On Being Kind to Characters

Dawn Knox

Publisher’s note: A thoughtless cad gets his comeuppance in “Revenge on a Plate,” Dawn Knox’s story in our anthology The Female Complaint. The punishment, however, comes not from the woman he jilted, but from her mother, a woman with a flair for the theatrical and a handy way with a carving knife, whose threats are both subtly gruesome and horrifyingly funny.

While I recognise that not all stories should have a happy ending, I find it hard to convince myself of this when I’m writing. To create a likable character and then plunge him or her into misery seems rather harsh, and I usually find, despite my best efforts, that I want to divert the plot from where I intended it to go, in order to rescue them. Quite often, I find that as the plot veers off its original course, it acquires an air of absurdity, which often lightens the bitterness even if it doesn’t solve all the characters’ problems.

“Revenge on a Plate” originally started life as a horror story, but as I progressed, I began to find the subject matter unpalatable (sorry—couldn’t resist the pun), and when the plot swerved to avoid the obvious conclusion, I found myself heading toward an ending that was very different from the one I’d first imagined. But ultimately, I think that all the characters in the story got their just desserts (sorry—couldn’t resist that one either!)

Dawn Knoxs first novel, Daffodil and the Thin Place, was published in 2014. She has also published several short horror, sci-fi, speculative fiction, and romance stories. She lives in Essex, England, with her husband and son.

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