This is an open letter to all the characters I’ve loved and lost, wherever you may be …
I’m really sorry I killed you.
Except I’m not, because it had to be done.
I’m blaming the outline. Yes, I know I wrote the outline too, but you weren’t real when I wrote that. You were a bullet point: ‘Kill lots of villagers in a dramatic way.’ Or maybe you were part of the ‘Big battle – lots die’ chapter. Or you could have fallen prey to the note in the margin that read, ‘Demonstrate the danger.’
You see, when I invented your world, Renthia, I stacked the odds against you. From the very start, you were created to live in a world of both incredible beauty and overwhelming danger. Your home is in a forest filled with towering trees, larger than any in my world, with cities nestled halfway up the trunks … but your home is also full of nature spirits, and unfortunately for you, they’re not sweet, frolicking, pastoral sprites. They want to kill all humans. And you, my dear characters, are human. Most of you don’t have enough power to defend yourselves. So most of you had to get eaten. Or ripped limb from limb. Or crushed inside a tightening sphere of wood. Or pummeled by an earth kraken that sucked you down into the soil …
I am really, really sorry about all of this. Especially the crushing thing. That was a bad way to go.
Despite your end, I want you to know that I liked you a lot. I really did. You had a sense of humour. You were smart. You were really quite likeable, and that was the part I didn’t expect when I sat down to write you. You weren’t supposed to make me care. And you certainly weren’t supposed to make me cry.
If it makes you feel any better, your deaths served a purpose. That’s not always true in real life. But I get that that’s not a very comforting thought. It’s just that the story wasn’t about you. It’s not even about Daleina and Ven, the student and the banished warrior. It’s about the readers and letting them come to Renthia and go on a journey and have an adventure, and then they get to come out of Renthia, safely, without having been crushed or torn apart, and go back to their lives with the memory of its magic and the memory of you inside them. Isn’t that something worth dying for? I mean, given that you’re fictional?
Sarah Beth Durst
Sarah’s book The Queen of Blood is available now!