Writing the Nae-Née Series: How to Kill a Character – An Instruction Manual.

When I was writing my series on human overpopulation and ecosystems collapse, which is entitled Nae-Née, I knew that sooner or later, I would have commit virtual murder.

As I wrote more, I realized that if I didn’t commit virtual genocide on a global scale, I would be writing a cop-out rather than dealing with as many facets of the issue as I could think of.

In Book One of the series, I didn’t have to worry about this issue – much. The only deaths were of characters who were trying to kill other people, plus one murder that made the news.

That meant that as a writer, I didn’t feel any awkwardness over this, because it meant killing bad guys whose characters were not developed in an up-close or personal way.

In other words, neither the author nor the reader gets emotionally attached to them in any way. It doesn’t hurt to see them die.

The news story is a passing item, one which explains the need for a little subterfuge and secrecy to protect the Operator and his staff, so that they can function.

(I’m not going to explain that character. You’ll have to read the story to find out who he is, what his job is, and why he has it. Insert grin here.)

In Book Two of the series, it got complicated.

Now I really had to kill people, lots of them, and to form an emotional attachment to them.

I was virtually killing good people, intelligent people, talented people, hard-working people, people who didn’t deserve to be hurt in any way, people who were just living their lives and trying to survive without bothering others.

I was going to have to develop their characters.

I was going to have to get to know them.

I was going to have to show that they were the sort of people who ought to be valued and to have their civil and democratic rights respected.

And then I was going to have to kill them in an appalling way that would show that none of that was respected or valued.

How was I going to do that?

I started by introducing the one character whose point of view would be used to describe the scenes that led up their murders.

Who was she?

She was a college-educated, peaceful, middle-class, American twentysomething, and a liberal activist with a minimal sense of danger.

I had to give her some sort of vulnerability that would lead to the opportunity for the bad guys to kill her. (I’m not going to explain exactly who and how. Again, read the story to find out.)

Great – I had a character in mind to kill.

She seemed all right as a person and as a potential member of Avril’s family. (Avril is the narrator of the series.)

I will tell you this much: she was the new girlfriend of Avril’s oldest cousin, who lives across town.

This meant that there would be plenty of family visits with this character present, during which everyone would get used to her, used to the idea of her, and get to know her a bit.

There’s the hook that draws a reader into a character, causing a feeling of emotional attachment, and justifying a sense of outrage and horror when something finally happens to her.

But how could I kill a perfectly good human being after all that?

Well, I built some traits into her character that helped me to do it:

I described her as having her hair parted in the middle, and I made her…a sniffler!

That was just the beginning of it. I realized that the reader would not understand my antipathy for this hair styling choice, nor the rage that sniffling inspires in me.

No…I would have to add something else, something that, by the middle of Book Two of the series, the reader would be used to about the narrator.

I made Ellie the kind of neurotypical who observes a person on the autism spectrum and immediately looks down her nose at that person, finding her wanting in some unspoken way.

Avril is on the autism spectrum with Asperger’s, and she is well aware of the fact that her brainstem type is a minority model – normal, and fully functional, but often treated as “wrong” simply for not being like that of the majority of humans, i.e. neurotypical.

Being in the majority does not make one superior or always right.

Neurotypicals may think that they know how a person ought to think and comport themselves, but just take any group, let it be the majority, and sooner or later, that majority will bully the others.

Experience has taught me that neurotypicals are eminently capable of erring socially in a myriad of ways.

Yes, Aspies can err by being too loud, by being blunt without realizing how we seem to others.

But neurotypicals can make mistakes by hurling the word “appropriate” like the epithet it is, appointing themselves as the final arbiters of what is and is not socially acceptable.

We know that teenagers often appoint themselves as the final arbiters of what is and is not “cool” even though no one died and made them the judges of that.

Aspies simply don’t care what “most” people deem cool.

Like myself (and here is the author putting something of herself into the story), Avril insists upon wearing clothing with deep, usable pockets for her keys, so that she shall never, ever get locked out of her home nor her car, and for her pocket watch, because she can’t abide having a machine strapped her wrist, least of all one that makes tan lines.

If that isn’t quirky enough to induce a conformist of a neurotypical to at least glance skeptically at an Aspie, I would be surprised.

Well, there you have it. Ellie rubbed me, the author, the wrong way, and I absolutely meant for her to do that.

That was no reason why she should die, which was exactly why making her that way made it easy enough for me – an author to whom killing did not come naturally – to kill her.

Killing, even when it’s not real, should not come naturally.

But I still had to do it, because to keep everyone alive in a series about human overpopulation would be tantamount to avoiding a hugely awkward facet of that issue, and that is that the Earth has far too many humans on it for the ecosystem to continue to sustain us all with enough of what we need.

We need living space, personal space, clothing, fresh fruits and vegetables, education that enables us to think and analyze the world independently, and meaningful, useful work.

The Earth can’t provide that for 7.6 billion humans and more.

A bank – one of the biggest ones – recently did a study that assessed the situation in cold, clinical terms, and came to the same conclusion.

One of the largest banks issued an alarming warning that Earth is running out of the resources to sustain life

My thoughts, when I saw and read this article, were as follows:

“So…the situation has to be dire for “most” people to take it seriously. That is just completely unreasonable. That is what makes it too damned late to do us or the Earth’s ecosystems any meaningful good.”

I wrote them at the end of the copy I made of the article just to save them for future reference. This is part of that future, but I intend for it to be revisited as often as possible.

It’s 2018, and we just had Earth Overshoot Day on August 1st – the earliest date yet.

That means that our species used up all of the resources that the Earth can produce in one year in just seven months.

Right now, we have the liberty to reproduce as much as we wish, even though that isn’t specifically enumerated in any set of laws that comes to mind.

Apparently, this liberty is simply assumed.

It is an assumption that is parroted to me by anyone who wants children and grandchildren, and insists upon having access to the resources that their particular descendants will need, regardless of the fact that, research be damned, those resources aren’t going to be there for most, and that that reality will be felt sooner rather than later.

We are going to feel this in just a few years.

Fertile growing soil doesn’t have more than a few decades, water aquifers are running dry now, the climate is heating up, and human populations from crashed ecosystems – either undergoing desertification or flooding – are attempting to relocate to ecosystems that are already comfortably occupied with more people than they can support.

And that is why I also had to kill 6.8 billion humans in Book Two of the series and thus be a virtual genocidal maniac.

Well, the Georgia Guidestones are also the reason why.

They recommend that the Earth’s human population be kept under half a billion.

It’s good, after all, to make up one’s mind about a number and write accordingly.

So…how did I commit genocide, virtual and thus not real as it was?

I could not get to know that many people personally.

As a lawyer, I had to focus on that fact that this was a crime and describe that fact, along with the erasure of so many people who did not deserve to be wiped out.

As an author, unnatural and wrong though it felt, I reminded myself that this was the job I had set myself to do, so I did it.

I reminded myself not to make the Nae-Née series a cop-out.

They had to die.

They didn’t actually die.

Thus, the story got written.

And, I admit, I also comforted myself with the fact that, in Book Three, there is the International Criminal Court to deal with the Farmers who perpetrated it.

I cleaned up after the crimes, with a legal system, a mechanism of enforcement, and…something else.

If you want to know what that something else was, read the series.

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