Killing off a character or two

Looking to add conflict or tension to your novel? You might consider killing off a character – or depending on the type of novel more than one character.

Image result for murderNo matter what type of novel you are writing – thriller, mystery, romance – there may come a time when you need to kill off one or more of your characters. From serial killers to mysterious deaths to killing out of jealousy or survival, murder or death can add to the conflict of your story. And what better way to have your antagonist instill fear than to kill off a few people. Or it could be your protagonist doing the killing to preserve his or her life or that of a loved one.

Or it could be an accidental death – a fire, a car accident, a drowning, an allergic reaction, the list goes on and on. For more suggestions and how they might affect the other characters, check out this blog. https://www.writerslife.org/ways-to-accidentally-kill-off-your-characters-in-fiction/

Image result for rulesBut no matter who is doing the killing, you still must follow the rules. As with any character action, there needs to be a reason behind it. No one – not even serial killers – kill without a reason. It may not be an obvious reason such as self-defense but even mass murderers have a reason for what they do. It is not “just because” or because they are “evil.”

And if they are going to kill off a character in your story, you need to make sure there is a good reason for the character to die. It could be to advance the plot, spurring your protagonist into motion. Or it could be to add realism. No one expects to read a war drama without anyone dying. But it just shouldn’t be because of “shock” value or you need something to happen.

Image result for death of a characterNow killing off a character you have spent time developing or are attached to can be hard. It can be equally hard for readers when a favorite character dies. When done right, a character’s death can break a reader’s heart, but if done wrong, it’ll just exhaust their patience.

As I delve into this topic, I will divide these characters into two categories – minor characters and main characters.

It is much easier to kill off a minor character. Many times, you and the reader are not as attached to them. I always think of a minor character as the first person killed in a horror movie. They are not usually well developed. No one has had a chance to really get to know or like this character before they die. Because readers can spot these insignificant expendable characters, I don’t encourage you to add characters just for the purposes of killing them off.

Image result for grave stoneNow killing off a minor character might be easy, but it is something entirely different to kill a main character. Remember, you shouldn’t kill a character just because you or someone else thinks you should. You should only kill off a character if it will advance the story. This could mean that this person’s death contributes to the development of another character or advances the plot in some way. The death can spur someone into action or show a strength that wouldn’t have been shown without that death. The main thing is not to this on a whim. Make sure you think of the consequence losing a main character will do to your story and the remaining characters and make sure the cost is worth it.

If you are willing to kill off main characters, you can have your readers expecting the unexpected. They may cry at the deaths and hate you for doing that, but they will know something else. They will know everyone is at risk. And that adds tension to your story.

Encouraging the kids to try new foods

This summer, I encouraged the kids to try some new foods. They are both picky eaters in their own way.

Jase likes steak, fries and chicken nuggets. The only fruits he eats are apples and red grapes.

Lexie likes chicken and a variety of meals such as chicken enchiladas, chili, and fried rice. She is my fruit eater as she likes strawberries, red grapes, apples, mangos, raspberries and watermelon.

But there are so many other foods out there. And being non-adventurous kids, they are usually hesitant to try new things. To fix this, I started a food challenge. I wrote down different categories – new fruit, new vegetable, new bread, bakery items, and a “your choice” option. Each week the kids drew out one and then chose a food based on the category.

Over the summer we have tried….

Image result for dragon fruitDragon Fruit – Lexie picked this one. A dragon fruit comes from a cactus and is loaded with fiber and nutrients especially vitamin C. I had read that is was bland, and I can agree to that, but I think the seeds have a weird taste. None of us liked it.

Blueberry muffins – Jase loved these. I bought a dozen mini ones, and he ate 7 of the 12. Lexie thought they were okay, but I don’t see her eating these unless there was nothing else around.

Chocolate Cream Pie – I let Lexie choose this thinking both kids would like it. Jase said “meh,” and Lexie really just liked the whipped cream on top. Go figure.

Bagels – We did both plain and blueberry. I also bought some whipped berry cream cheese for them to try too. Even before we tried them, Lexie mentioned they were “hard.” I told her bagels are “chewy.” Jase who likes bread said they were good, and he would eat them again. He even liked the cream cheese. Lexie on the other hand wasn’t a fan.

Image result for blueberry piePie – Lexie decided blueberry pie would be a good choice as the bakery sold slices of pie. But when I went, the bakery was sold out of all pie slices. I ended up buying two mini pies for them to try – one blueberry and one apple. Lexie tried blueberry first and didn’t like it. I just don’t think she likes blueberries all that much. She had the same reaction to apple. Jase only tried apple and while he didn’t hate it, he said the apples were “weird.”

Carrots – My kids have never liked carrots. Ok, as babies they probably ate homemade carrot baby food, but as they have grown, carrots are not something they eat which means it has been a while since they tried them. We did both raw baby carrots and cooked carrots since they do taste different. Lexie was not a fan. Jase shrugged his shoulder, announcing they were both okay.

Peach – I thought my fruit-eater (Lexie) would go for a yellow peach but she was indifferent to it. Jase again was fine with trying it, but he didn’t love it like he did the blueberry muffins.

Potatoes – Lexie eats fries, baked potatoes and mashed potatoes. Jase is a fries-only type kid. I wanted them to try different types of potatoes. We did red, golden and purple. Lexie thought the red potatoes were good but didn’t like the other two. Jase was fine with all of them, but I think he will be sticking with fries.

Texas Rice – Lexie already eats fried rice but picked out this Texas version of a Spanish-rice. Neither kids liked it.

Strawberry Shortcake – They tried both a shortcake cup that you put strawberries and whip cream/Cool whip on as well as a piece of cake with frosting and strawberry filling. I got a nope from both though Lexie did love Cool Whip.

Apples – OK, so both kids already eat apples, but I wanted them to try different varieties. Our grocery store list apples in 5 categories – sweet, semi-sweet, mild, semi-tart, and tart. I bought one in each category – Envy, Gala, Jazz, Honeycrisp, and Granny Smith. Lexie already loves Granny Smith apples, but on this day, Honeycrisp was the clear favorite followed by Envy and Gala.

Overall, I am proud of the kids for trying new things even if they decided that they didn’t like most of them.

Middle School begins for the kids

Summer has flown by, and the first day of school is here. Our summer actually was a week shorter as school is starting a week early this year in order for the kids to get out at the end of May instead of in June.

This past week before school was packed for me since I am PTA president at the Middle School, and there were events every day at the school – making copies, campus clean up, stuffing 1200 Welcome back packets, a staff breakfast and then student orientations.

I’m glad that week is done. And as much as I enjoy having the summers with Lexie and Jase, I am ready to get back to my normal routine.

This is Lexie’s first year at the middle school and Jase’s last year there. Yes, for this one year, I have the kids back at one school. It won’t happen again for another two years after this when Jase is a junior in high school and Lexie will be a freshman. Oh my! I can’t even think of them both in high school!

Lexie was up early this morning, a bundle of nerves as she got ready. Moving from elementary where you have one teacher to the middle school where you have 8 teachers is quite a change. But she has her brother to reassure her as they walk to school.

Now Jase wasn’t nearly as nervous as Lexie, but then again this is his third time starting at this school. And as an eighth grader, he is now “top dog” at the school. This will be his third year of orchestra. He is also taking debate, high school level health class and will be an office-aide for one semester.

Lexie’s two electives for this year are art (no surprise there) and AIM (a class teaching students to be organized, aware of current events and allowing them to do school work). Unlike Jase, Lexie is actually looking into the after-school clubs. She is considering either Cooking Club or Gamers Club.

And now the house is quiet. I’d like to say I can take a moment to enjoy it, but I have a long to-do list waiting for me and my writing to get back to which has surely suffered this month. In a short 8 hours from now, the kids will be home and eager to tell me about their adventures, so I had better get busy and use my free time wisely.

Recipe of the Month – Spinach Artichoke Pasta

I love Spinach Artichoke dip. One of our local restaurants serves a Spinach Artichoke pasta which is basically pasta mixed with that delicious dip. Wanting to make my own, I searched the internet and found this recipe on The Pioneer Woman website. Delicious! (This recipe makes a lot so I half it.)

 

 

 

Ingredients

6 T. Butter

4 cloves of garlic, minced

2 bags baby spinach

2 cans artichoke hearts, drained and halved

3 T. flour

3 cups milk

1/4 t. cayenne pepper

1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese

1 1/2 cup Monterrey Jack Cheese, grated

salt and pepper to taste

12 oz (weight) Penne Pasta, cooked

crushed red pepper, to taste

Directions

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large pot or skillet. Add garlic and throw in the spinach. Stir it around until it’s wilted, about 1 minute. Remove spinach from heat and set aside. 

Add 2 tablespoons butter to the same pot and raise the heat to high. Throw in the halved artichokes and stir it around until they get a little color, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the artichokes from the pot and set them aside.

Reduce the heat to low. Add 2 tablespoons butter to the pot. When melted, sprinkle in flour and whisk until it’s combined. Pour in milk and whisk to combine. Let it cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until starting to thicken. Add Parmesan, Monterey Jack, salt and pepper, and cayenne pepper. Stir to melt, and if it’s overly thick, splash in some chicken broth.

Add artichokes and pasta, tossing gently to combine. Gently fold in spinach, then pour the pasta into a serving bowl. Sprinkle the top with crushed red pepper flakes.

Serves 10