Monday, March 16, 2009

The fine art of smiting

This is one of my favorite Far Side cartoons.

It's a bit hard to read, but the caption says "God at His computer" and he's about to press the "Smite" button and make the piano fall down on that unlucky bastard.

Why do I like this cartoon? Because writers are a lot like God at His computer. Characters, many of them perfectly nice people, are diddy-bopping along with their lives when the writer decides to hit the "Smite" button and BAM! Said character is toast.

What a lot of my friends readers don't seem to understand is that I writers don't want to smite characters.* The story makes us do it, I swear! Do you think I want to kill off the  nicest characters? It's not my fault! I blame the Muse!

This topic provoked a debate this last Saturday when I took my Constant Readers Erik and Gerry to the Blue Bayou at Disneyland (I had the mahi mahi - yum!). I held the position that a smiting only counts if the character dies during the course of the narrative. People who die before the story begins (i.e., the character whose murder drives the story in my mystery Undertow) do not count.

Erik and Gerry respectfully disagreed, saying that any character death that was relevant to the story counted, including characters who died before the narrative began or whose deaths happened in flashback. (It took them a while to arrive at this admittedly reasonable position - at one point in the debate they were trying to blame me for the death of Jacob Marley in A Christmas Carol. I suspect they still haven't forgiven me for a couple of the smitings that have been in my books.)

I concede they have a point but now I have to readjust all my smite tallies for my books. Yes I keep smite tallies. In the work-in-progress I'm up to two...SO FAR! MUWAHAHAHA! MINE IS AN EVIL LAUGH!

* Not unless they really deserve it. **
** Or unless it will really vex my friends. Erik and Alyca, I'm looking at you.

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