I recently stayed up late watching a movie. A young father had just returned from a tour of duty in Iraq, and brought his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with him. He wound up killing his pregnant wife and two of his three children. I would have turned off the movie except for a little girl. His youngest was spared because of her gentle, kind spirit that reached her crazed father in the midst of his killing spree.
He took her and fled. For months they traveled throughout the upper plains states. Throughout the movie I was drawn in by her character. She was totally committed to her father with unconditional love. Each scene moved closer to redemption, the silver lining, the rebuilding after the storm. I endured the awful things that happened in the movie for the happy ending.
In the last minute of the movie, just when it was supposed to happen, out of nowhere a car sped through a residential intersection, hit the little girl at 40mph and killed her. I was devastated! Crushed! Left with a void of hopelessness. Anger. Disjointedness.
I'll admit that was an unexpected plot twist. I didn't see it coming any more than the little girl did. I jumped straight out of my recliner chair at the instant of impact. But then the movie ended and I was left with a gut-wrenching sorrow that kept me up all night and unable to truly function the next day.
I vow from this moment to NEVER kill my readers softly by writing a character they will fall deeply for, care about and grow attached to, only to have them witness them being suddenly killed by a speeding car at the moment of Happily Ever After. I will not commit that crime against my readers. I care too much about them. About you. About the power of hope.