A while back, I went over what it might do to fans and writers when you kill off a character. However, there’s an offshoot to that – turning a fan favorite.
Here’s what I mean – turning people from bad to good and back again is a favorite tactic in films. In professional wrestling, turning someone from babyface(the good guy) to heel(the bad guy) is amazingly common. In our writing, though, this can have a detrimental effect on our audience. Making someone completely unexpected turn out to be the bad guy can be a great trick…in a single story novel. Unfortunately, done in the fifth book of a seven book series, it can piss people off.
Imagine, for example, that you found out in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Interesting from the standpoint of story continuity, but each book also stands on its own. How can you go back and re-read old stories without having the way you read it change? After all, you’d know from the beginning that this person you associated as being a force for good in the main character’s life is actually a dastardly villain you want to die.
I get the temptation to throw a wrench into the works and shake things up a bit. However, be careful with which wrench you throw. If you want to shake things up, kill off a major character or introduce a new one, but if you change someone who everyone was rooting for, you may find that your audience will start to view you as the bad guy. After all, it was you who crushed their affections, so will they ever trust you again?