Grieving the Loss of a Fictional Character
by Joe Torres
Webster’s Dictionary defines grief as “a deep sadness, especially caused by someone’s death,” “a cause of deep sadness,” or “trouble or annoyance.” Notice how there is no mention of the word “real.”
This was an abstract thought I struggled with as I wrote a particularly difficult part of my current WIP (work in progress). I created these characters who meant a lot to me and invested a lot of time in them. I’ve projected my own feelings into them, and now the life of one of them, which meant so much to the other characters in this book, has been snuffed out. Not needlessly, I daresay – it will be the catalyst for other plot developments. Yet I still feel guilty about having done it.
I created what I thought was something beautiful and meaningful, and then in an instant it was over.
To the characters, there is no rhyme or reason for this death, and I doubt some of them will ever find “closure.” There is now nothing but pain in a place where before there was so much joy and happiness. As I wrote the funeral scene, I found myself wiping tears from my eyes as I struggled to craft words that brought such finality to this character’s arc.
I almost found myself wondering how I could bring the character back, or how could I spare the remaining characters the pain they were currently experiencing. It almost challenged my resolve to truly kill the character. I reimagined the story, thinking, “Does this character need to die? Am I just creating a gratuitous storyline?”
These thoughts and questions made it exceedingly difficult to continue working on the story as, much like the characters in the novel, it felt like moving on was now impossible. “Where the heck do I go from here? What am I supposed to do now?”
This writing experience actually reminded me of another time in my life when I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do with my life, so I called my brother, who has faced more adversity in his life than I’m sure even he realizes. And his response that sat with me then also applies now: “What were you planning to do?”
Ah, the answer seems so simple now. I’m going to keep doing what I do every day: I’m going to shower, eat, and watch TV. I’ll continue to live my life, continue to work, and continue writing this story, just as I had planned to do.
I was surprised at how profoundly this character’s death affected me. “It’s a fictional character,” I told myself. And, yes, that helped a little. So did realizing that, in the grand scheme of things, it was a necessary step in the process. For, if not for this event, many other events could not take place. It was an eye opening happenstance, and I’m extremely grateful for the experience.
It’s funny how we don’t realize the power we wield in these little worlds we create. I almost feel now that if everything else I do doesn’t resonate as profoundly, maybe it doesn’t really belong on the page. If it’s not something I feel deep down in my bones, does it honor any potential reader?
So as I continue through this journey of creation, I have a newfound respect for what does and does not deserve to be written down.
Joe Torres writes sci-fi adventure with heart. He is currently working on his first novel, Force of Nature. Joe lives in Gilbert, Ariz., with his wife and either the most amazing child on the planet or a demon from the depths of hell, depending on which side of nap time you find yourself.