Thursday, May 12, 2011

Dead Animals

One of the new "blogs I follow" posed a question yesterday: why do people get upset when animals die in books? His books, specifically.
Since he claims to kill an animal in almost every book he writes, obviously it doesn't bother him a bit.
TT: Does make me wonder why he feels it's important to kill an animal in every book...
Judging by the nasty emails he gets, it bothers his readers. He seems genuinely puzzled as to why.
In college, a youth minister in training came to me one day shaking his head over a teen in one of his groups who was upset because a hamster died (or something equally "small"). He couldn't understand getting upset over a hamster. He obviously thought the whole situation a bit amusing.
I assured him it was not.
"You're going to deal with a lot of situations in ministry where people hurt because of things you find silly. The pain is real, whatever the cause. Don't treat the problem; treat the pain."
TT: My course of study was therapy.
I hope he listened. 
For this puzzled author of animal demise, it doesn't matter that killing animals doesn't matter to him. What matters is how many readers will stop reading his books (and possibly warn off others) because of it.
My head agrees that dead humans should be more important than dead animals. My heart cares more about the animals. It isn't rational. It's emotional. Pull that heart string for little or no reason and you will trigger the unintended consequence of revoking all trust I have for you. If I don't trust you, I won't read your stuff.
I've promised my readers before, and I say it again: I do not kill animals in my books. If it has a name, or you've connected with it in some deliberate manner during the course of the story, it will not die. Not permanently, anyway. I might play on transformations or resurrections or, oh, all kinds of things, but it won't die senselessly or just to prove the situation is serious. Animals are not Red Shirts to me.
Maybe this turns off some potential readers. I'm totally okay with that.
I've sent a score of my real beloved companions on The Long Step. Every time ripped out a piece of my soul and sent it to the other side. Some pieces are bigger than others, but none of them will ever heal in this life. I won't do that to my readers, not even with fictional animals. I can't.
And I can't read it when someone else does it.

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