Question: I'm on my second draft, with a main character struggling with emotional and mental health problems.
I use the first-person in the past tense.
Because of the past-tense use, would it be possible in any way for me to allow my main character to commit suicide?Answer:
Yes and no. In terms of the reality of the story, how can your main character be telling her story if she is dead?
Some writers have gotten around this dilemma by explaining at the end that the character has been dead all along and is narrating from the afterlife. The film Sunset Boulevard
is one well known example. The TV series Desperate Housewives
is another. However, it can feel like a bit of a cheat for the reader unless you make it clear early on what is happening.
Of course, if the suicide is the last event of the book, you could have the narrator tell the story right up to the moment, explain what she intends to do next, and then stop. The reader will then infer what happens next. This also works with epistolary novels--where the entire book is the main character's diary.
Another option is to have an epilogue written from a different character's point of view--perhaps the person who found the body.
What's even trickier is if the suicide comes in the middle of the story. Who narrates what happens afterward? You could switch to a different character's point of view, but that would essentially give the reader two stories within the same narrative. The first story would be about the character who dies. The second story would be about the character who lives.