If you are going to kill off characters, have the decency to mark their passing.

Recently, a number of clients have put book characters to sudden, dramatic deaths that move their plots along but cause nary a ripple among other characters in the books. The dead characters are tossed aside like used Kleenex, their use expended, and because they are fictional to begin with, they do not even litter the landscape like the tossed tissue. They simply disappear into the ether.

Well, now. Not to make too much of this, we suspect it is just a matter of authors being so wrapped up in their plots, they do not see the trees for the forest. As editors, we get a giggle out of it. Oops, there goes poor so and so, and nobody noticed.

But the trees are important. Unless the author is going for a kind of comic book effect – and most of our authors aren’t – characters should be treated with love and respect. If the author doesn’t care about his characters, readers won’t either. Worse, readers are likely to wonder about the integrity of an author who can unfeelingly discard characters the reader really wants to invest in.

The remedy can be as simple as letting other characters react to the passing of the deleted character. It can also mean developing the character’s personality before his/her exit. Either will make the story fuller and richer – and enhance the plot.

In writing as in day to day living, watch what you are throwing away.