Saturday, April 12, 2014

K: Writers on Writing - Robert Kirkman

Today's Writer on Writing - Robert Kirkman

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About the Writer
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Robert Kirkman is a writer of comic books and television.  He is best known for his zombie apocalypse work that has been successful in both of those mediums (as well as others!), The Walking Dead , but he also writes the long-running series Invincible (one of my husband's favorite books of all time!), all-ages Super Dinosaur, Thief of Thieves and Clone as well as Witch Doctor, Guarding the Globe and The Astounding Wolf-Man.  He was recently made a partner at Image Comics (my favorite comic book publishing house) and has a major impact on the industry at this time.

To keep up with a lot of the work Kirkman is involved in, stay tuned to the home of his creator-owned work, Skybound, or follow him on Twitter @RobertKirkman.

My Thoughts About Kirkman's Murderous Ways

There are times when writing can be especially brutal. The first stage of brutality for me is always the editing stage, but another, perhaps even more tangible one, is when it is not our words that are on the chopping block, but, instead, our beloved characters. As the writer of a series that takes place in a zombie apocalypse, Robert Kirkman is all too familiar with this aspect of writing and, I dare say, quite comfortable with it! In an interview with Rolling Stone Kirkman was asked about how he dealt with being on set when one of his characters was killed off on The Walking Dead:

"It's a very emotional thing, and I kind of feel like I stuck out like a sore thumb because I was in the writers' room going, 'This death is important!' There was an argument about this person dying, and I argued for it! Now I'm surrounded by all of these people who wish this wasn't happening right now! But, yeah, sometimes it's a little awkward. Having to remove someone from the family is absolutely terrible."

And while he may admit to it being terrible and awkward here, he knows what needs to be done in a story to keep it fresh. In a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) just about a month ago, a redditor asked Kirkman how much the popularity of a character influences his decision to keep him/her alive. He gives an interesting rule of thumb, 

"In my opinion, I feel like characters ripen like fruit. So while I wouldn't say the more popular a character is the more likely they are to die, they do have to reach a certain level of popularity before they've 'earned' the death. No character is too popular to die."

Of course, even rules of thumb can fall victim to the spontaneous whim of a writer looking for drama. In the same AMA, Kirkman was asked directly to describe his process of getting rid of a character,

"It's different for every character. Sometimes it's something I've planned and built to for many issues. Other times it's just me thinking 'it's been a while since something really interesting happened' and killing a character on the fly. It's a lot of fun having the freedom to shape the story however I want."

Kirkman is brutal, but he is not alone. Writing is so powerful when it can rock us emotionally and there is little that can do that as effectively as the death of a character we have come to love, or even hate. I first experienced this kind of power as an avid fan of the television show Buffy the Vampire Slayer which was created and written by another brutal man, Joss Whedon. I couldn't believe the heartlessness of his writing, but, after awhile I began to recognize that this is exactly what kept me coming back for more.

As a writer, personally, I know that killing my darlings, in this most literal sense, is something I still have to work toward. Though I keep writing about the act here as one of brutality I know that it is actually one of bravery. I become so attached to my beloveds and their story lines, I fear what will happen to my tales without them - will they survive? Can they? The point is to build a world and a cast of characters so strong that one heart-wrenching death will not shatter your entire creation. The real work is to know, as Kirkman put it, when a death is important and to not pass up on the opportunity to share that with your readers.

How difficult is it for you to kill your characters?

Do you have a procedure to determine when it is best to kill a character? 

Back to the A to Z Party!

Thank you for stopping by Rivera Runs Through It today, but please don't stop now! Head on over to the rest of the A to Z bloggers to see what they are up to today:

And remember the A to Z Bloggers that have signed up for The 1st Official A to Z SU Party (What is a StumbleUpon Party?) would love it if you could give them some StumbleUpon love when you visit their blogs!


My A to Z Challenge Weekly Book Giveaway! WEEK 2

I am also be hosting one book giveaway per week during the month of April. You will have all week (until midnight Monday) to enter to win the book of the week and you may enter more than once (with certain entry options). This week's book is an Advanced Reader Copy of The Curiosities by Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton, and Brenna Yovanoff.
You may enter the giveaway by using the Rafflecopter widget below:
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  1. This was very interesting. Kirkman's views on who can be killed off really surprised me. I would immediately stop watching my series faves if they killed off the mc. (What would "Grey's Anatomy" be w/o Meredith? Or "The Good Wife" w/o Alicia? "Bones" w/o Bones? I guess if it's truly a fantasy series it can work. It worked with "Buffy" and "Angel" - people were always dying and coming back a few episodes later!! lol)
    (new follower)
    Lexa Cain’s Blog

  2. JulieJordanScott2April 15, 2014 at 6:05 PM

    Maybe this is why I don't write fiction: I don't want to kill anyone off and I don't want a zombie invasion! I was in a film called Zombie High... I played the Zombie Queen who in the daytime was disguised as a custodian named Grandma Bettie. Stuff like that is just far too fun, I tell you.


    Happy Continued A to Zing!

  3. A really interesting post. Thank you so much, nice to follow and connect through atozchallenge.

  4. Morgan DragonwillowMay 27, 2014 at 11:21 AM

    I have yet to kill off a character in my story but I can say how horrible it feels when I read about a beloved character dying or, like what happened on one of my favorite series The Good Wife, they kill off a main character that I thought would be on the show to the end. I was devastated. I think there might be something wrong when I feel like that character dying felt like someone died in my family.

    Sorry you weren't able to finish the A to Z, I didn't either. Not sure what my problem was but I fizzled out pretty early on even though I came back toward the end and wrote a couple more. Hope all is going well with you!

    Morgan Dragonwillow's most recent post: 2014 Writing Process Blog Hop