I have a confession to make. I’m a serial killer. To be specific I’m guilty of matricide, patricide and parricide (killing of a close relative). I suspect I’m not the only one. I suspect many, many romance authors are similarly cut-throat about killing off extraneous characters. In my defense I don’t often murder on the page – okay, twice, including my June release Bring Him Home – Usually I do it in backstory.
But I always thought I was judicious about it. Thoughtful. Surgeon-like. The majority of my superfluous parents were on a cruise, helping out in Africa or enjoying retirement on the Gold Coast.
That’s what I thought.
When I actually checked through my ten books to see how many hero and heroines were orphans (i.e.: parents dead at the beginning of the book), I toyed with sending sympathy cards to my happy couples. With your genes, don’t bother saving for retirement.
Worse, I discovered I’d dispatched these hapless innocents in unkind ways. They died addled with alcohol, killed in a car accident, after suffering a long debilitating illness or dropping dead of a heart attack.
But you’re my accomplice. Yes, you. Because you don’t want these people constantly interrupting the romance either.
And there are worse offenders than Super authors. I’m sure the parental body count is higher in suspense and paranormal. It’s very hard to be snarly and dangerous when your mom is phoning to remind you to come to dinner next Thursday because Aunty Marg is in town. Surely it’s no ‘accident’ that Eve and Roarke in JD Robb’s In Death series are both orphans?
But be assured I’ve already been bought to poetic justice. I’m currently writing the fourth in my SAS hero series which means I have many, many secondary characters clamouring for space. I can’t default to my usual homicidal tricks because I’m dealing with heroes from previous books. And I gave them Special Forces training which makes them impossible to kill. Instead I have to delicately negotiate boundaries while I’m muttering things like, “I hear the Bahamas is nice.”
And trying to avoid what author Joanna Bourne calls ‘scenery with arms.’
She thinks readers can care about a maximum of eight or ten characters.
Here’s a link to her blog on the subject.
So how many characters can you care about in a book? Do you want studly ex heroes or parents and siblings to get page space?
Make a comment and go into the draw for any of my backlist books (except Mr Imperfect). Make your pick from my website: http://www.karinabliss.com/.
And the picture...the shower scene out of Psycho. No one beats Hitchcock at killing off his darlings.