There comes a time in every author’s novel when they must say goodbye to one or more of their characters. In a war story there seems to be a bit more of the goodbyes. Sometimes they are sad.
When I began this novel as a *‘pantser’, I had two characters in mind: Katrinka and Wolfe. The others were created by necessity to get the story moving, and to hopefully take it somewhere interesting. Along the way I added Nye, Valentine, Raphael, and a few more. I had no idea I would become so attached to them all.
I’ve already written about Rolf and his refusal to leave, but there were others. Major Willoughby Nye was supposed to be someone that would appear in the first few scenes, then fade out. But the chemistry between Katrinka and Nye was irresistible to me. I kept giving him more scenes with her; invented a shared history, and pretty soon I was falling for him as well. So much so that I added a chapter at the end of the book, to make sure he was given some happiness. He was my editor’s favourite character.
It was hard to lose Valentine; I’d become very fond of him. When he came in that morning to say goodbye, I wasn’t ready for it. Katrinka wasn’t either. But then Valentine got the brilliant plan to invite Katrinka to Paris with him. Great idea, but now I was stumped. This was taking the book in a brand-new direction. She was going to Paris early? Would she see Farr? Would they make up? It felt like I was losing control of the story. This happens frequently with a pantser, but I’ve since learned to trust my characters.
Anyway, she and Val go to Paris, and Val finds out where Farr is and brings the directions back to Katrinka. But I'd only put off the dreaded farewell. So in the last bit, when he is walking out of our lives forever, I have him turn around and give her that radiant smile.
OK Val. Best of luck to you. And then there was Raphael. Out of all my characters he was the one I knew the least about. Tragedy had closed him off. I knew he was suffering but his act after the liberation shocked me to the core. Hadn't seen it coming. I'd wanted to keep Raphael. I needed him to continue his work with the team, setting up a new French government, and training recruits. I hadn't really considered how deep his pain went. I hadn't realized that Raphael had had enough. France was liberated, his job was done, and he just wanted to go. Without a word to anyone (including this author), he went back to his darkened tent that night, fed his bird and then took a quick exit. We are all given that option in our lives. Some choose to use it.
Then the women characters. I had so much fun with most of them, especially Cricket. She was yet another one that wouldn’t leave. I’d added her just to have someone for Katrinka to talk to while waiting for the audition to begin. But like most characters in a book, she dug in immediately. Nevertheless, I had her dragged out by an abusive mother so that Katrinka could get the part in the show. Katrinka HAD to get the part so I felt justified in removing Cricket. But I felt so guilty about it and was very relieved when she ended up tumbling out of the cargo doors. Cricket was a surprisingly strong woman, not at all the pushover I had originally thought. And later, not wanting to return to her dead-end life in California, she decides to stay in Guam. If there had been more time, I would have enjoyed developing her character more thoroughly. There was a thin ribbon of steel beneath that cheerful light-hearted exterior, that refused to be squelched. A bit of a gambler and risk taker.
I just realized I’ve forgotten the most important goodbyes in the book—Wolfe and Katrinka. Unlike the others, I knew exactly who, when, what, and why their departure would be. I built the entire book around it.
But I will address that another time.
*Collins Dictionary for “pantser”: In the writing world, someone who prefers to write by the seat of their pants without any forethought or planning.