In Future Memoriam of Clarence Matthews
I’ve been in a kind of bad mood the last few days–which would be fine if I had any right to be. But I don’t. Many of you (are there really “many” of “you” or is there just me?) know that I’ve been writing a romance novel for the last two years because romances make quick money, they’re always in demand, and even someone like me likes to write a happy ending now and then. (That wasn’t originally intended as a pun, but now that I see it, I like it.) What you (assuming there are some of you) may not know is that I’ve had to stop for long periods of time because of school and life and pick back up later. What you may not know unless you are a writer is that picking back up on something that you wrote a year, a month, or even a week ago isn’t easy. You have to recapture the style, the mindsets and voices of your characters, remember where the story was going, remember what’s already happened, recover the emotional tone…the list feels endless.
So, by rights I should be overjoyed that I’ve finally got back to my romance novel and the checklist isn’t giving me too much trouble. My coffee pot’s ringing off the hook, the way it does when I’m about to get some serious work done. I wrote three pages the other day that conformed to the tone, characters, set the plot in motion…I should be more than happy. But I’m not. Yesterday I realized that I’m about to kill the most decent person in my story. Clarence is a loving husband, a wonderful father, and the best friend a man could have. Doing the right thing is of the utmost importance to him unless it would be funnier to do the wrong thing. He’s charming, selfless, and alive. So alive. And even though he’s always known that he would die the same way his father did, he doesn’t want to die. Not yet.
Psychologists might suggest that I’m freaking out so much because I’m only 23 and haven’t had time to deal with my own mortality. Not so. I’ve been dealing with mortality all my life. My parents never shielded us kids from death. If someone we knew died, we went to the visitation or funeral. When our pets kicked it, we were on hand to bury them. My favorite bottle calf had to be butchered so we could eat it–I think I’ve had time to realize that when someone dies they’re not here anymore. No, I’m freaking out because I’m about to effectively push the delete button on a truly good guy for no other reason than moving the plot forward.
Clarence has to die. There’s no way around it. It’s all been leading up to this. And so I’m a murderer for the greater good of my story.