Wednesday, October 19, 2016


SPOILERS AND THE BETRAYAL OF BALLYKISSANGEL or, What Makes Your Audience Angry
by E.E. Kennedy

Warning, warning, warning! This is partly about a TV show and it is chock full of SPOILERS. The show is a British series, Ballykissangel. So if you watch the back episodes—it’s been off the air a few years—and don’t want to know what’s coming, leave NOW!
Recently, my husband and I began watching back episodes of a series set in Ireland called Ballykissangel and were highly entertained. It was funny with a tiny bit of drama, all in that delightful Irish brogue. Made us want to visit the Emerald Isle.
Then I made a mistake. I did an Internet search of one of the actors in the series and came across a comment about the last episode of the third season. Then I made a bigger mistake: I found the aforesaid episode on YouTube and watched it. And was horrified.
Okay, here’s what happened: a young British priest, Father Peter, is the central character and the other is a very attractive Irish lass named Asumpta, who owns the local pub. There are many other characters, including the young constable and his wife, the local wheeler-dealer businessman and his goofy henchmen, the lady vet and the male schoolteacher.
One of the main themes of the show is the attraction between Asumpta and Father Peter. Of course as a priest, he isn’t supposed to be involved with women and all through the series, he behaves like a perfect gentleman. Nonetheless, the friendship between the two is deepening and under normal circumstances, would develop into something more.
In that fateful episode, we see Peter enter the crowded pub, pull Asumpta aside and whisper to her, “I love you.” She is clearly taken aback by this admission, though we know she feels the same about him. She says something like, “Just a minute, and we’ll talk more about this…and then, she falls down a flight of stairs to the basement and is fatally injured! Not only does the audience feel they’ve been dealt a surprise blow to the midsection, but so does Peter. He hurries to her side and while weeping, is urged to administer last rights. I couldn’t watch that part, but I did skip to the very end and was appalled to see Father Peter, still weeping, standing on a dock somewhere. With a sob, he rips his priest’s collar from his neck, throws it into the water and runs off into the night. What a terrible ending to a series! But wait, there’s more: believe it or not, the show continued with another priest (played by the actor who now plays Longmire, by the way) and continued the light-hearted village story as before. Sorry, I’m gone!
What is the moral for writers? There are two. One: for goodness sake, be true to your audience. If you are writing a lighthearted story, filled with wackiness and fun, it’s quite a shock when suddenly a beloved character is killed. There is such a thing as foreshadowing and it would serve you well in a situation. Foreshadowing in Ballykissangel would perhaps include warning us about the ricketiness of the basement stairs, for instance.
I must give away a little secret here, and I hope it doesn’t spoil things for my readers. When I write about murder victims, I try not to let the reader get too fond of them. Exception: Tracey in Incomplete Sentence is a sympathetic character, but things happen so fast in the prologue, you don’t have time to catch your breath. For a writer, it’s a fine line to walk. I feel strongly that murder is a horrible crime and nobody deserves to be murdered, so I try to give every character dignity, even if they aren’t always likable.
Now, on to number two, the subject of spoilers: I write a mystery series and often get the question, "Do I have to read the books in order or can I just jump in anywhere?"
My answer? Though my books trace the life of a high school English teacher and various changes she goes through, I work hard not to betray too much of the past so that earlier books are ruined for them. I have actually read books that allude to how their character solved a mystery and they actually name the culprit! Why would I want to read the earlier book after that spoiler? Of course, some things are unavoidable. I must freely confess that Amelia gets married at the end of book number one and her life continues on from there. I couldn’t disguise that fact. Mea culpa! (Which is Latin for "my bad.")
But when all is said and done, I look on the mystery reader-mystery writer relationship as a kind of partnership. It’s a game of hide and seek we play with each other, and it’s my job to make it as satisfying as I can.

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I'd love to hear your thoughts and/or gripes on these subjects. Please comment below and leave your email address so you can be included in a drawing for a free eBook version of one of my books--reader's choice!

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E.E. Kennedy is the author of the Miss Prentice Cozy Mystery series, including Irregardless of Murder, Death Dangles a Participle, Murder in the Past Tense and Incomplete Sentence.
You can read free sample chapters at her website: www.missprenticecozymystery.com



 

 

 

 

6 comments:

  1. Beverly Duell-MooreOctober 19, 2016 at 7:22 AM

    Ellen, what an interesting read! I enjoyed it! I din't like that many spoilers myself. If you get too many why read the book?

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  2. Some good advice here, Ellen. We should all know that killing off a beloved character is a no-no from watching TV and getting involved in some of the characters on our favorite programs, only to have them killed off (for whatever reason). Best not to do that when we have control of the writing.

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  3. I have heard the writer of "Game of Thrones" says enjoys killing off characters and shocking his readers/viewers.
    I don't understand that.

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  4. Some great advice here about having the reader not like the murderer too much-- had not really thought of that but it makes sense. "be true to the reader"-- more sound advice. Thanks for the chance at this giveaway! :) buierocks2002@yahoo.com

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  5. Congratulations, "Anonymous," you have won the drawing for an Ebook!

    ReplyDelete