PRP Blog Feb. 2016
Letting Go of a Beloved Character
Writing a series is a pleasure and a pain. When I wrote HARMONICA JOE’S RELUCTANT BRIDE, I had no intention of writing a sequel, much less, an entire series, but that’s exactly what happened. I wrote about the wild young boy, Banjo, who raised himself until he was 16. After he saved Lola Wilding’s wife and began to help Joe on the ranch, Joe’s father, Ben Wilding, saw Banjo’s worth and adopted him. Of course, a bunch of adventures and children have happened since then. Banjo has become a grandfather and so has Joe. Ben has passed on to the other side while Wilding grandchildren have grown into adults. The generations are moving on into the 1950’s.
While I find writing about the Wildings and other people in the fictional town of Hazard, Wyoming is great fun for me, there are some hard things, and some sad things. There are some dilemmas and there are challenges to remember things. What color are the eyes and hair of each of my characters? Who is related to whom? The worst dilemma of all is when is it time to bring about the death of a character that has grown old? I mentioned that Ben had died, saying only that he was buried alongside some of the family’s beloved pets. He is positioned high on a hill above the soothing still waters of a pond. But what about Joe and Lola Wilding? What shall I do when Banjo and Maggie Wilding reach the end of their time?
I never actually wrote that Joe and Lola had passed on. I couldn’t bear to write about that. In The BEAST OF HAZARD, a short story for the Halloween anthology, I had the two of them on a long deserved trip. And then I did not say another word about them. I let them quietly slip from the pages of the Wilding stories.
And then there’s Banjo Wilding, the wise but tough half Lakota who was introduced at the beginning of the series and still remains along with the love of his life and the mother of his three boys, Maggie. The boys have grown into men now. Sam has married and so has Hank. Hank’s story, HOME FOR THE HEART, is waiting for edits at present. I’m currently writing about his twin, Kit in IT’S ONLY MAKE BELIEVE. Of course, Kyle Red Sky who is a cousin of the Wilding clan will get his story, too. But Banjo is a character that has become like my own family. I can’t let him go. I can’t even allow him to fade away. I have no one to take his place, to offer wisdom and comfort. Are the cousins going to have to manage to care for each other on their own now?
I keep a notebook of the Wilding family tree and special notes about each character, their gestures, looks, desires and dreams, I don’t have a notebook that says when it’s time to let go of a beloved character. It’s painful this letting go. For me, the most difficult part of writing a series is letting go of a character and trying to figure out how to let them go. I can’t allow Banjo to just slip away in silence. Banjo is 62 years old in 1956 where I am presently in the Wildings series. He has been in every Wilding story since the very beginning. He even had his very own love story in FOR LOVE OF BANJO, my second Wilding book. I only have one more story in the 1950’s before I begin writing about the next generation of Wildings. I know the time is coming soon when I will have to find a way to say goodbye to Banjo. Honestly, I think it will be the most sorrowful thing I ever write.
Have any of you written a series or read a series where a main character died? What was the most significant part of letting a character go for you? How would you do it? Have you read the death of a main character that meant a great deal to you or left an impression on you that lasted a long time? I’m open to your ideas and suggestions.
Sarah J. McNeal is a multi-published author of several genres including time travel, paranormal, western and historical fiction. She is a retired ER and Critical Care nurse who lives in North Carolina with her four-legged children, Lily, the Golden Retriever and Liberty, the cat. Besides her devotion to writing, she also has a great love of music and plays several instruments including violin, bagpipes, guitar and harmonica. Her books and short stories may be found at Prairie Rose Publications and its imprints Painted Pony Books, and Fire Star Press. Some of her fantasy and paranormal books may also be found at Publishing by Rebecca Vickery and Victory Tales Press. She welcomes you to her website and social media: