License to Kill


KONFESSION: I have plans to kill people. Uh, characters, that is.


I have known from the inception of the Phantom Island series who would be dead by the end of four books… and what the end choices for each character will look like. But I have to admit that the further into the series I write, the closer I get to making that a reality, and the harder it becomes. I do not take life and death lightly – not in the real world and not in my writing. So it’s something I am wrestling with quite a bit lately.

I think every writer would say that they love their characters as if they were real people. (And, well, they kind of are – at least in our minds.) The relationship between writer and character is almost like that of God and His creation. (PLEASE don’t think I’m taking my comparison to God too seriously – I mean that with reverence!) But those characters’ lives are in my hands. I love them. I want to protect them. They make me laugh and cry. They frustrate me to no end at times. I know that I have to challenge my characters. Sometimes I have to take them down difficult paths – even when it’s painful – because I know it’s what’s best for them. I know that they will experience growth and become better people on the other side of their pain.

But, gosh, it’s hard to make them suffer… because when they suffer, so do I.

A couple of years ago, I was reading a very popular book (not going to say which) that had me all tied up in knots. About 2/3 of the way through the book, I put it down and told my husband I needed a break. At the time, I thought I was picking up on some major foreshadows for the ending that I needed to come to terms with before finishing it. When I finally did pick the book back up (after a couple of weeks), I read to the end… and everything I thought the author had prepared me for DID NOT HAPPEN.

But my reaction to that surprised me… because, while I was glad that the bad things I was expecting had been wrong, I was also a little disappointed. I mean, it would have taken a huge amount of courage for the author to do what I thought he/she would do… and I think I felt like the ending was a copout.

Would I have been devastated if my predictions came true? Yes! Would I have thrown the book across the room if I had been right? Yes!

But maybe… just maybe I want to read books that make me throw them across the room in extreme emotion. (Oh, by the way, thank you, Suzanne Collins, for making me do that at the end of Catching Fire…) Maybe, as a reader, I am okay when the author makes tough choices in an effort to keep the story honest and true.

DON’T GET ME WRONG! I love-love-love happy endings – but only when they’re SATISFYING endings… only when they’re the RIGHT ending for that story. (This is also why I tend to avoid unhappy or depressing books… I know they are true-to-life and, well, I just don’t want too much reality in my reading at times.)

I just hope that I have the courage to go through with what I feel should happen in my own series… it was easy to KNOW what SHOULD happen when I plotted out the four books. But here I am over halfway through the second, and I am getting jittery about my choices – I keep wondering if there is some way out of it…

Remember when Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was about to release and J.K. Rowling revealed that a major character would die in it (later discovered to be Sirius Black)? I remember her saying that the day she wrote that scene, she went to her husband and cried. “I did it. I killed him.”

What courage that must have taken… what heartache it must have caused her. I hope (and loathe) to experience that someday – but only when it is the RIGHT thing to do.


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Comments to “License to Kill”


  1. It would hurt me too to kill sirius black… and i really dont want people to die in you books i like the people in your books!!!!


  2. I know exactly what you mean. I'm not good with death in real life, but to write the death scene for one of my characters? That would be so hard. To know that I created this character, that they are my baby, and to know that I wouldn't be able to write with them again is hard.

    But I think that if it takes a good book up another level to a great one, one that the reader will really develop feelings for, it might be a necessity.


  3. Making the choice to kill off a character is huge, especially if it is someone near and dear to the readers. The last Harry Potter book made me bawl at the end, when we all thought the unimaginable had happened, but then it turned in a totally different direction. Writing things like the death of a character i bet is tricky and heartbreaking, but sometimes is necessary. Do what you feel Krissi and dont second guess yourself.


  4. I am crying reading your post…Take courage dear daughter, there are always choices in life and in written characters. Do what is right for the character in making the right choices for this time in their life, who ever it is?


  5. I know exactly what you mean. At the end of the first trilogy I wrote I had to decide whether a character lived or died. Then I realized I had it all wrong. I didn't have to decide that at all, the character did! To make a character act outside of what they normally would is going outside of our scope as writers. That's when it becomes unbelievable and frustrating to readers, as you just showed us with the unnamable book. Of course there can be twists and lessons learned that may make the character act differently by the end of the book. Those considered, I say let the character decide.


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