Honouring the work: IWSG


I’m sure most people have heard of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG), but this is the first time I’ve taken part. The purpose, as stated in the IWSG website, is: to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

As writers it’s only natural that our personality influences our work. I’m not talking about the voice every writer hones, I’m talking about the little quirks that, at times, can be a detriment to the story.

Take my obsession with happy endings. I know that bad things happen, that people suffer loss and deal with pain but, in the end, I still find myself hoping for the happily ever after. I know it’s unrealistic, but I can’t help being a sucker for a good survival story and often, I use fiction as a way to escape everyday life. The only problem is, this translates to my work.

In my latest WIP, a character has just been mortally wounded and I can’t bring myself to write his final scene. This, in part, is because I love my characters and I’ll feel the loss. But it’s also that, deep down, I want it to end differently. Not me the writer, but me the hopeless romantic who just wants everyone to be happy. I know it sounds crazy, and I’m exaggerating to make a point, but it’s no less true. And the fact remains, if I change it, I’m not doing justice to the work, or my responsibilities as a storyteller.

I deal with some tricky issues in my latest novel. This time it’s human trafficking and it put me through the ringer. Maybe that’s why I’m feeling a little sensitive about the subject. It’s bound to have an affect.

I’ll write the scene eventually. I’ve done it before. In one of my earlier stories, a character died in the first few chapters. I accepted this. It made sense to the story, though it made me sad. Later, when I learned more about the character through the eyes of his family and friends, I wanted to go back and rewrite it – to bring him back (if only we could do that in real life). I didn’t. I resisted. But the fact remains, my natural compulsions can often mess with my head.

I’m a strong believer in allowing my characters to tell the story. But they can’t do that if I interfere all the time! Like I said. I’ll write the scene eventually. It’s just something I fear. This particular short-coming is one I’m consciously be aware of. There will be others that affect the story and I don’t even realise it’s happening.

How about you? How do you handle death scenes? What kind of things affect the way you write and interfere with the process itself? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks for stopping by.


46 responses to “Honouring the work: IWSG”

  1. I’m not squeamish though I’ve not killed off many people in my writing. However there are things I find it hard to write about. Most violence, esp against the vulnerable, sex in its detail and anything that has real echoes in my own life (I’m thinking about difficult interpersonal relationships because it is too easy to see the real in the imagined). I manage the first two but the last remains a barrier.

    • Yeah, I know what you mean about violence being tough to write, although I do enjoy a good fight scene! In Hands of Evil a particularly foul character kidnapped his ex-wife and I had to write a terrible fight scene. It make me sick. It really did. I’m okay with sex scenes, though, like you, I don’t like going into explicit detail and when reading I have a thing about terminology -some of it makes me cringe! And the things that echo real life – totally with you there. It gets too real for me, and I can’t separate myself from the story. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Geoff 😀

  2. Oh, I can fully understand you. As I am so far only working on short stories I have sometimes killed if my characters. But it’s only a small scene and normally they don’t die in it they are already dead.
    Good luck!

    • Thanks, Solveig. I’ll get through it eventually, with a big box of tissues, a ton of chocolate and lots and lots of puppy pictures from the internet!! It’s one of those things we all go through, because we feel deeply for the characters. I imagine in some ways it’s like acting (especially for method actors) – the characters become a little too real sometimes 😀

  3. I tend to save death scenes for when they feel right. They’re always emotional, so I don’t want to waste them for shock value. To be honest, I don’t do them very often because I like doing long, winding evolutions for my characters. Once they’re dead, they kind of stay that way and all of their unfinished stories remain in the wind. So I’m very careful with how I handle them. This does have a downside that people demand I kill their least favorite character off or walk away. Not really sure what I could say as an influence on my style since it tends to be everything. I like entertaining people, so I try for laughs and emotional draws, but those are very general things. Probably just to tell a good story.

    • I get where you’re coming from. I really do. But, even when death scenes feel right in terms of the story, they’re incredibly hard. I’m at that point, and I’ll do it, I just felt like sharing my dilemma because I know you guys understand! Other people think I’m a little crazy (and this would be true!), but they don’t get it. Not how invested we are in the characters, or how important it is – the art of storytelling. Thanks for sharing, Charles 😀

      • Everyone handles a death scene differently. Some do it with ease and others try to avoid it unless it’s inevitable. Just one of the infinite reasons every story is (or should be) different. It’s funny how character death is one of the big topics today when it’s such a personal thing and there’s no wrong or right way to do it.

  4. Welcome to the IWSG!

    If you were sticking to a happy ending I’m sure you’d have plenty of readers who would be all for that. Some people prefer happy endings and that’s fine. But if the story calls for a not so happy ending then that’s what it needs. I can’t give much advice from my own perspective, but I think each story’s death scene works best when it stays true to the nature of the story being told and the characters being drawn in the story. Most importantly the writer should stay true to themself and how a scene affects them. If things aren’t genuine I think it’s more apt to stand out for the reader.

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host
    Tossing It Out

    • Excellent advice, thank you. And thanks for the warm welcome 🙂 If the reader feels what I feel at the end of the scene, then, you’re absolutely right – it’s a good thing. It means they care too and are invested in the story.

  5. Welcome to ISWG. So glad to have you. I had the same difficulty you describe here while writing my debut novel. It took me months to go back to certain scenes where bad things happened to the character. I think if we’re sensitive people, that’s normal. We’re living what the characters are living in some sense. We want our readers to feel that, as Arlee Bird said in his comment.

    • Thanks so much for the lovely welcome, and your understanding. And you’re both absolutely right. I’m so glad I worked this issue through. I guess we’re all a little hard on ourselves sometimes, aren’t we? Thanks again 😀

  6. I think a lot of writers will relate to this. It’s definitely one of the toughest parts of the writing process, but like you said, we have to let the characters tell their own story sometimes – no matter how painful it is for us! 😉

  7. I’m all about Happily Ever After, but reality demands that there be some longing for the ever after part, that all ills or wrongs can.t be made right in this life, and that’s a hard reality to portray. I applaud you for holding to your guns.

  8. Welcome to the IWSG! I haven’t gotten that far into my WIP, but I know there will be a death(s) and I shudder to think about having to write it. I’ve taken a writing break over the past few weeks, but will be back at it in no time. Might as well face the inevitable. Enjoy your day! Eva, IWSG Co-host

    • Thanks, Eva. I hope you enjoy your day too 😀 And thanks for hosting, plus my lovely, warm welcome. Good luck with those difficult scenes – we get through them. We’re lucky we get to talk about our anxieties!

  9. I know it’s good to kill off a beloved character, so I do it at times, but for a good reason. I always have a happy ending because that’s why I read: I want life to always work out for the better. I don’t read (or go to movies) to see the world blow up and evil prevail. As far as I can tell, movie attendees like happy endings more than depressing realism.

  10. I’m quite the opposite to you Mel, in that I like really frightening cliff-hangers of endings. I seem to enjoy the power I have over the characters I write about and to leave the reader on tenterhooks! However, poetry frightens me (as does Opera) and it still does. I’ve had a go but really think it’s a no-hoper for me.

  11. I don’t know if you’ve heard of this, but there’s a book called “Red Shirts” by John Scalzi. It sort of makes fun of the way some nameless character, always wearing a red shirt, gets killed off in nearly every episode of the original “Star Trek.”

    The book gets pretty meta about writing, and at the end there’s a part about how fictional characters are happy to sacrifice their lives, so long as the death isn’t some lazy, pointless plot device. Whenever I struggle with a death scene, I remember that part of “Red Shirts” and do my best to give my characters meaningful deaths within the context of my story.

  12. I’ve killed off two of my characters and one was a main character. It’s hard because we want to protect them, but the story must come first. I don’t think George Martin suffers from this. He kills everyone.

  13. Gotta kill your darlings 🙂 I let my characters take the story where they will and I will do unhappy endings, but I have a hard time killing off MAIN characters. I mean, I put so much effort into making them and they die like that? But, I guess that’s like life right? :/

    – Madilyn Quinn @ NovelBrews

    • I guess it is, and thankfully (at least for me) it doesn’t happen very often. The only time I ever planned a death, was in a scene in a prologue. I was taken by surprise because the character would have none of it. I changed my mind in the end, because it fit they would not go down without a fight! Thanks for stopping by 😀

  14. Lucky for you and your love for your character… death isn’t the end! He can return in the next instalment as a guide for your current POV! Problem solved! Don’t you just love it when everything turns out great.

  15. I know I’ve got to kill off a character in my current WIP. I hadn’t intended to do so when I started, but the more I progressed, the more I knew it had to be done. He’s not a POV character though, so it’ll have to be through the eyes of the one who loves him most. I think it’ll be harder to do than killing off a minor character in my last story.

    Best of luck with your scene!

  16. Oh, I do it. I sit there and weep as I write, tissues by my chair, nose all stuffy and eyes swollen. I want happy endings too, but it just can’t happen all the time. I’ve done in some favorites. Even on my eighth draft I’m still bawling. You aren’t alone. 🙂

    • It’s great knowing that. Really, it’s the best feeling 😀 Thanks. I won’t feel like such a wuss when my eyes are swollen and I’m hiccupping through the final scene!

      • Ha ha. One piece of advice: do it when no one else is home. You have to go into those emotions fully and that’s impossible when someone’s around, trying to be sympathetic or thinking you’re weird 🙂

  17. I think it’s great that you recognize how you come through in your writing. I’m a little cynical due to life experiences so I find happy endings rarely happen in my stories. That’s sad really. I wish I leaned more toward your side there. I avoid a lot of conflict in my writing by refusing to write about certain topics. Some are things I’ve experienced and others are things I don’t want to experience- as if writing about them would invite it to happen in my life.

I’d love to hear from you.

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