richard had no choice but to defend himself and lots of people will testify to that! Yay!

What a wonderful and involving conundrum! I'm just glad Richard and Amanda get together in the end and hopefully live happily ever after! Take care
x

Shelley Sly said...

Personally, I like stories to have a gray area, and having a good character kill a bad guy is perfect for me. It gives satisfaction (the bad guy dead) while also raising conflict (we like the good guy... but can we like a killer? I say we still can.) This is just my opinion, though.