Fall guys... ah, we all know of them. When I grew up watching Star Trek (my dad's fave) with William Shatner forever getting his shirt ripped diagonally (in the exact same place every time - was there just magic tape there?), I knew that whenever someone we didn't really know got to beam down to the spooky planet of the week, he wasn't coming back. No, sir. But it was ok because we never really got to know him, and sometimes this saved someone else's life and it was always much nicer than one of our heroes - Kirk, Spock or Bones - getting squished.
I was thinking about this while watching an episode of the second series of The Walking Dead. How I love this show - it's my current addiction! Anyway, watching it last night, a character that I really liked got... well... how can I put it? He got dead-ed. Kaput. Blitzed. Squeeeeshed. Therefore this person (I won't give it away) won't be appearing again. I went to bed thinking oh nooooo! I liked this character. This character had personality. I'd gone through nearly two whole series with this person, sharing all of their laughter, sadness, struggles, battles with the yukky looking undeady people, seeing what they had for dinner... the whole kaboom. And now... well, you-know-who is kaboom!
But then, if you have a series and you keep bumping off the characters who viewers don't know so well or care too much about, after a while you're going to end up with the core characters - a tightly knit pack of people who you think will never part. Yep they're going to live forever. Damn it if your favourite character gets squeeeeshed - who are you going to be egging on thereafter? But if you end up with the character core of your story or series, who goes next? Makes me think of some kind of character roulette. Who's the odd one out? Eeeny meeny miney mo... Or would that character be chosen just because they are so well liked by readers/audience? All to get us weeping? What's the alternative? No, no, not Mr Spock. Don't let him be killed by the flying cheddar from outer space. Oh he's ok, let's just bump off the expendible characters... yeah!
Which got me to thinking... who's the fall guy in your book? Have you been bumping off your characters with more oomph than a hungry Vickie gobbles maltesers? Have you written a book where one of the main characters is going to meet a ghastly end just to shock or upset your reader? Or are you aiming to pull at the heartstrings so they don't forget the story? Many a book I've read has ended with the main character being snuffed out. Have I made tears at an ending? You bet. Ever since I read Hans Christian Andersen's stories. That poor little match girl and that even poorer little birdie up Nelson's Column (oo-er), and don't even get me started on Watership Down... that's bunnies! Cute bunnies! Bunnies!!! You can't do that to fluffies! Or is the character who gets it in your book the evil villain of the piece? And all deserving of his cruel end? Or are you penning a love story where you just know it's not going to end up with wedding cake? Then again, are you writing a mayhem-fuelled murder mystery where, let's face it, it's anyone's guess who's going to make it to the end or turn up in a stew.
Or have you reached your core set of characters and you've got to choose who is going to go next? Are you sad? Will it be hard or are you cackling away with glee? Then again, will you take the rather cowardly, but nice way out and just get rid of one of the expendables? Who is your fall guy?