I’m working on a fantasy story. And I’m at the point in the origin phase where the protagonist needs a crisis to propel him into a new and horrible life. And I’m wavering between some deus ex machina scooping him out of his normal life or a horrible injustice killing off one or more of his family.
And the funny thing is I feel bad about killing off his kin. I mean, they’re good people and they’ve never done anything to me and all things being equal I might need them later. So, I’m vacillating and trying to thread the needle. Can I just kill off his father? But I kind of need him for later. How about his mother? The murder of his mother would be a great catalyst. There’s guilt and rage and despair and hunger for revenge and all sorts of mixed emotions. That could work well. But it feels like a cheap trick.
I could kill off his newlywed sister. It’s going to happen at the wedding reception anyway. But that’s even more conflicted. There’s the bride groom and the other sisters and then the parents won’t be distracted by one of them dying so the protagonist will be dealing with all kinds of messy emotional baggage. Everyone will be whining for a hundred pages and I don’t need that.
I’m planning some kind of mob hit. I’m undecided between a shotgun blast coming out of the reception or a bomb thrown through the window. Either way it’s not ideal. Very messy. Definitely not the beautiful death.
So, as you can see there won’t be any easy way to write this. All kinds of angst and messy follow-on consequences. But let’s face it, murdered family has been a great plot device since Cain killed Abel. I’m already trying to work my way through a father with conflicted feelings about the son whom he loves but who is responsible for the death of his wife. That’s got all kinds of possibilities. As I said I need the father around later and his grudging cooperation in some plot devices would add a nice amount of resistance to some scenes that would otherwise lose all tension.
So, she has to go. But I am grateful for her part up to this point and I will give her a nice close-up scene before the finale. She’ll get to talk to her son and they will share something personal before I finish her off. Then she’ll upstage her oldest daughter’s wedding. What mother could ask for more than that?
So, as you can see, for me the characters in my story take on a life of their own and I have to think carefully before I bring anyone in. The butterfly effect is in full effect and especially when my character has a very long-life span, I have to be careful about cutting off all descendants of present characters because I might need their grandchildren or even great grandchildren at some point.
And finally, this action is meant to cut off his normal life and send him forward into a future where many of his actions are going to appear to him to be pretty evil. To make that happen I’ll need something to disorient his moral compass. The random brutal death of someone who symbolizes normalcy and happiness to him is just about right. Add in a feeling that he is culpable in the death and I think I can work that into a tragic figure. Will Shakespeare, hold my beer.