Character Death Knell

Posted Monday, 07/01/24

I truly dislike writing character death scenes, but it simply has to be done for a fictional story that spans more than 165 years through ten novels.

Here's an excerpt from Hearts in Sorrow (prequel to the Collective Obsessions Saga), which may be subject to change during the editing process.


Castletownbere, Ireland; June 1855

When it came time to close the coffin, John focused his eyes on Maeve. He did not want to lose sight of her. He would never see her again, not in this world. She was truly alone now, and he could do nothing to help or protect her. He had the sudden urge to crawl into the casket with her and be done with life, but he restrained himself. He closed his eyes as the lid was finally latched shut.

"Hearts in Sorrow" by Deborah O'Toole writing as Deidre Dalton

Burial took place at St. Finbarr's Cemetery after a brief funeral service inside the church. Maeve's plot was next to that of her mother, Fiona Fitzgerald O'Quinn. John stood next to Dary and Anne at the gravesite, stone-faced and dry-eyed. Dary was weeping openly, perhaps fueled by copious amounts of whiskey, while Anne remained calm with stoic resignation. She wore a black wool dress, her hands clutching an equally dark reticule.

Father O'Driscoll spoke over the grave solemnly:

"Oh God, by whose mercy the faithful departed find rest, bless this grave, and send your holy angel to watch over it. As we bury here the body of our sister, Maeve O'Quinn, deliver her soul from every bond of sin, that she may rejoice in you with your saints forever. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen."

John watched as the coffin was lowered into freshly-dug grave. He swallowed, feeling the dryness in his throat. He wanted everyone to go away so he could be alone at Maeve's final resting place. He could not see her face anymore, except in his mind. It was intolerable, yet he was helpless to change it.

The death of Maeve O'Quinn is no secret as she was mentioned in The Advent as being the love of John Larkin's life who dies in 1855, before they could marry. Instead, John marries Maeve's guilt-ridden older sister, Anne, who then goes on to emigrate to America with him in 1866 with their two children, Roderick and Molly Larkin.

"Hearts in Sorrow" in progress, including my copious number of sticky notes. Click on image to view larger size in a new window.

(Above): Hearts in Sorrow in progress, including my copious number of sticky notes. Click on image to view larger size in a new window.

In addition, I awoke at four in the morning last week and made my usual cup of decaffeinated Kauai coffee using a pod in our Keurig brewer.  About thirty minutes later, I went to the back steps of the house to have my first smoke of the day. It was cool, dark and quiet.

I was suddenly struck with a rather dramatic ending for Hearts in Sorrow. It wrote itself in my head all at once, so I scurried back into the house to jot it all down. While I'm nearly finished with Hearts in Sorrow, the conclusion came to me early with a resoluteness I rarely experience as I edit and moves bits of the story around. The writing process can sometimes be long and tedious, but once in awhile a shiny nugget will shine through unexpectedly.

It's part of what keeps me going.

If I can keep up the relentless pace, I predict the first draft of Hearts in Sorrow will be complete by the end of July or early August. After editing, I can hopefully go back to the already half-written Limb of Iniquity, which is set in the present day and is the final part of the Collective Obsessions Saga. My desire is to finish the novel by the end of the year.

Dedication for "Hearts in Sorrow." Click on image to view larger size in a new window.

(Above): Dedication page for Hearts in Sorrow (subject to change). Click on image to view larger size in a new window.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed on all fronts.

Irish Eyes: Collective Obsessions Saga

Tags: Collective Obsessions; Writing & Editing