1. amo a bulla
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    amo a bulla New Member

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    How Do I Kill My Main Character?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by amo a bulla, Mar 27, 2011.

    Hello, I'm a relatively new writer, and I have a story that I'm very happy with, which I've been developing for a few years.

    Every time I return to it, I know that the resolution needs to end with my main character's death. I know how I want him to die, but I'm not quite sure how to go about the technicalities of writing it.

    The story is told in first person from the point of view of his closest friend (think Dr. Watson in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes), and his friend is there at the time he is killed.

    The worst part is that the manner of his death seems too anti-climactic. He basically gets shot. Now, there is a very intricate story behind his murder.

    One of the toughest things I'm wondering about is: HOW LONG SHOULD I MAKE HIS DEATH SCENE BEFORE IT GETS CHEESY? I really don't want to have him do the whole "you're like my sister" thing with his friend, and I'd almost prefer that he says nothing, but would that be a disappointing end to the character for the reader?

    Also, SHOULD I END THE SCENE WITH HIS DEATH, OR KEEP GOING? I have a sort of epilogue sequence prepared for after his death, but would a reader prefer my narrator to confront the murderer (who is known to her) right then and there? The murderer is supposed to be in a sort of hollow shock after he pulls the trigger. It just seems awkward that my MC's dead body is just...there.
     
  2. Smoke
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    Smoke Contributing Member

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    I'm wondering how she deals with her friend's death. Is she in shock as well? Is she confronting the killer in hot anger or disbelief?

    Don't forget that getting shot doesn't often result in instant death.

    I don't know exactly what the details were of my Uncle's death, and I don't feel comfortable asking my Aunt about it even after all these years. However, part of it was that a policeman was assuring him that he was going to be fine because it was a small-caliber bullet. (He wasn't fine because the ricochet deformed the bullet and it bounced around inside his body.)
     
  3. amo a bulla
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    amo a bulla New Member

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    Well, she is in shock because she had made a deal with the murderer to guarantee the MC's safety, which was not honored (and yes, his overall intent was to kill the MC). If she were to confront him, I see it as being more of a "he's in shock, she's in angry grief".

    I didn't want his death to be instant, but the bullet is fatal. Right now, the entire sequence from the gunshot to his death is about 200 words. It just seems disappointingly anti-climactic.

    Like when Captain America died: he got shot, and that was it. I hated that as a reader, and it sort of ruined his character for me. I don't want that to happen, but I don't want to make it "fluffy and heart-felt". His death is supposed to be momentous and life-altering, but VERY finite.
     
  4. NateSean
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    NateSean Active Member

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    Maybe instead of dying right away, your character could get shot and slowly bleed out from lack of medical attention. This increases the dramatic tension and gives your narrator a chance to try to save this person and fail. Unless you're going for medical accuracy, your character could last for minutes or a half hour depending on how long you want to make this.
     
  5. Smoke
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    Smoke Contributing Member

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    Maybe your character couldn't be quite coherent enough to have a proper death speech. Would it be inappropriate for him to complain about being cold, or simply beg the girl to be with him? Something "in the moment" instead of realizing that these are his last words.
     
  6. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Another way to let his death have a lot of impact is to not focus on the moment of death, but on the fallout afterwards. The grief, the reactions, how it affects everything, how everything is different when he gone.

    It doesn't have to be a problem that the actual death is a bit of an anticlimax. In reality things happen fast, and you stunned and don't have time to react. It might even feel unreal and dreamlike when it happening. You might not be able to react emotionally at the time. The real impact comes afterwards.
     
  7. Ellipse
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    Ellipse Contributing Member Contributor

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    Where does the character get shot at? Location can determine whether the gunshot takes twenty minutes to kill him or is instantly fatal.
     
  8. amo a bulla
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    amo a bulla New Member

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    @NateSean the main issue with this is the other people in the room. Also, I don't want it to last too long because I don't want to give them the opportunity to have a heart-felt conversation. That takes away from the realism.

    @Smoke I have something like that, too. He has a sort of movement that became a sort of trademark. It's described as something halfway between a nod and a shrug. That is actually what triggers the emotional response from the narrator, pulling her out of shock. So he doesn't actually say anything, but he's still communicating.
     
  9. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sometimes direct and simple can be more piercing and emotional than making it long and drawn out. I use both with my stories - I killed a small child in a few sentences, made reference to the death of the Queen's sister briefly etc
     
  10. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Based on the information in the post how can anyone tell you how long to make it except in broad generalities? There are simply too many variables.

    The same with continuing after the death. It depends on the story.

    The best thing to do is to take a look at some novels that have been published that are similar to yours, especially with respect to the demise of a main character at the end. See how they handled it. That doesn't mean you have to do it exactly like one of those authors did, but it gives you an idea based on what has been successful in other novels.

    The research process will take longer than typing up a post and reviewing the responses. But I suspect the result of your efforts will be far more useful in solving your dilemma.

    Good luck as you move forward.
     
  11. Buggy
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    Buggy Member

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    I think w176 has the right idea. As a reader, I kind of like it when the author skips over a pivotal event and relates it back to us as an afterthought. Especially if the narrator knows the deceased, it would give her time to gather her thoughts and she could say something interesting as a conclusion somehow, something she got out of the whole ordeal that she wouldn't have been able to tell us at the time. You could definitely include the shrug nod bit in such a way. It doesn't seem as anti climactic that way.
     
  12. Scarecrow
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    Scarecrow Member

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    Is there a way to argue validity of an external link that has complete relevance to the topic at hand and has previously been deleted by a moderator? I am of the belief that you, as a writer, can get all the opinions and suggestions in the world by other writers on how best to write something and still not gain any insight on how to do it. But by simply reading examples of said query are then able to imitate and discover how it's done. So saying I'm sending you a PM of the link, because I think it might help.


    If told from the first person view of an observer, that characters emotions at the time will play a major role in how it's told. Memories may come rushing back, he/she might describe how recently deceased falls similar to a way they used to fall during a game when they were kids. Over all I would say keep the death of the main character (if it is the end to your story) as short and sweet as possible. You'll have the greatest impact on the reader that way.
     
  13. Bran
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    Bran Senior Member

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    if you want the character to die, make it an epic death that accomplishes something. what is the characters goal? it should (though not always) be accomplished by the time he dies.

    OR you could make it a possibility that he died, and leave his/her fate up to the reader.
     
  14. HBAdams
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    HBAdams Member

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    You are right, if you give the MC too much time to make a speech, it might take a lot of the edge off of the whole scene.

    I'm not sure if you're considering the gunshot to be executioner-style or SURPRISE!, but you could consider the MC realizing his death imminent and having just enough time to do the shrug/nod before a quick death. It could invoke a more climactic moment if the surviving character has to mentally evaluate the meaningful shrug/nod AND the MC's quick death without any amount of time in-between to process any of what's happening.
     
  15. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    Lets have more death speeches where the dying is affected by their massive blood loss.

    "I... I think I have my pants on wrong."
     
  16. OrangeInAir
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    OrangeInAir Member

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    Personally, I like the idea of a sudden death. The astonishment of the characters after the MC is dead will be interesting to describe...as well as what happens immediately after. It could continue with the secondary character lost in thought, wondering why this or that happened or if something could have been done differently..depending on the first part of the story.
     

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