Characters Leave, Authors Live On by Helen Henderson


Characters Leave, Authors Live On by Helen Henderson

Have you ever finished the last book in a great series and moped afterward? It’s a uniquely different experience for authors who’ve written a series. Helen Henderson explains.

dragshi-series-tweet-4bk-box-banner-07-15-16I have been thinking a lot about what happens when something ends. There are several points in an author’s life that mark a finish. The first one that comes to mind is the actual words, “the end.” They are not a true end as they are followed by edits, rewrites, publication and promotion. What follows that is a hoped for, but not always achieved success

It could be the result of having yet another birthday, or maybe the great-niece’s comment, “Aunt H, you’re old,” but I’ve been thinking about more final endings. Several authors I know have declared the finish of their careers. For whatever reason, varying from a more difficult publishing world, reduced royalties, burnout, or just the desire to do something different after thirty years, they have retired or will quit writing when their current work-in-progress is completed.

This post is about none of the above landmarks. It is about the end of life and mourning.

Why am I talking about loss and grief? The last book in my romance/fantasy series, the Dragshi Chronicles, was released over the summer. I should be feeling the euphoria of a release. However, the excitement dissipated with the adrenalin. Now there is a sense of emptiness and maybe a hint of melancholy. I don’t want to leave the dragon shifters. I don’t want to come back to earth. I remember this feeling from previous books, but I never remember it being THIS BAD or coming this quickly after a release.

The answer is those were single books or I knew there was another volume in the series coming. This time was different. I was saying goodbye to the dragshi and their dragon soul twins.

In her Romance University post about series, Renee Vincent reminded us that, “Readers get attached to the characters. That our creations essentially become family to us… people who capture our attention, grip our hearts, and hold us on the edge of our seats as we follow along through the twists and turns of the story.”

Unlike single books, series allows readers the opportunity to spend precious time with the people they have grown close to. Even though as the creator of the series we know that someday there will be a final book and the series will end, like the readers we become attached to the characters, only more so.

“You’ve killed characters before,” was one comment made when I mentioned the correlation between death of a character and completion of a series.

True, if you have read any of the books in the Dragshi Chronicles or my other works, you know I am not averse to killing a character if need be. There is one novella where I still cry each time I read it. (Side note, Forever Bound from the upcoming First Change: Legends From The Eyrie is not part of the chronicles and although there is strong romance in the tale, it doesn’t meet the criteria of HEA.) In fact, a reader told me that even though she knew what was coming, she could not hold back the tears. A statement I took as the ultimate compliment. However, this time it is not writing a single character out of the storyline. I have not said farewell to a secondary character, but to all the main ones and the fantasy world they lived in.

So what happens when a series ends and you have to leave the familiar world you’ve created and the characters you’ve lived with for months, years, or even decades. Stacie Sells correlates readers’ emotions on the loss of a fictional character with the various stages of grief. She lists them as Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. This can apply to authors as well.

There is still the companion book to be produced. However, while set in the same world of the chronicles, it is a totally different tale. The reality is that I’m now separated from someone I’ve lived with for almost a decade. Anastasia and Lord Branin Llewlyn may only be fictional characters but the feeling of loss is real.

So how do I recover my equilibrium.

One article with advice to readers on getting over the death of a fictional character listed several methods including allowing yourself time or celebrating their life by re-reading your favorite scene. An alternative was revisiting an old character. Then when you’re ready, find a new character. As an author, I will be implementing the last method by starting a new book. At least as soon as the new characters stop fighting back. I think they are jealous of the time spent flying with dragons.

I am going to use this time to backup files as a symbolic good-bye. Then go through my file cabinet to revisit some of the old dust bunny manuscripts. Hopefully, organizing the forms I use in a novel notebook will shift my mindset towards creation. But first, I’m going to crack open a bottle of wine, celebrate the release, toast Anastasia, Branin, Talann and Glynnes, and hold an old-fashioned wake.

Whether it is grief or empty nest syndrome from having so many familiar figures leave at once, I don’t know. I will tell you after my next series ends.

A series ends, a character dies, do you mourn or celebrate? Leave your thoughts in the comments.


hatchlings-vengeanceHatchling’s Vengeance 

Glyn, former bodyguard and companion to a dragon lord, is now Lady Glynnes Janaleigh, a dragon lord in her own right. And she has found her intended mate. But, finding him is only half the battle. Keeping him alive is the other when duty has its own demands and Fate holds all the cards. On one card is written — A mating flight does not always include the one you want.

The cult leader, the Parant, means to have his vengeance. No matter how long it takes or how many innocents die, he will kill all dragon shifters. Saving your kind—or yourself—requires more than the power of a dragon soul twin when vengeance threatens all. Not even dragon fire and talons are enough to overcome the mind control wielded by the one called—the Parant. Your only hope lies in the fact that vengeance has two paths. One is death—the other is love.


Helen HendersonBio: A former feature-story writer and correspondent, Henderson has also written fiction as long as she could remember. Her background in history and managing a museum provides her with a unique insight into world building. Her heritage reflects the contrasts of her Gemini sign. She is a descendent of a coal-miner’s daughter and an aviation flight engineer. This dichotomy shows in her writing which crosses genres from historical adventures and westerns to science fiction and fantasy. In the world of fantasy, she is the author of the Dragshi Chronicles and the Windmaster novels.

Find her on online at her author website, at Goodreads or follow her on Twitter at Excerpts of her work, writing tips, and information on new releases can be found on her blog at

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7 Responses to “Characters Leave, Authors Live On by Helen Henderson”

  1. I always feel a little sad when I finish a series as a writer and a reader. I want to believe the characters live on. I think as a writer, the best thing is when a reader feels that way.

  2. Thank you for this, I will be in this position soon and I’m already dreading it. Thank you for some help I know I will need!

    POSTED BY TERRY | NOVEMBER 21, 2016, 12:53 PM
  3. This message via email from Pam De Voe

    Wow. Helen, this blog post is so telling. This spring I finished a trilogy I have been working on for years. Inexplicably (to me), I felt rather lost. I did have another, completely different, novel to work on, but I still had this emptiness wrapping around everything I did. Reading your piece, puts that all into perspective. Thanks so much for sharing.

  4. This really resonated with me. I really hate to see a series end, especially if I’ve been following the series from the beginning. It’s even worse when a beloved character dies – or even a pet. I’m a little heartbroken when my favorite authors need a break and switch to something new for awhile, because I miss my old friends in their other books.

    P.S. Loved your shout-out to Renee Vincent! 🙂

    • thanks for stopping by. Although I wrote about writing series, I”m also a reader. I have several series I’ve read and re-read multiple times. On this last move the books couldn’t come with. Just not knowing they weren’t on the shelf signalled and end. So Renee’s comment about reader’s missing (or mourning) a character hit the bullseye