The Untimely Death of a Main Character

Dear Writers,

For a decade of my life, from 1990 until starting grad school in 2000, I worked as a college recruiter for Micron Technology of Idaho. On February 3, Micron’s 51-year-old CEO Steve Appleton died in a small plane crash. Steve was stupendously talented and really awesome to me during my years at Micron–I consider Micron to be where I grew up professionally and in many ways personally. Of course all weekend and this morning he’s been on my mind.

As usual, whatever happens in life works its way into my story brain, and I started thinking about stories where the beloved hero dies at the end. It’s a potentially risky ending for a writer to use, because readers can get frustrated and feel cheated, yet it’s masterful when done well. Shakespeare was brilliant in figuring out how to make us fall in love with a complex character and then take that character away from us in a fashion that left us mourning yet also cheering.

I think about the last lines in Hamlet: “Let four captains / Bear Hamlet like a soldier to the stage, / For he was likely, had he been put on, / To have proved most royal…” For many of us at Micron, Steve was our royalty, and a most graceful and gracious prince. He will always be for me one of the greatest characters ever written and come to life.

A couple quick event notes: Wednesday, February 8, I’m heading to Seattle to hear my friend Krys Lee read from her new story collection Drifting House. I met Krys at a Squaw workshop and am truly excited to see her beautiful work now out in the world.

Saturday, February 11, I’ll be back at Village Books with illustrator/author Nina Laden and artist and author Paul Owen Lewis to preview the Kids Book Writing class we’ll again co-teach for WWU. For more info about upcoming events and classes, visit

xo Laurel Leigh

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