Thursday, May 9, 2013

When Characters in a Book Die - Coping with Grief

This has been a sad sort of week. Two more souls have gone to sit beside God, and the superstitions/wives' tale that death comes in three is lingering. I lost a niece last week, she was the same age as my daughter, and then a friend from work who has been the epitome of grace through her struggle with cancer. My thoughts and prayers go out to those families as they deal with the loss of their loved ones.

I dealt with death briefly in Mist on the Meadow, letting a likable character die, but he was old and past his time. I'm sure readers expected it. As I write my latest, I also have a dying character in the book, and that is presented up front. Because I like to touch on those "what if" paranormal moments, in this book, the situation is designed for that paranormal moment. A sort of ghostly encounter. But as I write it, and also deal with the recent losses in my own, real, everyday world, it strikes me that with two books in a row where likable characters are dying, I need to make sure the next one is NOT about death and dying. Seems to me that looks a lot like writing Cinda's story (from Living Canvas). She's a spunky, over-the-top, semi-unlikable character, which is why I feel she deserves a chance for readers to understand her.

For my own part, I generally avoid reading Nicholas Sparks novels, because although his stories are moving, touching, poignant, someone always dies, and it's always quite heart wrenching. I like the HEA (Happily Ever After) type. So even when he writes HEA for his characters, it's only after surviving deeply crippling emotions.  Yeah, I don't like to go there. It's like picking at a scab for me.

So I got to thinking (as I'm writing this book) about ways to cope with grief, and I realized I need to add some levity to the situation. Have you ever seen an over the top reaction to grief? Someone that did something so bizarre that you had to laugh, or wanted to laugh but didn't out of respect for their feelings? Everyone has different coping mechanisms, and I know that in my most recent experience with losing someone in my immediate family, some of the responses I saw creeped me out just a little bit, but I understood that for some people, that's how they deal, or don't deal, with the situation.

I'd love to hear your experiences. They just might show up in this latest book! (which, for the record, is very tentatively titled Shoemaker and the Elf Counsel).


  1. I'm so very sorry for all your losses recently. I also believe in "it comes in threes." Unfortunately, for me it has always happened in threes without a two month period anyway. I can go for a year or two and not have a close death in family or friends, then bam! I did have a funny experience when my mother passed. My daughter and I were in town and had taken my father over to the nursing home to collect her things before proceeding out on errands to make funeral arrangements. My mother was 78 and had suffered with Alzheimers and also Parkinson's. Her death was a blessing towards the end, but I still felt her loss deeply. While at the nursing home and struggling with my father's wheel chair in the trunk of my car, I accidentally locked the keys to the car in the trunk with his wheelchair. There is was - 130 miles away from home with no extra key. The minute I slammed the trunk lid down, I dawned on me that my keys were in my purse which I had placed in the trunk so I could struggle with the wheelchair. I started laughing hysterically and my daughter shared in my laughter. Unfortunately, my father didn't see the humorous side to the event like we did. We ended up calling a lock smith out from another small town 40 miles away as the nursing home my mother was at was also in a small town. To this day I have to smile when I think of that. I think my father thought we were being disrespectful to my mother, but it was the timing of the situation - you gotta laugh or cry. We chose laughing.

    And, after the funeral was over and my husband and I were headed home, we experienced a freaky happening. My mother was a bird lover, fed the birds faithfully, and sometimes would interrupt her own meal because she'd notice a feeder empty. After the funeral, we were driving down a city street, came to a stop light and a beautiful blue bird landed on the hood of our car, who was chirping away for all he was worth. My husband and Iooked at each other and made the statement together about how "was that my mother coming back as a bird to say byebye." I'll never forget the experience. No bird ever landed on the hood of our car while driving either before her death or after. Just that one bird!! I like to believe it was her!

    Always look forward to your next book.

    1. What a beautiful story, Mario's mom. I believe you were right about the bird. Those are the types of things that compel me to add that element into my stories. There's more to this world than we know.