SPOILER ALERT! This post will contain spoilers for Unbound.
Ok, if you have not yet read Unbound, stop reading now and go read it. Then come back here when you are done.
You’ve finished Unbound? Promise? Willing to pinky promise? Ok, good. Now we can talk openly.
I’ve had several readers make comments saying that the loved the books, but why did so many people they liked have to die?
The short and brutal answer is: because that’s how the story came to me. I generally start off with a single piece of a story and imagine myself into a book from there. In this case it was Berserkers and powers triggered with adrenalin. I built the world and populated it with characters… and then I had to make things go wrong.
Because if nothing goes wrong, then there isn’t much of a story. It’s great to be a happy person with no problems. Or so the rumors say. I can only imagine what that would be like. 🙂 But happy people with no problems are kind of boring to read about. Stories need conflict and problems to drive action. The characters need something to DO.
Now, in my defense, I had already planned the deaths, long before I wrote the story and learned to care about the characters, too. Believe me, there’s a part of me that wants to go back, completely replot the story and bring the dead back to life.
It’s a little too late now.
So, what I will do is tell you a bit about why I had to kill four of the characters and what I hoped their deaths would accomplish.
As a guy who considers himself a “good guy” I was sick of all the stories where the girl picks the dangerous, bad guy. Sure they’re fun for a while, but eventually they drag you into a dysfunctional relationship that would never actually last outside of fiction. It gets romanticized and glamorized to a point that I think is dangerous. So, I started writing Eric to be fun, flashy, full of bad judgment, and very interested in Madison. He was going to be the worst possible person for her to be with.
But along the way, that all changed. When I wrote the chapter with Eric’s back story, no one was more surprised than me to see his history. I had no idea he had done all those things until I wrote them. I suppose I could have changed them since I am the author, but my subconscious had put together the pieces of his personality and come up with a back story that explained it all, and I loved it. Eric went from self-centered braggart to a tragic figure who had been through horrible things and stayed with the woman he loved while she died. Against my will I started to like him.
But he was already scheduled for death. Eric needed to die for a number of reasons. First, it helped raise the emotional stakes and it made it a better book. I don’t know about you, but I felt real sorrow when Eric saw Madison and Rhys together. I wanted my readers to feel that kind of raw emotion. I felt it, and I hope you did too. Eric also showed us what happens when a Berserker goes feral, which may just possibly become important in the next book. 🙂
Another reason was that Eric had become a bigger character than I had originally planned and was starting to prevent Madison and Rhys from being together and developing their relationship. I tried to just move him away, (he went off to hunt Osadyn) but Eric would never stay away. He was seriously messing up my story. I didn’t kill him for that, but his death helped solve that problem.
Poor Kara. There was no reason she needed to go when she did aside from the fact that she was Eric’s Binder. When he died, she had to die with him. I did like the fact that it brought home the Berserker-Binder relationship and showed the consequences of this bond. It’s one thing to know it, it’s another to see it actually happen. It was important for Madison to see it for herself.
Mallika needed to go so that Madison wouldn’t rely on her and learn Binder powers from her. Young characters can’t grow up if they have a safety net around them all the time. There’s a reason why Dumbledore and Gandolf had to die. The protagonist needs to feel alone. They need to feel the challenge before them is beyond what they can handle. Then they have to overcome the challenges on their own.
I didn’t realize until Osadyn attacked that it would mean Mallika’s death. The pieces were there, but it wasn’t until I started writing that I realized what Mallilka would do in that situation. Once I thought through it, I realized it was exactly what had to happen. She had learned to love Madison and Rhys and was willing to sacrifice herself for them.
I felt sick inside as I wrote Mallika’s final note to Madison. I knew it had to be done, but it was emotionally tough to do. You guys may like the characters, but I’ve known them a lot longer and have an even stronger attachment to them.
As a sort of side note, one of the unintended consequences of Mallika’s death is that it allows Madison and Rhys to now have that bond together. It will also play a role in some of the difficulties that happen in Bonds That Break.
I honestly feel bad for Aata. We writers sometimes have to be brutal to our characters, and Aata was one of those unlucky people. Kara’s death hit him hard. He never really had reconciled with her, and the guilt consumed him. He essentially broke when she died, and had no way of dealing with the pain. His death happened when Madison wasn’t around and the reader doesn’t get to see it. When the Berserkers report back, it just sounds like he died in battle. That is technically true, but he wouldn’t have died if he had been thinking rationally. He was so upset and distraught that he pushed himself harder than he should have, took more risks than were necessary, and essentially let his grief goad him into unsafe actions that eventually killed him.
So, now you have my explanations for the deaths that have happened so far. I have tried to make each death meaningful and impactful. Reading allows us to experience a range of emotions, sometimes sorrow is one of them.
But let me warn you, the deaths are not over yet. This has just been the tip of the iceberg. If you read the note Mallika left at the end of Unbound, it certainly does not bode well for the rest of the Berserkers and Binders.