Character Death

I love a good, happy ending, but sometimes a surprise is just as welcome.  We've all experienced those endings that aren't happy or aren't quite what we wanted them to be.  Characters don't wind up in the situation we want them in, or maybe they don't even survive.

I really admire writers who kill of MCs.  I think it takes a lot of courage to do that.  You build up your reader's investment in that character's life, only to take them away at the last moment.  It's definitely one way to create a tearjerker! I'd talk about some of the best YA books to rip your heart out like that but, ah, spoilers!

Should you kill off a character just to make your readers cry? Should you write one just to make your book darker and edgier? It's up to you, but personally I'd be wary of getting rid of characters for any reason other than that's what the plot needs. There's nothing more frustrating that a pointless, gratuitous death scene.  And that's not to say I think characters should only ever die in a blaze of glory.  Like I said before, if your plot needs it, kill off as many characters as you want.  Go with your gut instinct.  Just be prepared to break a few hearts in the process, maybe your own too.

Oh, and if you need a bit of musical inspiration to kill a character with, here's two that might help:



(Never trust Joss Whedon with your favourite character's life!!!! I'LL NEVER FORGIVE YOU FOR THAT CHARACTER YOU KILLED OFF IN THAT FILM YOU MADE! NEVEEEEEEEER!!!!!!!!!)

Ever killed off a character? Did you battle with yourself first and try to save them or did you have no such worries?

Comments

  1. I kind of waffled back and forth on this with one of my stories. I originally thought I was going to kill off one character, but it never really felt quite right. While tweaking my outline, it suddenly occurred to me that there was a much more important character who needed to go. And then I got all teary over my own darn character, which is probably a good sign that this will have more impact.

    And I'm with you about Joss Wheedon. He killed off two characters I love in a particular movie. I'm wondering if we're talking about the same film...

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    1. Oh, definitely! If you're crying, the readers will too.

      I do believe we are... I was SO upset, and not in a crying way but in a RAAAAGE way because why? Why do that? AAARGH!

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  2. I've not had to do this yet... but I'm sure that day will come. Although, I suppose you could say I did in my "X Marks the Spot" flash story a few weeks ago. But that wasn't a novel, so maybe it doesn't count. I did think it an interesting idea to kill of the MC in a first person PAST TENSE narrative. It opens up all kinds of questions: How is the MC narrating if he's dead? Is he a ghost? Or is he not really dead? The beauty of flash fiction is I can leave you guessing. :D

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    1. That's definitely the beauty of flash fiction ^_^

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  3. I'm fine with killing off characters but there has to be a reason for it. And there's also the challenge of making that character sneak into the reader's heart so when they do die you're gutted. Joss Whedon does that to me a lot. It was two films for me that he did that in. =( But what I never was keen on was him bringing back characters in Buffy. I think those certain three characters he did kill off would have been a better way to end their story and the series overall because the deaths were so tragic and it really tore you to pieces. Then they come back to life and it felt like a bit of a cop out. That's one thing I can't stand - when characters are killed off but brought back to life.

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    1. Joss Whedon is way too good at it. The man cannot be trusted!

      Yeah, I've learned never to trust Supernatural with "aaaand he's dead!" storylines. Once, maaaaaybe, is okay but when you're approaching the fourth of fifth non-death? No. It's done. Enough.

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  4. I might be too chicken to kill off a main character. I'd be so worried that people would want my head on a stake if it got published. Plus, I think I'm just too much of a softy. But every so often things happen in my stories that I totally didn't plan on, and you start wondering if you're actually writing the story or if it's writing itself. So yeah, maybe I would give a character the ax if the story called for it.

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    1. I know what you mean. I want people to read my book and feel happy not "WHY DID YOU DO THAT, WHY?!?!" and come after me with pointy sticks. But if the plot tells me "you know what, character a needs to kick it," well, it has to be done.

      After which I will find somewhere to hide :P

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  5. I agree! Harry Potter is all the better and more moving because main characters die! And I'm weird but I love it when books don't end happily. I mean, I don't want ALL books to have a sad ending, but I don't want ALL books to have a happy ending. It's refreshing to read a not-so-happy ending once in a while. (Okay, literary fiction usually has not-so-happy endings, but they're also chock full of melancholy for the whole book. Silly literary fiction.)

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    1. Yeah, literary fiction isn't the place to go to for happy endings ^^;

      I agree with you - I too like a blend of happy and sad. That's life, after all!

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