Grief & Loss: A Writer’s Conduit To Creating Authentic Characters

Most of us have already tasted the bitter sting of death at one time or another – the loss of a loved one, or the ending of a powerful relationship, the pain of separation, the guilt of things that passed between us, the things that were said or done that should’ve been – or the regret for things said or done that we can never take back.

I am of course, no exception.

Depending on how close to us that person was, it can often take years – a lifetime even – to fight through that storm of tears into a clearing of relative calm, or even beyond that, to a woodland of peace, acceptance and moving on. But we never forget.

As a writer, it’s never as easy as some think it is to write about emotions, especially emotions being experienced by our characters – without drawing on our own experiences and of course, our own pain… of loss, sorrow, regret, guilt and longing.

For Cindy-Mei Winter it was no different when she received the news… the news about Gary, her beau  -and the hub of her fresh, new start in life. For two days he’d been away on a job – nothing unusual about that, but not knowing where he was, or being able to reach him made her worry. Then the sheriff dropped by to break the news: he’d been found that morning… inside his jeepo at the side of the main highway between Atro City and San Fedora.

It was devastating for Mei – and the shock drives her to retreat into her past to draw on her own experience as an agent for the Colonial Intelligence Agency – because from there, she could fight back, and make those responsible for Gary’s death, pay!

For Cindy-Mei Winter, her grief drives her to solve the murder of Gary Beck, and to go beyond simply seeking justice – but vengeance – and to find and end the assassin who had come to Deanna to kill her – even if she should die in the process.

Of course, we reinterpret our grief to fit the situation… drawing on our collective experiences of the pain of loss to make it the point of view of a character in a story, complete with our memories and our own thoughts at the time.

While we as writers often put so much of ourselves into our favorite characters that it becomes hard to tell sometimes where we end and they begin, pain also sometimes causes us to create villains based on people who have hurt us in real life. This is no less true in the case of the main villain in “Dead Man’s Hammer“.

The assassin Villainessa Tittel was thoroughly professional, ruthlessly efficient, and terribly good at her job – not to mention, a terrifying adversary. And since Vil was surprised to learn the identity of her mark – as someone she’d known before – the former CIA Agent Winter, she decides to indulge her inner demons and have a little fun by methodically taking all Mei’s pieces off the board until only she remains.


When I wrote the first draft of “Dead Man’s Hammer” in 2005, I’d never written about the death of a character before, at least not in as much depth and detail especially with regard to emotion. Naturally, the question arises: what experience did I draw on in writing the story?

Cindy-Mei Winter – like myself – is a transgender woman who in “Black Sunrise” has just recovered from gender reassignment surgery and sets out on a little vacation away from everything she knew before as a little treat to start off her new life. It is for this reason that she comes to Deanna, and meets Gary Beck, falls in love, and decides to stay on the small backwater colony.

I began my own transition in 1999, and only completed the journey in 2006 – and of course I drew on all my personal experience when writing transgender characters: Agent Winter (and the younger Danielle Grauffis) being no exception.

At that time, I’d been writing the first draft for “Black Sunrise“, which then became too long and complex, I felt – and so I split the end part of that story off to form a sequel called “The Time Saving Agency“, which I worked on after the conclusion of the first draft of “Black Sunrise“. It was in the middle of “The Time Saving Agency“, that tragedy struck – and I had to deal with the loss of someone close to me. The grief was so intense, so final that I couldn’t escape it. There was no way around it – I had to claw my way through it, and the only way I could deal with the overwhelming pain of that loss, was to write about it. So, several weeks later, I buried myself in finishing “The Time Saving Agency“, which also resulted in a section being split off to become “Dead Man’s Hammer“.


Dead Man’s Hammer” has been revised several times since its first release in 2005, and each time, I added more and more depth, maturity and realism into the characters and their thoughts and experiences. The current version was released on March 16, 2019 (4th Edition) and now stands at 50,028 words.

It’s in “Dead Man’s Hammer” that one main character of Quantum (Mei) has to deal with the loss of another (Gary Beck). Of course, due to the emotional content of that book, it might seem to readers to be quite dark and depressing – and to be honest, parts of it probably are – but they’re also quite beautiful, descriptive – and funny.

I like to think the story interprets the emotions and state of mind of a transgender woman who has braved all sorts of adversity, overcome a thousand obstacles rolled into her way, dealt with the loss of friends, employment, relatives and familiarity in the process of becoming her authentic self – to have found… and lost, true love and happiness.

Gary Beck is a decent, upstanding guy – and every transgender woman knows how hard those are to find.

But don’t despair, dear reader – for partway through the story, we learn that Gary Beck, being the most famous bounty hunter of all time (according to his PR department a.k.a. Sheriff Peg) had faked his own death (using holograms, apparently). …or did he? His recent introduction to that clandestine and other-dimensional organization, The Time Saving Agency and his new friend Johnathan Scrooby may or may not have played a small part… Regardless, in a reality where time-travelers drop in for tea – fortunately, for some people – death is sometimes only a temporary inconvenience!

Unfortunately, in the real world – for us – there’s no such easy escape for us from our grief – as much as we might wish for it. What’s done is done, as the old saying goes: No matter how long we may grieve, question, pine away, ruin ourselves, or wake up crying in our nightmares with our pillows soaked with our tears… here, people we love, die – and those who die stay dead – and those we may wish dead for whatever reason, linger – but as writers, we can indulge ourselves, play at gods, and pretty much do as we please!

All we can do, is our best – until we meet again.

Feel free to email or message me via Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn if you have any comments or questions!

Have a great weekend,



If you’re interested in finding out more about the Quantum Series, please visit the following pages:

About The Quantum Series

FAQ’s Answered: Why do I write about LGBT people?

What Does Being Transgender Bring To My Writing?

So Many Freebies…

There are three FREE downloadable Quantum short fiction sample titles available – click on the covers below to download them!


If you would like to know more about Christina Engela and her writing, please feel free to browse her website.

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All material copyright © Christina Engela, 2019.


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