The unconscionable act


I did something unconscionable recently. Not in real life, you understand, but in Balance of Betrayal. I drove someone to their death.

I’ve killed characters before – soldiers falling in battle, disease carrying away whole families, murders, war crimes, all sorts of death – but this was different.

In this case an essentially innocent person has been manipulated and used by Plexus – the royal intelligence network of Bremmand – into a betrayal which is so abhorrent to him and makes him so distraught at the realisation of his actions that he take his own life. It is a deliberate and calculating act on the part of Plexus to use this man – to repay another act of betrayal which has cost the kingdom. To be clear – my victim isn’t a great person. In fact, he is weak-willed and cowardly, who couldn’t find it in him to take a stand against the enemy and against one who had done wrong. But being weak isn’t a capital crime and in using him Plexus wasn’t punishing him – in fact they were indifferent to him and the harm to him didn’t figure in their calculations. After the fact, they don’t regret it and we see no remorse at their actions.

So why am I so upset about this? He’s just a character in a book – a figure of imagination and trapped on paper. Why does it matter?

It’s hard to explain to anyone who doesn’t write but the characters one creates become real. You invest your creative soul into them and you become attached. As characters develop and evolve they take on a life of their own and become real in one’s mind, so the writer experiences real feelings towards them. When Fenner died in Twelve Moon-Cycles I grieved for him because he had become real to me. It was why, in his last moments, I made sure he knew his life had purpose and gave him a really fitting send-off.

The same has happened in this case. My ‘victim’ was barely a character when I started writing – just an incidental person who was mentioned from time to time. But as I realised how he could become pivotal in the book, he role grew and so did the clarity of his character. I got to know him, I started to understand him, I started to feel for him.

It didn’t make me change the plot. I may not like it but from a story perspective it was still in keeping with how Plexus would act and thrusts the reader into the world of ‘grey areas’ that surround the story. They would feel the means justified the end, they would say “This is a war and they are the enemy,” but life is seldom black and white and I wanted to be sure my tales have shades of grey to match.

And yes, this is only a character, not a real person who has suffered and died. It’s just a story…

But I still think it was mean!

Cate Caruth is the author of the Bremmand Chronicles. To buy her books or learn more about them, go to

You can follow Cate on Twitter at

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