Emotional Development of Characters

Part Three: Beheading, Necksnapping

And now, the conclusion because I know you’re all wanting to know how I could redeem this situation. 🙂

To recap, Aiyu is one of my secondary characters. He’s a thirteen-year-old orphan who serves in a battle for his kingdom. He started this novel as an innocent. Lets see how far he’s come by the end of this scene, which is 3/4 of the way through the book.

Outside the tunnel’s claustrophobic embrace, the smell of blood filled Aiyu’s nostrils. Haga’s life pooled and Aiyu blindly slipped in it. He clutched the bloody, damp earth at his feet.
The stench of blood hung on him. His vision adjusted to see Haga’s sightless eyes staring into his. Aiyu recoiled. Haga’s expression was too empty to bear.
Aiyu turned and threw up in a bush. He trembled, shaking his head at the thought that he had killed with his bare hands.
His mind whirled, confused. The traitor was dead and that was good. But what had happened to Hong Aiyu? Was he a murderer now? He gagged once more and crawled to his friend’s corpse.
He arranged poor Haga’s body in an appropriate posture for the funeral pyre of Xien Ye.
“I’m sorry,” Aiyu whispered. He dug in his girdle until he found what he wanted. Six wooden dice with red and black painted dots. He placed them on Haga’s chest.
I’m not a murderer. Not a mourner. I’m another victim.
He ran to escape the memory of Haga’s simple grin and trusting expression, his empty eyes and cooling fingers.
Aiyu would play sixes no more.

End of Chapter

Yes, it’s horrific, (war is like that) but I didn’t end the chapter with the butcher’s death. That would have left the reader with a flat, unfinished taste in his mouth. Aiyu has gone from an innocent who refused to kill the enemy in battle, to killing in his master’s defense (an earlier scene) to a vengeance murder, although he also defends an entire city in killing the butcher here. I use these situations to show:
1. The horror of battle, thereby grounding the reader in my book’s reality
2. What battle/killing does to a soul – the emotional growth quotient, which further grounds the reader. (If your character doesn’t grow and change with AT LEAST every major event in your book, you’ve missed a great opportunity and your reader will cease to believe in your characters.)
3. The advancing plot

Now you can rail on me for my sense of violence and inpropriety in having a thirteen-year-old boy in such situations. LOL Seriously, if there’s anything you feel would improve this scene, please let me know.