Monday, July 11, 2011

What of Killing/Assassinating a secondary character!

I’m starting this post with a back cover blurb from one of my previous published novels – Deadly Legacy! A snippet from the text is below.

An ex MI6 officer is assassinated, the widow asks questions and his colleagues close ranks, but a living nightmare is about to begin for Cassie Douglas and that of her children. Although struggling to regain sense of normality in her every day life, she cannot and will not give up on discovery of why her husband died a macabre death.

Meanwhile, unbeknown to Cassie, her son’s obsession with computers inadvertently unleashes real-time covert dogs of war, and two CIA agents depart Langley in the US, heading for London. Meanwhile, a man called McKinley has already landed at Heathrow, London, and standing on her doorstep. Although a one-time close friend of her late husband, can she trust this man and finally unravel truth from lies or is he the enemy?    

1) The blurb shows us that Cassie’s husband has been assassinated, but how?
2) We know a living nightmare is about to close around her and her children, and they’re obviously under some kind of threat: but what and whom is the threat?
3) McKinley features big, he has a name already, but who is he? 

We all know the blurb is intended to incite initial interest, and in this case, unanswered questions will hopefully lure a reader of romantic suspense/thrillers to pick up said book and read the first few pages.

The following snippet is taken from page 7 - first chapter, where Jamie has to use Cassie’s car because his was involved in a traffic accident the day before:

Cassie heard the purr of the car’s engine, and guessed Jamie was readjusting the seat, the vehicle still where she’d parked it. She stepped forward in readiness to descend the steps to the pavement below, a girlish flush rising to her cheeks at his remembered words in the hallway. 
      A second chance at happiness was better than divorce, surely, even if from time to time he still disappeared at a minutes notice . . .
       After all, he had sworn – only yesterday – that divorce would never keep them apart for long, even if she filed for one. And if she ran away it would be as good as shooting him in the head.
      Terribly dramatic, utter blackmail too, but highly effective when applied with: ‘What more can I say to convince you that I love you, always have, and always will, Mrs. Douglas’.      
      She once more glanced toward her car. Jamie had reversed it a little and the vehicle now moving out from between parked cars.
      The unthinkable happened.
      An explosive blast rocked the crescent.
      The car doors were blown outward and the vehicle rose into the air.
      Shock waves slammed into parked cars and nearby houses; window frames splintered and hail of glass rained down all around.
      Engulfed in a ball of flames the vehicle fell to earth a mangled heap of metal.      
      ‘No, No,’ she screamed.
      Hell had just risen before her eyes and nothing remotely human able to survive the macabre scene before her, yet here she was alive, virtually untouched by the blast.
      From the moment their eyes met in that brief exchange prior to the explosion she’d made the decision to tell him the answer to his question immediately upon his return. Her preferred terms would have been strongly disputed but adhered to all the same, because no matter how much water had flowed under shaky bridges neither had burned any.
       He’d said the night before: ‘The last thing I want is for either to give up on the other’.
      Not once had he used the children as a weapon in his defence to remain head of the household. He’d also striven to regain her trust, his case put forth, and her decision had remained in the balance. She’d done that partly as punishment for the heartache and tears and long nights spent with only the children for company, and for all the times she’d been left pondering the dangers he must have been facing in far distant places.                           
      Immobilised, numbed, fingers toying with Jamie’s wallet, she voiced, ‘I’ll always love you, and you did guess right.’ 
       As faces appeared at shattered windows and people spilled onto the street, a black pall of smoke billowed ever upward. Every movement around seemed to slide into slow motion; nausea and faintness washed over her.
       In the far distance wailing sirens audible . . .           
      Moments later with blood trickling and tears cascading like red rain down her face she glanced to her left. Several fire officers dashed past her; and she noted a paramedic and a policewoman walking toward her. No hope. 
       Why, why did he have to die like this?

I’m hoping to get this re-published, so any feedback, feel free.

I think killing off secondary characters can work very well, providing how the death happens smacks of reality to story in hand and doesn’t feel as though slotted in just for shock factor impact.

O.K., so I killed off Jamie within first chapter, and I know it shocked readers. But, although Jamie’s dead he remains a prime character throughout the novel, simply because the title says it all. He leaves a Deadly Legacy.

In another romantic suspense, Deadly Waters, I have Debbie, whose fiancé died in a car crash before the novel gets underway, and while finding it hard to let go she feels his presence all around her. But it’s not a ghost story. Yet, she’s lured in to doing the things he’d intended doing, and she purchases a 60’ ocean going yacht with the proceeds from his life insurance payout. In doing so it gets her into deep waters in more ways than one, and without telling you any more she’ll discover the truth behind her fiance’s death, and she finds love en route.

So, are you thinking of killing a secondary character, or have you done so already?       


  1. I haven't killed off a secondary character yet, Francine. But if the story needed me to, I would. In a heartbeat.

  2. Hmmm, in A Heart of Little Faith, Lily's first husband has been dead for several years before the story starts. His memory provides a conflict for her getting romantically involved with Gideon, but ultimately, she realizes he'd want her to be happy.

    In my next book, Skin Deep, the hero's mother dies during the story. It's a necessary plot point because her illness is the catalyst for his reuniting with his family, and her death provides a way to show how he reacts and how his family reacts to him.

    So, yes, I think killing off secondary characters can be essential for the flow of the story.

  3. Great description of the car explosion!

    I've only killed off one character, not a major one and not in a dramatic way but he dies of cancer. I did it for the same reason as Jennifer said, as a necessary plot point because his terminal illness helps the heroine to accept and forgive what he did, which is a huge step forward for her.

  4. Thanks ladies, for the comments!

    I did kill off secondary character in my epic English Civil War novel, but someone had to die in battle or else the book wouldn't have rung true to time of war. ;)


  5. I killed off a MC in my first novel. It was the climax of the plot, and I'm hoping the readers pretty much saw it coming. It had three MC's though, so I could spare one :)

    Sometimes killing secondary characters ups the stakes for reader involvement. As long as it has a purpose; I don't like random killing/mayhem just to add to the tension.

    Even dead characters can be active in the plot progression. I like that he was killed off early, before the reader became too empathetic with him. Lots of great story potential in the reasoning for his death, and how that changes the heroine, and of course, inhibits the opportunity for him to screw up so the new love interest has a hard time competing with a memory.


  6. Hi Donna,

    You are so spot on in your observations, of new love competing with memory. Not only Cassie's, but of McKinley's own memories to do with her husband and his part played in the deceased's covert life.