Monthly Archives: November 2011

From the blog archives: “I just killed a character”

I originally wrote this mini-essay in January of ‘10, and reposted it on my tumblr in August of ’11. I think the philosophy behind it still holds true.

I just killed a character. A major character. This person, I spent months designing him, figuring out his backstory, his life, his appearance, his family, his educational and work history. I agonized over his name, mannerisms, and personality. I gave him touching moments with multiple coworkers and loved ones. I made him smart and heroic and awesome. And then I had him get killed in a fairly gruesome and upsetting way just a few sections short of the ending of my book.

This was not part of my outline or plan. It just sort of happened. And certainly I’m not on the final draft of my novel, nor do those reading it as a work-in-progress know I’ve done this. They will react, and whether this death stands may have something to do with their reaction.

But why did I feel the need to do this in the first place? I hate when writers I like do this. Albus Dumbledore. Ianto Jones. Anya Jenkins. All such needless deaths and each one was  Not Cool. I sobbed like a freaking baby at every one, and I arguably care just as much about my character dude as Rowling, Davies, and Whedon cared about their characters, and they had to know that stuff wouldn’t go down smoothly with their entire audience either.

Why do something that, as a reader or viewer, bugs me? Because when you’re writing fiction, even if you’re not writing straightforwardly realistic literary fiction, you know that in order to resonate, there has to be something about the struggle your characters are facing that makes the stakes real. We can’t be invested if we suspect that someone’s going to swoop in and save the say ten seconds to closing credits. We have to believe this is life and death.

I’m writing an urban fantasy novel about grand struggles between forces of good and evil. For the forces of evil to never threaten the forces of good in a way that puts their lives in jeopardy is not realistic. I’m not writing for children. And while I’m writing characters who themselves are somewhat and sometimes comedic, this is not a comedy. It’s not a tragedy, either. It just is, and the people in danger have to feel like real people in danger. If danger is limited to getting a paper cut, or relegated to background people (“guest stars,” basically), then it will not touch the reader the same way as if a major supporting character bites it.

I’m shocked this happened, as sometimes when I’m writing I do deviate from outline and find the plot going somewhere surprising, even as it’s my fingers on the keyboard. But perhaps I’m a merciless god, because unless my little group of readers objects too vociferously, his death will stand.

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Awards and Nominations

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K.W. Taylor teaches college English in Ohio. From 2005 to 2008, Taylor was a television critic for the Dayton City Paper. She serves on panel review boards for literary arts grants and has led creative writing workshops for local arts organizations. Currently, Taylor is in the process of establishing a flash fiction slam event in her hometown. Her first novella, “We Shadows Have Offended,” was just released by Etopia Press. She also has a piece in the anthology Once Bitten, Never Die, now available from Wicked East Press. In early 2012, Taylor’s first short story collection, Curiosities and Creatures, will be published.

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Social Networking

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Publications: Forthcoming

  •  Grinning Cracks. Dioscuri Books. Short fiction collection.

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Publications: Long Fiction

  • Curiosities and Creatures. Dioscuri Books, chapbook short story collection released 1/4/12.

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  • “We Shadows Have Offended.” Etopia Press, ebook novella released 10/21/11.

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Publications: Short Fiction

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Publications: Non-Fiction, Literary, and Media Criticism

  • “More Matter with More Art 2: Science Fiction as Tool of Argument.” Aoife’s Kiss Magazine June 2011.
  • “More Matter with More Art: Fiction’s Usefulness as Tool of Argument.” Aoife’s Kiss Magazine December 2010.
  • “Unpacking Pandora’s Box: Cultural Problems in James Cameron’s Avatar.” Aoife’s Kiss Magazine September 2010 and reprinted in Shelter of Daylight October 2010.
  • Lost: Making the Case for Creative Conjecture” Dayton City Paper 30 January 2008.
  • Bionic WomanDayton City Paper 18 October 2007.
  • “TV Scoop from Comic-Con” Dayton City Paper 9 August 2007.
  • “Trigger-Happy Networks: The Season in Review” Dayton City Paper 14 June 2007.
  • The Dresden Files: A Shaky Adaptation” Dayton City Paper 13 February 2007.
  • “New Battlestar Galactica PR Latest Example of Sci-Fi Stigma” Dayton City Paper 15 November 2006.
  • “Review: Torchwood 1×01 – Pilot” Genre-Commentary 2006. <;.
  • “Fear and Loathing for Fall TV” Dayton City Paper 17 August 2006.
  • “The End of a Less-than-Charming Era” Genre-Commentary 2006.
  • “Review: Life on Mars 1×01 – Pilot” Genre-Commentary 2006.
  • “Television: Recapping the 2005-06 Season” Dayton City Paper 14 June  2006.
  • “Arts and Culture: Doctor Who – Instant Geek Points” Dayton City Paper 9 March 2006.
  • “Arts and Culture: With Nielsen Catching on, Maybe Some Quality Underrated TV Shows Can be Saved” Dayton City Paper 26 January 2006.
  • “Television: Night Stalker vs. SupernaturalDayton City Paper 7 December 2005.
  • “Television: Veronica MarsDayton City Paper 17 November 2005.
  • “Review: Five Seasons of Angel” Dark Worlds 2004.
  • “Conquer the Land and Castrate the Gunfighter: Sexual Symbolism in Literature of the American West.” The Fogdog Review 6(2002): 16-25.
  • “Inspiration for Amorous Imagery in Keats’ ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn.'” The Fogdog Review 5(2001-2002): 47-51.

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