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A Case of Murder

By Robert Marcus

One of the first things to learn as a writer is when to kill off your characters, and who to kill off. Now I don’t mean actually killing them in the story; no, one of the first things that happens when write your first novel is that you’re too detailed, introduce too many characters, and make the story too complicated and too long, sidetracking along paths that lead nowhere, though you may feel they are fascinating. So you must learn to eliminate characters that do not add to the primary direction of the story. Or sometimes just simplify them; describe them generically and quickly if they have a minor but important role in the story. In the first draft of The Far Side of Silence, we spent an entire chapter describing and introducing characters who would eventually end up at Sigonella Naval Station, where most of the action takes place. In the end, after obtaining some expert advice, we realized that the reader didn’t really care about the past details of Loren Forbes’ life, since her only purpose in the story was to get shot between the eyes by one of the villains, so that the hero could realize that something bad was about to happen on the base. That chapter and many others had to go, since they didn’t advance the story. Those characters had to be killed off in a literary sense.

But we managed to have a little fun with them and acknowledge their existence. In the sequel book, coming out soon, our hero Alexander Gray, walks through an old cemetery, reading the names on a number of graves, all of which were victims of editing in The Far Side of Silence. Dead, but not completely forgotten.

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