I am heavy into the writing and revisions of Thou Shalt Not Kilt, and the body count has been impressive. To my surprise, there have been two more suspicious deaths. Turns out, this time I was the killer. Honestly, I didn’t like it one bit.
A pair of secondary characters weren’t falling into place as I had originally envisioned. In an early draft, they were critical support to a surprising twist at the mid-point. A few edits later, they were relegated to wallflower status. They didn’t add to the narrative, they muddled an already impressive cast of suspects, and, frankly, they had to go. As Janice Hardy succinctly states, their services are no longer required.
Murder, I soon found, wasn’t as easy as it had been for my prolific killer. The reason? I actually liked these characters — a lot. Their narrative value was nil, but they each had a life that I now feel has been wasted.
In Janice’s post on eliminating surplus characters, she gives several excellent pointers for drawing a character back into the fold. The challenge, I find, is that murder mysteries — particularly cozies — have a specific structure and process that many readers have come to expect and love. Too many characters can complicate the plot, murk up the investigation and distract the reader. Both characters, despite their value to me, have no place in the current narrative.
So, what to do?
The simple solution is to leave them on mothballs. Elle Cunningham Mackay has several more adventures ahead of her. The majority of these have already been outlined, and they only need a thorough fleshing out. This gives me hope for the characters’ eventual returns.
I’m curious how other novice authors handle the death of a favorite character, a death before they even appeared on the page.