“Kill the Hero”

Here is this week’s entry for Be Kind ReWrite’s Inspiration Monday, using the prompt kill the hero. Let me know what you think. And to my dedicated readers who are currently undertaking NaNoWriMo, I wish you all the best – keep up the great work!

- Kill the Hero -

     Melalin gnawed anxiously on the end of her pencil as Noah flipped through the pages of her final chapter. He quietly gathered the draft together and tapped it on the desk, humming musingly to himself. Melalin’s nerves overtook her as she blurted, “Well? What did you think?”

     Noah nodded thoughtfully. “It was … good. Very good.”

     “But?” Melalin questioned nervously.

     “Well, it’s just …” Noah sighed and thumbed through the pages, staring at the last paragraph as though he’d already forgotten what he’d read. “Mel, you, uh … You killed Bartholomew.”

     “I know,” she replied softly.

     “But he’s the protagonist.”

     “Yep.”

     “You killed him. You killed the hero of your story.”

     “I did.”

     Noah removed his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose. Exhaling tiredly, he looked up at Melalin and continued, “You can’t do that. You can’t kill the hero.” His words were slow, as though he were speaking to a child. This illusion was strengthened when the young woman folded her arms stubbornly across her chest.

     “And who says I can’t? It’s my book—if I want to kill the hero, who’s going to stop me?”

     “I am,” Noah stressed. “Because that’s my job. Killing off Bartholomew is career suicide. Your readers love him, and they are expecting him to be triumphant. You can’t dash their hopes by murdering him in the last chapter! Why on earth would you want to destroy the hero that you, yourself, created?”

     “You answered that question already,” Melalin sniped. Noah merely quirked an eyebrow. Waving an arm for emphasis, she shouted, “Expected! The readers expect Bartholomew to win! We always expect the hero to win. But how often does the hero die, and the villain triumph above all?”

     Noah frowned, but she would not allow for interruptions. “If I do this, Noah, it will always be remembered, mark my words. Bartholomew is the only thing keeping me back—he needs to be die.”

     “No, Mel,” Noah said softly. “He needs to be saved. And so do you.”

     Melalin scoffed quietly and Noah, sighing, gathered his things. “I can’t tell you what to do, love,” he conceded. “But if you do this—if you kill your own hero—there’s nothing I can do for you. You’ll be breaking the trust of your readers. And once you lose that trust, you can say ‘goodbye’ to your followship.”

     Melalin bit her lip and refused to meet her agent’s eyes. He placed a kind hand on her shoulder. “You’re a good writer, Mel. Don’t throw all that away for a little bit of controversy.”

     The silence that followed Noah’s departure seemed, to Melalin, to be very loud.

     “Oxymoron …” she acknowledged quietly. She gathered up the pages of her final chapter. The details of Bartholomew’s demise—pieces of her very soul—were clenched tightly in her fingers. She couldn’t remember when she had decided to kill her hero. She had simply thought it would be memorable, exciting, unexpected …

     She exhaled deeply with a noise that sounded greatly like a sob, and tore the pages into two jagged halves.

     Then she allowed the tears to flow as she picked up her pencil and saved her hero’s life, feeling all the while like that tiny lead spear was piercing deep into her heart.

     Mightier than the sword.

- Love The Bad Guy

14 thoughts on ““Kill the Hero”

  1. LOVE this.

    It’s easy to do something unexpected–which is a big reason I think readers feel betrayed when authors do things like that. The readers know it’s nothing but a mean-hearted “gotcha.” The real trick is making them think you’re going to kill the hero through the entire book and then saving him at the end.

    • Sometimes it isn’t disappointing, though. Sure, we all like a happy ending for the character whom we’ve all grown to love, but isn’t it nice when there’s a change of pace?

      (In fact, *SPOILERS*, I wish Harry Potter had died at the end of the series. It would have felt more complete to me. And don’t get me started on Voldemort dying! Couldn’t she have let the poor bastard win, just once?!) ;)

  2. I completely agree with your sentiment about Harry Potter not dying. I was really disappointed that he lived. It felt cheap and convenient. It would’ve been so brave of JK to kill him off. (Although, part of my antiPotterness comes from the series’ gradual descent, beginning about halfway through Book 4 and crashing spectacularly with Book 7.)

    Having said that, I see Noah’s point. But he’s still wrong.

    • I would have felt like HP was more complete if Harry had died, but of course, you can’t please everyone – if Rowling had killed her hero, I’m sure there would have been thousands of fans in uproar. But each to their own, right? ;)

      Thanks for commenting!

  3. This book (with Bartholomew as the hero) I’d like to read. There are some good books out there with demised heroes.

    And by the way, Melalin’s such an interesting name.

    Glad to have found your blog,
    Nel

    • Glad to have you, Nel! And I agree – while I would argue that the majority of heroes live happily ever after (or at least live), there are definitely some fantastic alternatives.

      As for the name, I met a girl in my Italian class who is from Thailand, and for the first few weeks I knew her only as “M”. But when I heard her full name, I thought it was so beautiful and unique, it just stuck with me.

      Characters’ names really can come from anywhere!

      Thanks again for stopping by. :)

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