I KNOW a friend who writes romance who killed off her heroine and used her hero in a later book. I, too, have altered two stories for “outer” reasons.
So, the question is, how true do you stay to your belief in your story?
J.K. Rowling knows how the story ORIGINALLY ended. I completely agree that she should be able to write it any way she wants – and if it changes because the story has changed, or if it changes because of “outer” publishing concerns, that is HER choice to make.
But how true should an author be to the vision of the story?
My friend who wrote the romance and was true to her characters and story, destroyed her career under that name. I find THAT a terrible shame, and personally think that even if she knew the story ended with a heroine’s death (off stage) and a new heroine marrying the hero, she shouldn’t have written it. I’ve heard other romance writers who “know” what happens to their characters later, say that the marriage ended in divorce, or a hero died shortly after the book ended. I, as a reader, don’t want to hear that.
OTOH, I REALLY wanted to make Ruis Elder, my thief, an angrier, more bitter man, and give him greater growth in his character arc. When I first started Heart
Thief, nobody liked Ruis. I didn’t have the talent, then (and probably don’t now) to make him a synpathetic hero (especially of a romance) and as angry as I thought he should be. So I rewrote to give readers a man they could like and sell the book.
Is betraying your vision of a story because of publishing concerns unethical to your muse, your craft, yourself? Or am I being too righteously overblown here and should be tooting the “writing is a business” horn? Somewhere in between, probably.
In Heart Duel, for business reasons (I wanted to sell more Heart books), I ended the outer subplot on a bad note and left a thread dangling that has served me very well for the next three books. Doing that IMPROVED the story and the series, and I wouldn’t have done it otherwise, so I actually ACHIEVED a better story and series by listening to business concerns (which, since I STILL want to sell more Heart books, means I might think of a new thread to leave dangling in Heart Fate. You are warned.).
So, to me, this is a matter to think about and whichever side I come down on one day may not be the decision I make the next. But if the bottom line is staying true to my story or ruining my career, the story damn well changes.
Then, of course we get into shadings, what will please me as an author or the reader better, and how do I decide that? Again I waffle. Listen to advice. Listen to my readers.
Ponder the question, and let me know. Or not.