Don’t Make Me Kill You In My Novel!

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Have you seen those t-shirts that say Don’t Make Me Kill You In My Novel! or something similar?  I can’t help smiling every time I see one of those, because for a writer, it’s the ultimate threat. Well, a threat with one’s tongue firmly in cheek, so not really very scary.  If you know anything about writers at all, you know that our characters generally walk into our heads with their own identities that have very little to do with real people in our lives.  Every now and then, though, I do wish I could write a character just for killing him off, because someone in real life has behaved very badly.

This past week, for instance.  A reader in Germany got his hands on a copy of Charlaine Harris’ newest book, Dead Ever After.  It’s the latest and last in the Sookie Stackhouse series, with a street date of May 7th.  When a book has a street date, the bookstores are not contractually allowed to sell their stock any earlier than that date.  Trouble is that booksellers are human and sometimes mistakes are made.  The rumor is that this reader bought his copy at a bookstore that wasn’t properly observing the street date.  Okay, so he got his book early, oh well.  Except that he didn’t like the ending, and decided to show his displeasure by posting the ending of the book online.  Word spread like wildfire, and the book was spoiled it for a whole lot of readers.  Ms. Harris immediately went to her Facebook page and asked that people please not continue sharing the spoilage.  She’d have been well within her rights as a Southern woman to pitch a hissy the likes of which has not been seen since Scarlett O’Hara, but she kept her cool.  Her post was polite and calm.  And what did she get in return? 

Screeching fans declaring that her ending was wrong and that she’d cheated them and they were headed right to Amazon to cancel their preorders blah blah blah blah.  The things some people said absolutely blew me away with their rudeness.   She’s even received threats, although I’m happy to say I never saw those.  What drove me craziest were the people who claimed Sookie belonged to them because they’d made Ms Harris a success, and accused Ms Harris of mistreating their Sookie.   

But it’s not just readers who misbehave.  About two weeks ago, Hugh Howey, author of the Wool series, which was originally self-published on Amazon, posted an ugly rant called “The Bitch from WorldCon.”  The rant was about a woman he met who was dismissive of self-publishing.  Instead of recounting the tale in a mature fashion, Howey used words like “bitch”, “broad” and “she-devil”, and described her as being a high-functioning autistic.  Fortunately, the SF/F community responded, letting him know he’d done wrong, and he took the post down.  He also apologized twice (the first time being one of those “fine, I guess I’m sorry” sort of things that don’t satisfy anyone.) 

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a reader or a writer, you can make your point without threats, insults or hate speech.  Remember that someone is always listening.  And if that someone happens to be a writer, especially one who’s at that moment hunting for just the right character to murder in her next novel, be nice.  You don’t want to someday pick up your favorite author’s latest book and read that there’s a character with your name who’s been drowned in a vat of peanut butter. 

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18 comments to Don’t Make Me Kill You In My Novel!

  • Death by Peanut Butter would not be a bad way to go, however!

  • I never really read the books, but I also haven’t gone looking for the spoiler either. If I do eventually read them, or if Tru Blood decides to go the same route, I’d still like to be at least somewhat surprised. But even if she had some sort of dark end, it wouldn’t surprise me none, based on the setting. It’s only a matter of time.

    I find it bizarre how people can turn into the equivalent of Rage infected chimps over things like that, trivial things when you get right down to it, screeching and pounding their chests, flinging their poop and tearing anyone else apart that crosses their path. It makes little sense. If you don’t like it, fine, don’t ruin it for other people. Take the higher road. Don’t pitch a fit and potentially make yourself look like an idiot in other people’s eyes. Pretend you’ve actually evolved beyond the Stone Age. Life’s too short to make it shorter by going all veiny blood pressure Hulk rage.

  • I remember when Harry Potter 6 came out. A week before the release date, a supermarket in my town put out the copies early by mistake. One impertinent little bugger that my cousin was friends with got one, then photocopied the page where Dumbledore dies, highlighted the passage (I hope that the statute of limitations on spoilers has passed for this one?), and posted it online. He thought it was hilarious. I wanted to wring his neck. That “very special Hell” Shepherd Book speaks of? Yeah, those people belong there, too.

  • A well-timed post, Misty, as I spent the better part of yesterday sitting on my fingers to keep from making some very fiery comments in another venue. This morning, colleagues made much better reasoned comments that said exactly what I was thinking — or would have been thinking if I’d had my logic brain installed, instead of my emotion brain… (As for readers feeling ownership of characters – it’s a tough line to walk. We want readers to be engaged — the more the better — but we also need to draw some lines…)

  • So many people believe they are the center of the universe–must get pretty crowded in there. And noisy, what with all the screeching and screaming when the rest of fail to recognize their importance.

  • And after reading the Howey incident, the last lines I posted above go equally well for both parties.

    Take the higher road. Don’t pitch a fit and potentially make yourself look like an idiot in other people’s eyes. Pretend you’ve actually evolved beyond the Stone Age. Life’s too short to make it shorter by going all veiny blood pressure Hulk rage.

  • Misty, I have been blown away by the so-called *fans* of the Sookie series. I have lots to say about it, but really, I can’t. I am too mad. Charlaine is a kind and lovely lady and did deserved neither the action by the idiot in Germany, nor the negative reactions by the fans.

  • Did not deserve. Sigh…

  • Unbelievable. I had not heard about this (he said, happily ensconced in his bubble), but wow. Just wow. Kind of reminds me of the abuse heaped upon George R.R. Martin several years back, which led to Neil Gaiman writing his now famous rant titled “George R.R. Martin is Not Your Bitch.”

  • It boggled me, to be honest. We all have those moments when talking to friends we trust, those moments we quietly say naughty things about other writers for whatever reason, but putting it on the internet is just extra mean. And threatening an author over a plot point is downright insane. I’ve never met Ms Harris, but her applomb in the face of all the ugliness is an amazing thing to watch, and I hope that if I’m ever faced with a situation that horrible, I can dredge up the same calm and cool.

  • The way people behaved to Ms. Harris was appalling. Seriously. But I do understand feeling that strongly about a character and an ending. People have invested years of their lives (real and imaginary lives) in Sookie, so not getting what they wanted is devastating. So I get being angry, and so upset about something that a reader would decide not to read the book. The guy who dumped the ending all over the place is a jerk, no question, and shouldn’t have done it. The people threatening her? Also jerks that have now moved into the “illegially psychotic” category. Seriously, I’d call the police. But I think that’s also one of the things that comes with creating a character people really connect with. It’s a risk to do anything, any sort of ending. She’s got to write the ending she feels is genuine and right, and then that’s that. (Or she could write what she thinks people want, too; it’s her book). I’ve read the first Sookie novel, so I’m not invested at all. I’m not saying she should or shouldn’t have ended it how she did, just that readers are entitled to be mad at the author. (NOT entitled to behave badly, to be clear.) For example, if I could slap C.S. Lewis for what he did to Susan at the end of Narnia, I might. (Actually, I’d probably try to channel Dorothy Parker and say something amazingly snarky and biting). As a teenager when I read it, I was devastated that she went to hell for what basically amounted to wanting to be pretty and liking boys. I might have been a shallow reader (but I got the allegory), but he was writing for kids, and he told me that if I wanted to be pretty, I was goin’ to hell. So yeah, I was mad, and still am. Because I really invested. And it affected my outlook on theology, too. So, I get why fans are angry.

    The other large kerfluffle lately is some poor woman that gave a bad review to Anne Rice’s “Pandora.” Rice pointed out the (very small, not affiliated with anyone) blog, linked to it, posted a bit of the woman’s bio, and asked her fans for comments on it all on Rice’s facebook page. The first comment on the woman’s page was an all caps “I hope you get a venereal disease” post. Rice then made a comment about wondering if the woman liked all the hits her blog was getting. Lots of Rice fans stepped up and told the people saying horrid things to stop, and the woman handled it pretty well, and there were some good convos had in the comments, too. That’s a case of rabid happy fans acting badly. Plus, the internet makes mob-mentality and saying horrible things to people anonymous and therefore much easier. How many people do you think would say the things to Ms. Harris’s face?

  • Interesting that I had exactly the opposite reaction to The Last Battle. I always thought that Susan got left behind not because she was pretty but because she chose to focus only on worldly things instead of the spiritual. 🙂

    I’m sure very few of them would have the chutzpah to say such things to her face – most internet bullies are cowards in person.

  • quillet

    Wheaton’s Law applies here, as it does so very often. I mean, sure people are entitled to their opinion of a book. But seriously. Posting the ending? Making threats? Name-calling? *facepalm* Don’t. Be. A. Dick.

  • I’ve read several books where I wasn’t happy with the way an author treated a character or a story line (Thomas Covenant’s raping scene, anyone?) but I accepted that the author was telling the story that he or she intended to tell. I had the choice to continue reading or not. My choice. Never once did I consider telling the author – or anyone else, for that matter – that the author was wrong to write the story their way. Their story, their choice.

  • What quillet said.

    David – I hadn’t heard of that Gaiman rant. But it does explain one of the lyrics in Paul and Storm’s song, “Write Like the Wind (George R. R. Martin)”. Where they basically capture common complaints and poke fun at them.

  • Hey Laura, here’s the link to the Gaiman post – it’s really worth reading. http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2009/05/entitlement-issues.html

  • Megan B.

    Is anyone ever satisfied with the ending of a much-loved series anymore? Maybe what it really comes down to is that everyone is sad it’s over. And that gets channeled into anger at the manner of its ending.

    Also, I was not aware of that Neil Gaiman post about Martin. I’m gleefully going to read it tonight!