Thursday, August 11, 2016

Why Death Means as Much as Life in Great Stories

How many of you remember the scene from Pollyanna, where the fire and brimstone preacher scares the entire congregations by bellowing "Death Comes UNEXPECTEDLY!" (This is a 14 second clip, you'll love it!!!!)

I love that scene. I love how Hayley Mills tries to work that in her mind, how it shows on her face, and how the entire town squirms... and then how a little girl teaches a big man about the joyful passages in the Bible... and changes a town.


Does death really come unexpectedly? Well, yes and no! We all know there's only one way off the planet, so let's acknowledge reality, but we get used to our "normal". And when healthy people, or young people or folks we know encounter sudden death by accident or foul play, we are shocked. So the timing is unexpected... because, like a Common Core math problem, our normal didn't include the variance. But in a book you have to treat death with respect because it is as natural as life... just not as celebrated.

I'm sure you've all been touched by stories where death made you weep... at least I hope you have. And I'd be happy if some of those were mine. (I remember a review for "His Mistletoe Family" and the reviewer said, "THREE PEOPLE HAD TO DIE TRAGICALLY to set up this story, and I still loved it.") I gotta say, I'm proud of that review!

Envision these:

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings "The Yearling."


"Anne's House of Dreams" by Lucy Maud Montgomery


John Green's "The Fault in Our Stars"

Lucy Maude Montgomery's "Anne of Green Gables"

"Bridge to Terabithia" by Katherine Patterson

Wilson Rawls "Where the Red Fern Grows"


And these are two personal favorites on film.... "Christmas in Conway", and amazingly emotional and heartfelt romance of a love that's ending as Mary Louise Parker's character goes into hospice... and a new love begins as Mandy Moore's hospice nurse (ala "Winter's End, Love Inspired, 2010") finds love with the landscape architect working nearby.... Here's a Youtube clip, but you should watch this whole movie for a beautiful image of death done right: "Christmas in Conway" clip

And another favorite of the lingering effects of guilt, morose, sorrow and pain as Ian Bedloe strives to make things right after unthinkable... and unintentional... wrongs in Anne Tyler's "St. Maybe", a novel that was also a Hallmark Hall of Fame.  Here's a clip I love...   Interestingly enough, Mary Louise Parker is in this one, too.... which means she does death well! :)

For those who love enduring stories, most of those book titles are familiar, and one thing they have in common is that death affects the story's outcome at some point. Hero or heroine or both suffer grievous loss, and each one of these stories does a masterful job of taking us on that roller coaster ride of emotions.

Not everyone likes highly emotional story lines. Not everyone wants "reality-based romance" and that's okay! I get that sometimes you just want a sweet, fun read that takes you out of the everyday grind and into something that feels good. Having said that, I rarely remember a "feel good" book. I can't envision the characters, I don't necessarily slump when the last page looms... and I rarely re-read them. When I look at my "keeper" shelves, they are filled with strongly emotional books that make me want to be a better writer.

We're all writers and readers here, we understand that the natural dance of life is intrinsic to good story-telling, but what makes a death scene important?

Everything.

How you handle a death scene is as crucial as your budding romance, your love scenes, kisses, and humor.

Like the entwining romance, your protagonists' ascent toward death doesn't have to be obvious. Remember the old joke about weekday soap operas? How actors knew they were being written out when the screenplay said (Amelia coughs three times)... The actress playing Amelia knew she better start looking for work!

Your death scene may not be obvious for good reason. A sudden death or accident is a steep curve in a story, a sudden stop, banked with inertia. The reader comes to that dead stop with you.

They stare at the page in disbelief.

Their throat goes tight.

Their eyes water. Their hands grip. They may cry, they may get mad... But there has to be a VERY GOOD reason to put them through that!


If the death is important, you've got your work cut out for you. You need to shade everyone's emotions (and not just for a few pages, usually for the rest of the book) through points of view that are clouded with sadness or grief or gravity.

Kids will react differently than adults and differently from each other. Parents' reactions can be disbelief, grief, guilt, anger, and torment.

We've seen the outcome of Luke Skywalker witnessing Obi Wan Kenobi die before him. (And poor Luke took a BEATING here earlier this week, where I just thought he was young... Aren't most young people a little wet behind the ears? I'm declaring this a be nice to Luke Skywalker day in Seekerville!)

Watching his mentor fall to the evil Darth Vader strengthened Luke's resolve to harness The Force. We can see it here in this Youtube clip: Obi Wan confronts Darth Vader

The sacrificial nature of Obi Wan's death is one facet of writing a death scene. Aslan in "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe" dies in Edmund's place, another example of giving one's life for another. Their deaths meant something not just in that moment, but by changing the other character's arcs forever.

That's huge.

Should you weave the natural dance of death into your stories?

Well, that's up to you. But to do it well, you have to nip and tuck each action/reaction sequence to build the reader's emotions along with your characters. There are no short cuts. There can't be. This actually IS life and death, right?

My debut novel has a beautifully constructed death scene when the hero loses his father... and life goes on. Eventually.

Tell me about scenes that have foiled you or scenes that have made you cry... Let's see what it is that wraps our emotions around the arc of a fictional character until their death is akin to saying goodbye to our own.

And I'm in a particularly good mood this week, so I've got a $20 Amazon gift card to give to one delightful commenter!  This is not a good day to lurk, my friends!

Come on in, coffee's on and there's fresh peach pie and homemade vanilla ice cream for an old-fashioned summer fair type feel!

Let's do it. Let's talk gripping emotions.........  together.

Multi-published, bestselling author Ruth Logan Herne is taking a break from sorting veggies and building walkways on her upstate NY farm to chat with her buddies in Seekerville, but she did have to promise not to talk about food or recipes!!! Because this is a writers' blog!!! :) But you can find her over at Yankee Belle Cafe today, too, where she's posting this peach pie recipe again because A. It's peach season and B. There is no time to cook right now... :) But you do get a glimpse of Ruthy's very most absolutely favorite peach pie recipe and that's never a bad thing!!!








132 comments :

  1. I love your books. Please enter me.

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  2. I just recently read a book that tore at my heart by a death. This one sister, Lilly, has temporarily moved to town to care for her sister's three children when she goes missing. All throughout the book you have hope that they will eventually find the sister somewhere. The author builds up all your emotions and makes you anticipate a happily-ever-after, only to dash it by the middle of the book when they discover her sister's body in a shallow grave miles outside of town. Talk about the sudden shock, unbelief, getting mad and the crying all balled into one!!

    I just love it when an author make you FEEL!!!! That means I'm invested in the story completely & whole-heartidly as a reader, and you've done your job as an author! :-)

    Thanks for the gift card chance Ruthy!!! I'll come back in the morning for some of your famous coffee :-)

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  3. This post sort of shocked me into counting up the dead bodies I have created. 8. and a dog.

    Must go repent. Back in the am for coffee an counseling.

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  4. Hi Ruth:

    No art form loved death more than Grand Opera. Mimi in "La Bohème", Violetta in "La Traviata", Cio-Cio-San in "Madame Butterfly", well, pretty much all of Grand Opera. However, in these operas, or most of them, death is a drug used to create the emotional background needed to showcase the real objective: the power and majesty of the music!

    It is often easy to use death to manufacture emotion. In much the same way that giving caffeine to your readers to keep them awake would be extra-writing, death can also produce waterworks by its sheer real life power alone. This is especially true for those who have just lost a loved one or have recently come from a funeral.

    I feel this is the 'if the story gets dull, shoot someone' school of thought. I think in the best writing, the emotional power of a death must come from the well founded story context and not the inherent real world power of death itself.

    As you mentioned, it is very hard to write death in this way; however, I feel it is the only way to do it with integrity.

    Vince

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  5. The book I am reading has a mother of a young adult woman that is about to die. As a reader I was made aware early on and my heart is hurting for these characters. I have about 120 pages left to go and I wish there could be a miracle but this is a historical, the woman has consumption and back in the day, I think everyone pretty much died. The author has done a remarkable job and I am truly loving the book because the author engaged me with her characters from the first page. Because of that, the characters are real to me and I feel their emotions both happy and sad.

    Please toss my name in for the giveaway.

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

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  6. As a reader a beautifully written death can be my undoing. I'll sob with the best of them.

    Count me in thank you.

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  7. Cindy, I love that kind of story. A story that emotionally invests me in the outcome, that makes me wish I could fix it... even though it's fiction and NOT REAL.

    But it feels real and that's huge kudos to the author!

    And I know not everyone is drawn to that kind of book, but there's a reason I have LaVyrle, Deb Smith, Lisa Wingate and Karen White on my keeper shelves... because I am drawn to those in-depth stories. I love 'em. They make me come back for more, and I re-read them.

    Sometimes the depth is caused because they trigger a "button" within the reader... But often times it's totally unrelated except that the heroine mirrors my belief that women need to be stronger, tougher and smarter than most of us give ourselves credit for. I'm drawn to those strong women, even in their struggles. And then I kind of just own their emotions. I love that!!!! Make me laugh, make me cry... Make me think and feel!

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  8. Trixi, yes. That's it exactly, how crossroads come to us and usually at the worst possible time from our perspective. But often it's on God's timing.

    And then the entire direction of the book shifts and everyone has to deal with the hangover emotions and physical reactions and timing.

    It sounds wonderful!

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  9. Tina!

    The Doctor Is In

    I like what Vince said. If we use the death as a catalyst for the stories emotions and actions, it engages the reader.

    Not every reader of course.

    Some will just THROW THE BOOK ACROSS THE ROOM.

    Oops. :)

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  10. Vince, I have never seen an opera with the exception of the scene from "Pretty Woman".

    Dagnabbit, my country roots are showing, but you are absolutely right, my friend! They use death as a launch pad for melodrama.

    I'm not big into melodrama, but I see the benefit of using life's crazy dance to make stories come alive for the reader. That's always my goal, and I remember a note I received after my story "His Beloved Bride" came out in "With This Kiss" historical collection nearly two years ago... A reader said "I'd have never read this if I knew what you were going to do... but when I got there, I couldn't put it down. You made me appreciate life as a pioneer the way no one else has ever done. Brava." (I'm paraphrasing, and possibly making myself FEEL GOOD by embellishing.) :)

    We joke about the "shoot someone" mindset, and in Mary's Wild West books (which I LOVE!) that works to stir things up. The element of suspense throws that door open wide.

    But that doesn't work for most of us! We've got to build things in. Take those baby steps.

    It's a different kind of dramatic tone, but so amazingly rewarding.

    But give me a happy ending, or give me death! (Paraphrasing again... :)

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  11. Mary, I'm with you! You're counted in and happy Thursday to you! Or Friday... :)

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  12. I'm with Mary Preston, a well written death scene, especially if it's a child, will have me reaching for the Kleenex. Your cover for Winter's End is beautiful, Ruthy! The colors are so vivid.

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  13. I always want a happy ending. If somebody's got to die, it better not be the hero or heroine. If so, I'm just mad. But a heartbreaking death scene with another character, will touch me and I tend to keep tissues close by.

    Thanks for sharing today!

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  14. Ruthy, Winter's End put you up high in my estimation as a top-notch writer (and you keep proving it!) You handled that particular passing with such skill, that I've never forgotten it. Sadly...I can deal with a 'character' death much more easily than a character PET's death. I'm still recovering from all those classic literature animals' demise!

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  15. GOOD MORNING RUTHY and gang,
    I was deeply moved by Charlie's death in the Kirkwood Lake series, and how he handled it with dignity and grace. I didn't want him to die, but I loved the way you handled it.
    I do historicals, so of course people die all the time, usually the villain, I'm going to have to work on that. It is part of life. Death, I mean. I have a character in my Christmas novella whose death is inevitable, but I haven't quite got the courage to let her die in the book.
    Other books where death was handled well: Elizabeth, the matriarch, in Karen Kingsbury's Baxter family series and Sylvia the neighbor in LaHaye and Blackstock's series about the women in the cul-d-sac. Both authors made the point that while they didn't want to leave their loved ones, these women were going to be with their Lord. A noted pastor in my denomination used to say, "Death is the gateway to perfect healing."
    RUTHY, many points to ponder in this one. On a spiritual level, we all need to be ready. On a writing level, we need to not be afraid of writing death.
    OFF-TOPIC...
    I am really hurting today. Did not place in a contest I WON last year. I'll get back on the horse, or the computer chair, but it wasn't the best way to start the day.
    HOWEVER...I figured out how to change my profile picture. Wasn't that hard.
    ALSO OFF-TOPIC...Does anybody know what's a decent interval before you contact an editor who asked for a full nearly a year before? Or do you ask at all, or just assume it doesn't meet their needs at this time?
    ALSO OFF-TOPIC...I am in physical pain too, might have cracked a rib. Going to doctor this afternoon. If I'm laid up, it will give me more time for writing. Honestly, we do NOT look at the world like other people.
    Off to work, be back later.
    Kathy Bailey
    Pondering many things in New Hampshire and please enter me in drawing.

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  16. Hi Ruthy,
    This post makes me want to go back and read my copy of Winter's End again. Actually you deal with death in a number of your books, Lena's mother dying in Refuge of the Heart got me, oh yes The Beloved Bride mentioned above, and I'm still not over Dad Campbell dying in the Kirkwood Lake series.

    The emotions tangled with death and dying can make for a strong, memorable story, as you said. You untangle those knots well, proof you've lived through it a number of times. I think experience is the well good writers draw from to elicit those emotions.

    Please throw my name in the peach pie pan for the drawing and I'm headed over to the café for the recipe. I have a half dozen peaches as big as softballs waiting for a pie or a cobbler today.

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  17. Kathy Bailey praying for you to heal quickly and the pain to go away. I'm sorry you didn't place in the contest, Hope you have a great day in spite of all the disappointment and pain.

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  18. Hi Ruthy

    When Beth died in Little Women I vowed never to write in the death of a beloved character. I've pretty much kept that vow, except for my Scotland set historical not yet published. The heroine marries into a household where everyone hates her because she's the wrong bride. Her only friend, except her husband, who's fighting his own battles, is her father-in-law, who's dying. He protects her for 2/3rds of the book, as well as prevent war between the clans. When he dies, she and the hero have to rise to the occasion and battle the enemy. Since I love suspense, I use the old man's approaching death to build suspense to make the reader wonder what will happen when he finally dies. Added to this the old chief is the only character who carries the Christian theme, so you also wonder did he get through to his son and daughter-in-law so they depend on their faith.

    Love your books, Ruthy. They pack in so much emotion.

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  19. Ruthy, I am thankful for this post. I have written some deaths into the books I've written, In one of them it is the villain that dies. I will check to be sure I handled it right.

    Hope everyone has a great day!

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  20. Jill, I agree. And those are the emotions the author seeks to build. If we fall flat, the book falls flat. I think that goes cross-genre, and with every possible style...

    Real emotion should grip the reader whether we're writing fantasy (Star Wars, Harry Potter), romance (Winter's End, Her Unexpected Family), Young Adult (Anne's House of Dreams, Bridge to Terabithia)...

    Showing the effect of one person's life through their death is a strong hook in a storytelling.

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  21. Jackie, I agree! You made me think of Somersby, where the hero ended up being hung for a crime he didn't commit because he was impersonating a dead man, a man he was a "dead-ringer" for... and he wouldn't confess who he was because that would mean his "widow" would be compromised...

    I hated that ending.

    I was so spittin' mad! I wanted something GOOD to happen.

    I understood the sacrifice, but I wanted my happy ending, dagnabbit! You and I think alike!

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  22. Aw, Debra.... you got me all ver klempt. Coming from another author, that's high praise, my friend.

    Well, now I'm grabbing tissues.

    I am humbled. And hugely complimented.

    Thank you.

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  23. Kathy Bailey, thank you for your kind words!!! I love the Kirkwood Lake series, and it hurt to have Charlie leave us!!!! GGGGRRRRRRRRR...........

    But I loved showing how life goes on.... Sigh....

    And:
    1. I'm sorry you're in pain!!!
    2. I'm bummed about the contest final BUT... I'm so glad you entered! Go you!!!! I've had that happen, and so much depends on the judges. (Of course!)
    3. E-mail the editor. Short and sweet and ask the question..... Go for it, Kath!!!

    AND I LOVE THE NEW PROFILE PICTURE!!!!!!!!!!!

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  24. Tracey! YES!!! PEACHES!!!! For my peaches and cream pie! PERFECT!!!

    You know, I've always thought of the dance of life as an ongoing motion. Conception, birth, life, death... I see that ripple in the water and I remember my mother once saying "As long as you and your girls are on the planet, I'll live on..." She saw us as a living part of herself and that tipped my thinking...

    We live on not only through children, but through the results of our actions. The love we give/make... the sharing of heart and soul. The kindness.

    And that's what I personally see whenever I jump in on something. Not what it does for me, but can it make a difference to someone else?

    (That doesn't mean I don't work for money, LOL! I like a paycheck as much as anyone. But I like making people happy, too. I like that about myself.)

    Today peach pie and good friends make me happy!!!

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  25. Elaine, I love, love, love that set-up. And I think we all regret Beth's death!!! Oh, that was a painful episode, but how wonderfully it was handled by the author... the effect it had on so many... and the grueling effects of war.

    What a wonderful story, it should have been on my list. Thank you for reminding us!

    We watched Jo's growth as a result. We saw Marmee's pain. We saw Amy realize she needed to change her thoughts of self-worth.

    And of course, Meg... The strong sail in a storm of life.

    Thank you, Elaine. I'm so glad you're here today!

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  26. Wilani, it's a little different with bad guys... we can have hero's or heroine's remorse that they had to kill someone...

    And we can use it as a life lesson.

    I would handle that one differently from a beloved character because the emotional investment is different. Something to ponder, eh?

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  27. I was just thinking what death scenes have made me cry and The Christmas Shoes movie from the book written by Donna VanLiere has to be at the top. His momma's dying and he wants her to have pretty shoes "when she meets Jesus tonight". I was a hot mess that one tore me up so much.

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  28. I love your mood to give an A card!! YAY I am reading Her Unexpected Family...loving it; your books always make me cry (good tears)!! Keep up the great writing, Ruthy!!!

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  29. As an author I still have yet to incorporate a big tragic death in my books (be patient! I'm still just starting out), but I know I will soon and then...
    I will cry and wish it all undone.

    Well, the first book that comes to mind is the Hunger Games Mockingjay, but they really killed so many people that by the end of the book you've kind of grown callous to it, so I wouldn't count that as them killing people well.

    Another book I can think of was Waking Beauty. The whole book was going along fine, it was funny, humorous, and cute. Then suddenly an entire family is wiped out with one blow, but you keep going because they weren't even all that main of characters anyway. However as you read the last half of your book you keep looking over your shoulder at those deaths still reeling over the fact that people actually died in this book, but of course you aren't expecting any more deaths because the author got it out of her system with that one fell blow. Because you are to busy looking over your shoulder you don't realize what is happening until BAM you turn to the last page and you start crying (uh, only because there was some dust on that last page that got caught in my eyes). Not to worry, this book still has a Happily Ever After ending all the same!

    The last book that comes to mind is the one that most emotionally impacted me. It is called Walk Two Moons, and I read it for school. It's about a girl trying to come to grips about her mother leaving her and her father suddenly, going on a road trip, and dying. She goes on the same road trip with her grandparents following the same path her mother did for closure. She hopes that if she makes it to her mother's final resting place by her mom's birthday that act will bring her back. Along the way...*snifle* no I can't do it. That book made me weep! There was no dust on those pages (unless I was having a severe allergic reaction) that I could contribute the amount of tears. They poured down my face. And then later I was talking about the book to my sister who had read it before me and suddenly we were both weeping just remembering it!

    Now I have to go figure out how to incorporate deaths in my books so I can break people's hearts (mine included). Please enter my name in the drawing.

    Oh, and Tina, you killed a dog?!!!! No. Just no. That is not done.

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  30. RUTHY, thanks for the thought provoking post! I agree that a character's death in a story adds meaning and powerful emotion. In many of my books, the deaths of spouses and parents have had a huge impact on my characters. The only book where I wrote a dying character was The Bride Wore Spurs, a marriage of convenience story, with the heroine Hannah's father's terminal diagnosis and death. That reality impacted the hero and heroine through the entire book. The death scene made me cry every time I read/revised it, as it zipped me back to my own father's death and the emotions I went through. So for me that scene was emotional and I hope it was for readers. I was advised to have the father survive until the book's end, but I knew that wouldn't ring true in a book where decisions hinged on the father's impending death and the grief after his death brought healing to Hannah and Matt's marriage.

    The sudden death that upset me--not in a good way--was Matthew's death in Downton Abby. Though I loved the show and got over his death, it felt contrived just to release the actor from the show.

    Janet

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  31. TINA, I thought killing animals was off limits in LIs. You're brave. But then I knew that.

    Janet

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  32. KATHY B, sorry about your manuscript not finaling in that contest, your painful ribs, and that delay on hearing back from a manuscript. Hope the doctor can help you get relief. Take Ruthy's advice and email the editor. Manuscripts can get lost.

    Janet

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  33. Julie isn't here yet so I'll jump in and say Melanie's death in GWTW had a huge impact on Scarlet and finally brought clarity to her thinking. Sadly too late, but I never gave up the notion that Scarlet and Rhett would get their HEA. Another author made that happen in Scarlet.

    Janet

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  34. Love this post, Ruthy! I agree--the books that land on my keeper shelf are always rife with emotion. If a book doesn't make me feel something--if I'm not emotionally connected to the characters--it becomes quite forgettable.

    I think that's why I rarely watch TV sitcoms. I prefer dramas with characters and situations I can relate to on an emotional level. Even in light romantic comedies like the Hallmark movies, there's often a deeper emotional thread lying beneath the humor, and that's what I connect with.

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  35. Oh yes--Little Women--one of my all-time favorites!

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  36. Hi Ruth:

    Are we odd New York birds, or what?
    I write you at 3:22 am and you write back at 5:04 am!

    Talk about sad: Friday is A-Rod's last day. I hope you can attend. He only needed four more round-trippers to made 700! So sad.

    You go to NYC often and have not been to an opera at the Met! Put that on your bucket list. But see a Puccini opera first. I like Puccini more than opera in general.

    Opera is a spectacle. The more country your roots, the more spectacular the event will appear! And see the best there is first! You have the Met!

    My first opera was at La Scala in Milan and was Madame Butterfly. It was so spectacular, and cost so much money to produce, it required large Italian government subsidies to stage.

    Just before the overture began, in walks Gina Lollobrigida to take her third row, center, orchestra seat. She was wearing a form-fitting white dress, that would put even the most expensive wedding dress to shame. The full house went dead silent until 'the queen' took her seat.

    After that night opera became an attainable dream. What the Greeks did for the human form, Grand Opera did for the human spirit.

    See a Puccini opera soon at the Met. Your only regret will be waiting so long to see your first one!

    (Be sure to record your emotions afterwards. I'm sure there is a homespun heroine in your future who is scared to death when the 'unobtainable' man of her dreams, asks her, at the last minute, to fill-in as his date to the Met for an opera. Lots of romance fans would love to attend the Met vicariously. Put the scene in a story and write the whole trip off!)

    Vince

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  37. Ruthy, I remember the hero's dad dying in Winter's End, but not the death. I must've blocked it out. LOL.

    Death is something must all deal with and is definitely an emotional thing that we must deal with at sometime.

    My dad died in May after a long battle w/Parkinson's. My mom (married 59 years) seems to having a more difficult time now than she did right after his death. Her health is not the greatest either. All 5 of us kids leave w/in 10 minutes from their house, but each one handles his death/sickness a little different.

    Great topic.

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  38. Great post, RUTHY! I've only killed off one character so far, and I handled it as honestly - emotionally speaking - as I could, but you've given me much to think about.

    VINCE said: "I think in the best writing, the emotional power of a death must come from the well founded story context and not the inherent real world power of death itself." I agree!!

    I won't name the book here (don't want to ruin the plot for others) but I will say that I was so upset about a character's death once that I wanted to contact the author personally and say, "Why? Seriously, just tell me why. Couldn't you have come up with some last minute miracle? I mean, you're a writer for pity's sake! You can do anything! Here, let me help." LOL. I took that death hard. Normally when I don't like a book, or the ending, I just think 'oh well' and go on to the next one. But not that time. Btw, I'm over it now...as you can clearly see.

    KAYBEE said: "If I'm laid up, it will give me more time for writing. Honestly, we do NOT look at the world like other people." So true, KAYBEE! Hope you feel better soon. Love your new picture.

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  39. Tina killed a dog. *shakes head*

    I love your perspective, Ruthy, and I've learned a lot about including all aspects of life in our stories from you and the other Seekers.

    "Nice" stories are okay, but when I read, I want to feel the emotions of the characters. And that means they need to have something to be emotional about. So birth, death, conquering fears, losing the big race....they're all part of life.

    And those things that happen strengthen our characters so that the reader invests in them even more.

    At least, that's the goal. :)

    I'm almost finished with "Her Unexpected Family," and I love the Grace Haven series. When is the next one due to come out?

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  40. OH, my goodness. So much to think about in your post today, Ruthy. I have to say...I'm a "feel good" kind of gal. Now, that doesn't mean everything should always be happy, happy, happy because without conflict, there's no growth, stakes, story, etc. and that leads to yawnville. I love your points about death scenes and how those situations can open our eyes and hearts to a deeper message and a new journey rife with potential.

    I've never written a death scene, though there are characters in my stories who've lost loved ones. And in a story I'm currently working on, there's the death of a dream (infertility) and a death of a relationship. I love this real-life analogy-- when we see one dream die, God often resurrects a bigger, better version of our piddly, earthly picture of "perfect."

    And absolutely, some of my fave books are those that take me on a deep emotional journey and leave life-long impressions. Those are the ones that grace my keeper shelves---the one I want to read again and again.

    I will add, there are some exceptions. Balance is key. Too much upheaval and tension (with no end in sight) on page after page after page ruins it for me. If I want that, all I have to do is turn on politics...Oops. I mean the "news." ;)

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  41. What a topic! Last night, I played around with my protagonist standing at her father's funeral. I think it was therapeutic for me since I lost my father last Halloween. I wanted to explore those emotions that lurk just below the surface. I appear to have moved on on the outside, but inside, I'm still the little girl who misses her Daddy. I want my character to show those emotions. I'm going to keep working on this. I think it is good for me. Thanks, Ruth!

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  42. I think people fall into one of two camps when it comes to death in fiction: they embrace it or they avoid it like the plague.

    I love a book with an emotional storyline, but please, give me HOPE. I've read beautifully written books that were devoid of hope. Talk about bleak! That tends to be the case with some secular books which is why I prefer my heavier storylines to come from Christian fiction since there is no hope apart from Christ.

    A death doesn't have to occur in the story to have impact, either. It can occur before we meet the protagonist. We then take the journey with her as we see her deal with the aftermath. You captured that well in Try, Try Again, Ruthy.

    As normal as death is, it's incredibly difficult to write it. It's central to the current book I'm writing so here's hoping I get it right!

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  43. Hi Ruth:

    I just posted my first ever Goodreads review. "Back in the Saddle". I was not going to get into "Goodreads" as every time I've gone there it was too hard to follow. It just appears to be a disorganized mess. But a very nice author asked me to post a review there so I decided to try one more time.

    The first book that came to mind to be my first was "Back in the Saddle". You might check and see if it is really up there. On Amazon the reviewer can see reviews that actually are not up yet for everyone else.

    What do Seekers think: Are reviews on Goodreads worth the effort? All I know about Goodreads is that it exists.

    Vince

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  44. Ruthy, great post, interesting topic! Death is a given in most suspense stories. Often it opens the story and forces the hero/heroine into the adventure, that Call to Action that Christopher Vogel talks about in The Hero's Journey. I like to include near-death situations after the climax when a character's life is hanging in the balance. The love interest is forced to uncover his/her feelings, the depth of his despair, the need to forgive, the willingness to see the past...or the future in a new light. Of course, those critically ill heroes and heroines pull through, and the stories always end with a happily ever after.

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  45. A few days ago, I mentioned the book that was my book club's selection, ROOM, in a comment, and said it was so dark that I didn't think I could read it. Well, I HAD put the book aside, but I HAD to pick it up again. It's an amazing read about a woman held captive for 7 years along with her 5 year old son. Fiction but loosely based on some of the true crime we've read about in the newspapers. Interestingly, the story is told from the child's POV. I haven't been so emotionally involved in a story for a long time. I finished it yesterday, but it's still with me. In fact, I want to reread the book to study how the author created such intensity. The threat of death was very much a part of the book.

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  46. By the way, for those of you who are worried about the dog, here is a webpage to help you screen your movies.

    Does the Dog Die?

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  47. Debby! That's the book you were talking about. I can never read that. It's like The Lovely Bones. AACCK. Running very fast.

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  48. Room was a movie and the actress won an Academy Award. Brie Larson.



    Room

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  49. Very timely post for me, Ruthy! I was just thinking about having an old lady character in my story die but I hated to do it. Now I'll consider it carefully.

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  50. This is tough a topic. I see the value of death I know when I pick up a Nicholas Spark's book death could be lurking, but sometimes I don't like that wrung out feeling. I can see how this can make you a better writer. Always love your posts makes me think, Thanks!

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  51. Tina Radcliffe I couldn't read Lovely Bones either!!!!

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  52. KELLY

    I'm sorry for your loss. I'm still that teenaged girl who longs for her daddy. It never fully goes away, you just get used to it.

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  53. Great post, Ruthy. In the book I'm writing I am killing off a grandmother in a tornado. I have to say that it bothered me when I first started plotting the book but I made it easier for myself by having her be terminally ill anyway! She is ready to die and her death is important to the development of the story line of her granddaughter who has been taking care of her.

    Please enter me for the gift card!

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  54. Ruthy
    I love all your books. Most of the time I end up crying for some reason or another, but it is always a cathartic cry for me. It feels like after I'm done with one of your books and I've had my cry (cuz you pull the heart strings so well... at least mine anyway), somewhere, somehow a little bit of healing has taken place. Dunno... just how I feel.

    Where the Red Fern Grows was my first real heart-stopper deal with death story that stuck with me. Of course I was sad over Beth's death in Little Women, but she was such a good girl (soooooooooo NOT me) that it didn't affect me quite as much - maybe because I thought she was such an angel that heaven needed her more.

    Ah well. My first MS has a death, but I'm not really counting it since I was going for suspense and in suspense, more often than not, SOMEone's gotta die.

    Gotta go. Work calls and I've used up my limited 'net time... *sigh*

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  55. I don't want to spoil it for anyone who hasn't read it yet, so I'll have to be pretty generic here, but Lori Benton really made the perfect death* in A Flight of Arrows, which, being the sequel to the incredibly emotional The Wood's Edge, really ramped up the impact. It was stunning. Oh-so-hard to read after the investment in those characters, but stunning. I cried buckets reading both.

    *"perfect death" sounds a bit wrong, but it's the only way I can describe just how well it was woven into the story and how right it was

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  56. Oh My Gosh, Karen Kingsbury's Red Gloves Series. I can't remember which book it was, an elderly lady dying in a nursing home and sharing her faith with a very disheartened young nurse.
    I JUST CRIED MY HEAD OFF.
    It was just so beautiful.

    sniffle

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  57. Thank you, JANET. I think I will take RUTHY'S advice, I usually do. Going to the doctor this afternoon for the possible broken rib, and then home in the evening, will do some editing from the couch and maybe start my new book, "His Unexpected Family." Does anybody know who wrote that?
    Thanks for the encouragement, I know it was only one contest and I'm going to look at the scores and see what's what. Maybe this piece isn't ready for public consumption.
    Would love some peach pie. THAT'S ready for public consumption.
    KB

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  58. Thank you WILANI for your sweet wishes.
    I'm going to take tonight off. I have virtual peach pie, real chocolate ice cream, a Ruthy book and the remote. Also I can edit from my bed of pain if I print some things out and find the red pen.
    KB

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  59. Does peach pie go with chocolate ice cream?
    It does now.
    KB

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  60. KATHY B, your plan to build a nest and put in it whatever will help take your focus off the pain is brilliant.

    Chocolate goes with everything. :-)

    Janet

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  61. Fresh summer peach pie is my favorite! Definitely gobbling up my share, Ruth. As far as death goes, the scenes the show how the death has affected those who are left behind is what holds my attention. Why is their death so important to them? Death is so much more than just the loss of a person. It is the loss of a memory, the loss for reconciliation, chances to make new memories, maybe even the loss of Grandma's state fair winning peach pie that she always made when you were upset. ;-) Seeing how characters react to death and grow from it are what I look for when death is involved in a story.

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  62. I love books that grip my emotions like you wrote about in your blog, Ruthy! Yes, death is part of life and it doesn't bother me one bit if a death scene is in a book! I've read a couple books recently where death didn't actually happen in the book but what happened in the aftermath. However, the death scenes in a book are very emotional and I don't shy away from reading a book that have them! I love emotional books! Thanks for the great post!

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  63. I just had a delightful visit with my sis-in-law whom I haven't seen in years... And she looks marvelous! It was so fun to get together!

    Okay... TRACEY.... I can't hear the song "The Christmas Shoes" without crying.

    #sap

    #bigsap

    #biggestsapever

    LOVE IT!!!

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  64. Jackie Smith, isn't that such a delightful story? I LOVE THAT STORY! I love Grant, I love Emily, I love the backstory... and I was so happy with how the storyline developed, I really felt like both characters grew way beyond the people they'd been... and that was the goal!

    AND THOSE TWINS! Dolly and Timmy, oh mylanta.

    Be still my heart!

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  65. Nicky, those are great examples! I agree with Hunger Games, the volume of violence and death hardened the reader... Kind of like us when we watch too many news shows!

    You've got a great way of envisioning the strengths and weaknesses of a plot. A true writer's heart!

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  66. Janet, I totally agree that the timing of the death needs to be organic to the plot and the characters and sometimes the season... And so much of that depends on the time (in historicals, it's a whole different thing!) and where we start the book because if you change the death scene/time, you might have to readjust the entire timeline of the story.

    Ouch!!!

    Matthew Crawley. Downton.

    SNIFF....

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  67. I've had animals die in a few stories. They get old, too!

    But it's less common in romances, isn't it?

    But I've also saved a bunch of animals from the snares of death so I maybe should get an award for that.

    Yes, I believe I should.

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  68. Myra, it doesn't surprise me that we're alike on this! I can brush off a lot of books/tv/movies, but when something grabs hold of my rusty old heartstrings, I am all in!!!

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  69. VINCE....

    I might do it. I love going to NYC and I could use some old world culture to offset my bumpkin roots.

    And you do make it sound divine. AND Julia Roberts was totally captivated by it in "Pretty Woman", so it must be good.

    Adding to bucket list!

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  70. Connie, Pete DeHollander's death was a really well done scene... I'm not saying that to brag, but because I wanted every moment of those precious minutes to be heart-stirringly painful, edged with hope.

    I love that story. I love the conflict and the beauty and the timing...

    But I love that you BLOCKED HIS DEATH, LOL!!! Laughing!

    In all seriousness, I'm so sorry about the loss of your father. Such a tough disease, honey. And Mom's reaction is wretchedly normal. As the time moves on, the empty days can seem to loom ahead, endless and open. And that's one of the problems because our "normal" is ingrained in us. To have it suddenly be the "abnormal" is gut-wrenching.

    Praying for Mom's peace of mind and all of yours!

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  71. Vince, also... A-Rod....

    Watching Alex and Derek over the years, it's been like the old "Goofus and Gallant" cartoons in Highlights magazine. Do you remember those?

    Gallant always strove to do the right thing. To be clean and upright.

    Goofus was always putting himself and his desires first.

    I saw Alex and Derek just like that. Derek wasn't perfect, none of us are. But he played the game right. He strove. He led by example. He worked hard every day.

    For a sports icon, he did it as right as you can, I think.

    I'll miss the man Alex seemed to want to be. Remember when he elbowed Soros's demands aside and went for the Yankee contract?

    Of course three years later he was suing them when he got mad.

    It's been like watching an over-anxious fourteen year old in a man's body. Never quite serious or mature enough to get serious.

    And now it's over.

    My hope for Alex is that he makes a difference in young players' lives. He can, if he wants to.

    But I'm not sure he has the maturity to really just jump in, both feet, and do it.

    What do you think?

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  72. Laura, laughing because yes, that's true, we don't look at the world the way others do! I think they're the weird ones!

    And that death stuff'll get you!

    I can just see how well you've recovered from that death scene...

    Yup.

    Me and Stinkin' Somersby.

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  73. Jan, yes! That is the goal, to bring that reader along as if they're there with us.

    And thank you for reading "Her Unexpected Family"!!! Grant gave me a little agita now and again, but I smacked him around Just Enough to Fix Him. :)

    The next one comes out next May... we had to move it so it wouldn't conflict with "Peace in the Valley" in March, so Trey's story comes out in March... and then Rory's story in May.

    And I'm not sure what else will be happening then, but whatever it is... I'm ready for it!

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  74. Cynthia! LAUGHING! Yes, politics has taken over the airwaves, leaving me more time to write!

    GO US!!!!

    I remember when an editor contacted me after seeing the opening to Winter's End in a contest... and she said, "I love your writing, and your style, and I love the idea of this story. Can you do it? Can you pull me into a hospice situation and make me cheer? I don't know if you can, but I'm very excited to see you try."

    She wasn't the editor that ended up with "Winter's End", but it was lovely to have that nod of approval... and then the call two weeks later from Melissa at Love Inspired.

    SUHWEEEET!

    So the death scene and setting didn't put them off. And that meant so much to me!

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  75. I still remember the tears from reading "Bridge to Terabithia" as a little girl. That story never leaves a person once you've read it.

    I hope I don't tackle death until at least my 4th or 5th book. Such deep emotions. Right now, I'd rather write happy & hope against a dark navy background. Hope shines Brightest in the darkness!!! Just don't want to go all the way to black yet.

    You & all other Seekerville-ites who write death are Courageous & Gutsy! WTGo!!!

    *please enter me in the drawing! That's so generous of you! $20 buys a lot of bks!

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  76. All this talk of death and dying has me nervous for dad Gallagher!

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  77. Okay, Ruthy, I got up before the sun did because I had Cowboy Christmas edits (the final galley), which I knew they needed back quickly, then spent three hours on a very important phone call (I despise the phone!!)and am just now getting ready to tackle major edits on my Indie, on which I also have a pretty tight deadline. So not too many bright spots in my day yet, which is why I was SO looking forward to your post on Seekerville today because you are a true cheerleader.

    But death??? Gulp.

    Okay, I'll bite, and of course Janet beat me to the punch with Melanie in Gone With the Wind, which I think was done very well. One death I thought was NOT done well AT ALL and pretty much ticked me off was the TV show, Person of Interest, which Keith and I have really gotten into lately. One of our favorite characters (and one of the strongest on the show) got whacked, just like that. No fanfare, no lead-on, no nothing. Just total depression and disbelief. I know this is a TV show and not a novel, but I thank you for letting me vent my grief.

    I pretty much stayed away from death in my books because I don't think I would do it well. I did have a major character die in A Passion Most Pure, so hopefully that wrung a few tears from some readers' eyes before I pulled the rug out. And even in my latest novel, Isle of Hope, I have a pending death scenario going on that I completely skip over in book 2 because frankly, I'm no Ruthy. You are grittier and more real life than me (I like to call it "slice of life" vs. my preference of "Calgon, take me away"). So I think I will just leave the death scenes/plots to the professionals and focus more on the romance. ;)

    Hugs,
    Julie

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  78. Interestingly, I didn't realize I had written death in so much of my writing. Two of the four I've written have death of one of the characters and two others have death of an animal(hard for me to write as we just had to put down a beloved pet recently).

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  79. Great post. I love the clips. I haven't seen some of the movies or read the books you talked about. My favorite movie was Beaches. And for books Kirsten Hannah's Firefly Lane. Talk about emotional.
    I have written an emotional death scene, my first book Love Comes Home. It was tough. Most of my books now have bad guys dying. Not so emotional.

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  80. Oops. I spelled Kristen's name wrong. Typing too fast.

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  81. Hi ,Ruthy Yep, death is inevitable and don't I feel it now that I'm getting older. When friends start dying it hurts. Not that we expect them to live forever, but because we miss them.

    My current wip revolves around a death in the past, so I guess that counts. We don't actually see or experience the death, just the consequences.

    I've always felt the emotion in your books from a death. Keep on writing those great stories.

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  82. Tina I'm laughing at your death count. I guess I should go count also. I have a dog that dies also. Good grief. LOL

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  83. Lots of good comments here. This post makes me want to go back to my unpublished great works of art and review how I've treated the way death affects the characters. Good job, Ruthy. Also wanted to say, Janet, good example of Melanie's death affecting Scarlett in GWTW. It changed her. But I have to say the death of Matthew in Downton Abbey didn't disappoint me because of the way Mary had to decide to be a parent without Matthew beside her. Mary was always strong because she wanted to be. She found out that we do sometimes have to be strong whether we want to or not.

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  84. Ruthy Do you remember the coffee mug you gave me? It says on the mug ""I kill off my enemies in my book. You're on page 12!" It was made up by Lake Country Romance Writers. I get more laughs from my friends.

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  85. DOMINO, you're right. Matthew's death proved Mary was a strong woman. His death was a cliffhanger as it ended the season. We can learn a lot about writing by watching TV.

    Janet

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  86. TERRI, the death of a bad guy is emotional, if you count glee as an emotion. :-)

    Janet

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  87. Ruthy, your post gives me plenty to think about.

    When I start a story, I don't intend to write about death, but my writing seems to have someone's death in the background. I've recently reflected on why I write that way. Generally, I think I'm a well-adjusted, contented person. Like all of us, death has touched me through family and friends. Those cherished ones I've lost are safe in the arms of God.

    I want my writing to express an element of hope in each situation, so maybe that is the message. Readers found my published short story emotional and told me they understood the hopefulness at the end, so that was encouraging.

    I do want my stories to sparkle with happy light, so I'll keep searching for the right balance...the way to take the reader through the grief, but then into the light of hope. That is Christian fiction...and Christian reality.

    Thank you for putting the emotional stories in perspective and giving me a goal strive for! Now I'll have some of that peach pie...with a double serving of homemade ice cream! Thanks, Ruthy!

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  88. SANDRA, your mug is hilarious!!! Sounds like Ruthy!

    I'm thinking about shortening my name to Jan. I can't seem to type Janet without messing it up.

    Janet

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  89. Hi Ruth:

    I expect a new A-Rod because it is now in his own best interest to be so. He has nothing to gain by being a bad boy. He now seems very parental towards his two daughters. His money now will come from speaking and endorsements. To have any future in that he will need as good a rep as he can generate. He seems articulate enough to do broadcasting.

    More importantly, he is now old enough to know what is really in his best interest. We'll see.

    Vince

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  90. Ruthy, I was just at Walmart at the mag rack, and a lady was seeking "christian" books to buy. Many don't know that LI books are faith based so I pointed out their low supply to her. I definitely talked her into buying Her Unexpected Family...they only had 6 authors represented. Before I left, I placed those 6 in an area so they would "stand out"....lol Such a shame the stores are not carrying more faith based books!

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  91. Hi Ruth:

    What do you think of those stories where death is the point?

    Without the heroine's dramatic death would, "Love Story," have much meaning?

    Without the suicide in Goethe's, "The Sorrows of Young Werther," would the story make any sesne as literature?

    Without the death in Dumas's, "La Dame aux Camélias," would there even be a story to tell?

    Without the death in, "The Great Gatsby", would the story be more than ordinary?

    There seems to be a difference when death is the story -- when death gives meaning to the story rather than the story giving meaning to the death. I've never thought about this before so I'm not sure how it would pan out on further thought. What do you think?

    Vince

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  92. Kelly Bridgewater, that is exactly, positively what I think we need to do!

    Subtle and not-so-subtle moments that bring it all back to the forefront of our minds, that little girl hovering at the edge of the grave, the cemetery, the little girl missing her daddy.

    Then what I like to do is bring that emotion alive in current time, through a child's eyes or a circumstance reflecting that emotion but in living, breathing time. That helps to show the gratitude for life as it's lived... And I wish we all thought more about that.

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  93. Vince, thank you!!! And huge thanks for posting on Goodreads.

    You know some of the gals here are amazing on Goodreads... Tracey, Sherida, Trixi (I don't mean to miss people) but I'm totally inept, Vince. I can go over there and see my reviews, but
    that's it. My e-mail got messed up somehow and they've never been able to fix it, so it's a mess. I've tried twice to get it cleared up, but then I get a notice saying "Prove You're Ruth Logan Herne by answering the e-mail we sent you..."

    Only there's never an e-mail.

    I'm INEPT, Vince, but I can go and read the review and THANK YOU!!!

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  94. Josee! You read Try, Try Again??? I love that story. I came up with that story when I heard TransSiberian Orchestra's "The Lost Christmas Eve" and I could see that man wandering the streets of NY, so rich, so comfortable, so very lonely... and how he'd messed up years ago and can't figure out how to fix it... It grabbed my heart and I sat down and started that story... and then... I saw a country music video about a homeless guy who saved a man contemplating suicide... and the two meshed together in my frenetic brain and then... Try, Try Again was born.

    And I love it. That was a great one to bring up, the loss of their son was catastrophic in so many ways.... but God showed the way home.

    LOVE.....

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  95. Loved this post, Ruthy! And I love your books!

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  96. Now you've done it, Ruthy - I'm dying to re-watch all my fave movies with the dying scenes: Terms of Endearment, The Notebook, Love Story, Steel Magnolias, Gone With The Wind, Beaches, The Christmas Shoes. I also loved Where the Red Fern Grows and Christmas in Conway. Pollyanna is one of my very all-time fave movies, I can mentally picture her expressions now and I formed an ever-lasting love for prisms from the movie also.

    I'm one of those people who thrive on highly emotional story lines and reality-based romance - I love to read books that bring on the tears, whether containing death scenes or not. Your books have done that for me numerous times - I've loved each one I've read!!

    The peach pie looks so delicious, Julie must have missed seeing it, LOL!!

    Please enter my name in the drawing - thank you so much!!

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  97. Deb, that's a riveting idea, to see a long-term hostage situation through the eyes of a child.
    I'd feel bad about putting the child through that fictionally. I'm such a pushover for cute kids.

    But I love the idea behind it, how intense it would be.

    Death is so vital in a suspense or a thriller, and doing it well is an art form, isn't it? And Deb you do it beautifully!

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  98. Cara, I use the natural dance of life and death all the time. I really think babies and passing add a depth to a story that isn't accomplished in other ways.

    The longing for life...

    And the acceptance of loss...

    And the courage to move ahead.

    We've lost small people and old... husbands and wives. And I honestly think that's why folks come back, because it's real.

    With a happy ending. :)

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  99. Jeri, what a nice thing to say! My children say the same thing.

    Hahahahahahahahahaha!!!!!!! :)

    It's a great thing to examine, isn't it? Because we can't ignore a huge contingent of life which results in death and be true to the storytelling.

    But doing it well is clutch to getting the GOOD reaction from the reader and not the thrown across the room reaction.

    #tryingtoavoidthat

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  100. Sandy Smith! Storms happen!!!

    Honestly, I think I'd make her not sick when she's taken by the storm. That sounds a little convenient and steals the punch. (now don't be hating me for saying that because I know you're being so brave to say this out loud!!!). Here's my reasoning...

    The reader is already sympathetic to the illness and expecting death. So the horror of losing someone in a storm then becomes almost anti-climactic. I'd probably keep her absolutely healthy and make her death sacrificial, instead... she's trying to save someone, she's hunting for Dorothy to bring her into the storm cellar, etc.

    Something to make it a huge punch in the gut, because maybe the little girl was safe the whole time and no one called grandma to tell her.

    HUGE DARK MOMENT.

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  101. Harkness, I love chatting with you over here or anywhere!

    Yes, that suspense stuff requires death. Like MURDER. I can't do that well personally, it makes me hate myself, but I can use family tragedy, loss, dysfunction because then I don't feel like it's my fault! Isn't that a riot????

    You keep thinking and planning and writing... and this will all come together for a very talented and lovely writer!

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  102. Rachel, I totally believe you! And Lori's such a talented author, amazing! And again, the stark living conditions of the time didn't lend themselves to OLD AGE.

    So death happened as witnessed in every historic cemetery in our country.

    Risk. Conflict. Death.

    Oy.

    Great recommendation!

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  103. Mary, I hadn't read that. It sounds lovely.

    Wait.

    You cried???

    I have to go back and read that again because you and me are the INSENSITIVE Seekers. :)

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  104. Kathy, I love that you're taking my advice. :)

    But be careful, darling, I am often wrong!!!!!

    Praying for your comfort and healing, my friend.

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  105. Crystal. What a beautiful summation. Perfect. I've got nothing more.

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  106. Valri!!! Waving to you, sweet thing!

    I'm not surprised to hear you say that because you always see the emotions of a book as a big plus. So this is right up that alley....

    I love those deep emotions, too...

    And my friend Catherine just showed me a book I must buy for each of my kids: "Angel in the Waters" about the angel watching over our babies in the womb... guiding them... whispering to them... comforting them....

    Oh, I get all wet-eyed just thinking about this sweet book! Angel in the Waters

    Amazing and touching and so beautifully done!

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  107. Dr. Vanderslice, how are you feeling??? I've been praying for you my pretty and sweet friend!

    You should be quietly healing while God arranges a full recovery for his handmaiden.

    Sending you Ruthy hugs, hugs of Ferocious Faith!!!

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  108. Julie, you do such a lovely job with romance!

    I do love the grittier emotions, the rising from the ashes, the new chances that God gives, but sometimes those become more visible when grief reigns.

    Although I know lots of authors who shy away from it, so you're not alone, my friend. And I can just see your face when you encountered my DEATH POST!!!! :)

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  109. Linda, your courage becomes you!

    Life comes with angst and tragedy and tough times. Remember Wesley in "The Princess Bride"???

    "Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says otherwise is selling something."

    :)

    But I love seeing that pain build character, don't you???

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  110. Terri Reed, I'm so glad you stopped by!!!! Thanks for dropping in!

    Okay, those are two great examples.

    Beaches.

    Now I'm going to be singing "You are the Wind Beneath My Wings" all night!

    Love that song, and the movie. Barbara Hershey (before she was the evil wicked queen on "Once Upon a Time"... and Bette Midler... Oh, what a movie. And Fried Green Tomatoes.

    WAIT.

    OH MY STARS.

    I just realized that Mary Louise Parker played "Ruth" in "Fried Green Tomatoes", too... and didn't come to a good end!

    Death roles. Oh my stars....

    Okay, back to this, and thank you!

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  111. Sandra, hello!

    It's got to be harder when it's hitting close to home.

    But in fiction we can space it any way we want... and when I use death as a tool, I want it to be intrinsic to the story.

    I think that's an art.

    I use past trauma all the time, I think most of us do, because that shapes a part or all of our characters.

    But that in-the-moment death of a central character is a ballet of words.

    Easy to slip.

    I think the words "delicate balance" work real well here.

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  112. Domino, that was such a good point about Mary Crawley. The writing staff made her rise to the occasion as if it was organic to the story.

    They did a brilliant job.

    I missed Matthew, but I loved that they wrapped up the series so beautifully.

    Happy endings all around.

    Domino, you and I think alike!

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  113. Sandra, you still have that mug??? GO YOU!!!!

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  114. Sherida, that was brilliant and so true. It's the essence of reality and I think the best fiction springs from real-life situations.

    baby on my lap

    squawking

    i told her it was unprofessional

    she doesnt appear to care

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  115. susan thank you!!! Love you too!!!!!

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  116. I don't mind killing off bad guys but I hate killing good guys. I just feel so BAD.
    In fact I've started out several books with the death of a good guy and I ended up taking it all back.....with one exception....a 103 year old grandma who fell down the steps when startled by an intruder.

    I still feel bad about that. POOR GRANDMA!!!!!!!

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  117. You are tough, Ruthy. Killin off people left and right.

    Way to go! (I guess!)

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  118. Connealy, I don't get to kill off bad guys in my books so I have to take those latent tendencies out in a gentler, kinder fashion. :)

    And it is H-A-R-D.

    But that's why I'm so careful about how I do it. Because that part of me is sensitive. :)

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  119. Deaths that occur during the story used to make me uncomfortable, but since the death of my own father, stories that deal with grief have really resonated with me. It really is a universal theme since we are all touched by death or grief in some way. I don't like it when I feel manipulated into overly emotional scenes or characters, but a well-written story will make me connect with the characters and feel the emotions described. One of my favorite books, Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson, has the main character grieving the death of her mother during the story and it brings depth and compassion.

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  120. My Dad was a funeral director and always said...Death is not a way of life. It's the way of death. I loved all the comments left here today. I had insomnia last night, and though I wanted to comment, I knew I had to engage my mind first. and I traveled all day today so this is the first time I've been back. I love your books, Ruth

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  121. Ruthy,

    As always, your comments are spot on! The reality of life is that there is death, and written with dignity and respect, adds a depth of reality to the story.

    Christmas in Conway - love, love, love that movie!

    Please enter me for the drawing!

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  122. Edwina, you are in! Thanks so much for stopping by!!!

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  123. Aw, Marianne, thank you. I can totally understand the needing time to think this one through.

    It's an easy thing for us to mess up because roughing up a reader's heart with no good reason seems lame... but when woven in as the dance of life...

    We get it.

    We totally get it.

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  124. Heidi Robbins: You made such a great point!

    We often don't relate to things we've never experienced. So to be budged into another person's reality, we don't always take it in.

    Once we've gone through trials... Losing a child, miscarriage, death, accidents, trauma... or seen someone we love threatened...

    That's a whole different thing, isn't it?

    I love the show "Call the Midwife" and how the older midwives/nuns relate to patients so well and set the example for the younger gals.

    It's a brilliant relationship of wisdom vs. smarts, and that wisdom is born of experiential learning.

    I'm so glad you stopped by to say that!!!

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  125. Vince, I hated Gatsby, so clearly I'm on a different page from many!

    Love Story was "The Fault in Our Stars" for my generation, and teen girls LOVE that kind of drama, although I think Fault in Our Stars was better... But as an adult, I can shrug that one off.

    (bows head in shame!!!)

    I have no idea what the rest of those are, Vince! Your amazing learnedness and wisdom humble me!!!

    Crawling back to my little writing cave!!!! :)

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  126. Jackie, thank you!!! Walmart used to carry more faith-based books, they had a dedicated section to them, but it's been greatly reduced now. And I wish the LI books were housed there, in that section, but they're always over in the Harlequin assigned area bumping shoulders with hotter selections...

    But they sell well so folks manage to find them. YAY!!!!!!

    Thank you so much for doing that! I've been known to shuffle a few books to a higher shelf in my time.

    :)

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  127. I do like gripping, tear producing stories! I agree death is a fact of life and when an author can push your emotions to tears from joy or death and in between... awesome! My kind of talented author!!

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  128. This is such a tough topic...death. In my WIP, the mystery surrounding decisions made by a just-deceased uncle really set the story in motion. Death is so heartwrenching to family members, and it is often accompanied by emotions that people have worked years to bury. It's much easier to work it all out in fiction, but most of us have real-life experience in that realm to bring to the picture. Good lesson...thanks!

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  129. Great article, Ruthy!

    The last time I remember crying from a book was Seekerville's own Belle Calhoun's "A Match Made in Alaska" ... when the herione and her grandfather came together. A great scene. I hadn't thought about it but there were deaths involved or they would not have met each other. Won't say more as I don't want to spoil the book for others.

    Please enter me in your generous drawing and thank you for offering it.

    May God bless you and all of Seekerville!

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  130. Thanks for your comments, Ruthy. It has given me some things to think about. I need to have the grandmother be sick as part of my story line, but I think I could do a little more to make it more emotional when she does die in the storm. Maybe I will have her find out she has more time than she thought so everybody is expecting more time and then suddenly she dies in the tornado. But you do have me thinking about how to make it more emotional.

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  131. I can't do it. I can't kill my characters. I thought about it once, and it felt like murder. This I admit but I don't repent. To make up for the emotions that lack because of this, I'm merciless to the flashbacks- if they aren't actually living, breathing characters from the beginning of the story to the end, I don't count them as characters to ease my conscience and thus add the emotion and growth necessary to my stories without having to kill an established character somewhere in there which I hate. Also, almost all my books have at least one great sacrifice in them because that's a part of Christian life, but they tend to lose things like their health and their chance at a better future rather than their actual lives. I can't even kill bad guys- if I did that, how would they have a chance to repent and become Christians in a short story? Besides, they're all my children!!!

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