Have you ever read a story in which you were absolutely certain that the protagonist was going to succeed? That they were going to live? If for no other reason than because there are still a couple hundred pages left in the book, and what kind of author would execute their main character before the conflict was resolved? Yeah me too, I hate those stories. The other day I was looking into hostage negotiation and I found that the most successful ones were the ones in which the the hostage takers executed one of their hostages publicly. It was proof, evidence, that they were willing to take it to the point of death. They were playing for keeps. It added an air of unpredictability to anything that the hostage takers did, making the police hesitate before taking any action. What does this have to do with writing? Simply this: if you want to keep your audience on the bridge of suspense you have to be able to pull the trigger. If you are dealing with a life or death situation it might be who of you to kill off a character in the middle. And it can't just be any character, it has to be a character that you have developed to the point in which the audience has a vested interest in seeing stay alive. An emotional tie that would cause the character to go "nah he won't kill them off, they're too important." A great example of this is (Spoilers) Sirius Black's death in Harry Potter. That was the first one, point in which Voldemort was elevated from cutesy villain to potential threat. Star Wars did it with the Death of Obi Wan. A Song of Ice and Fire, keeps doing it. Don't know if you guys saw Gurren Lagen, but Kamina's death was an excellent example. You notice that all of these deaths take place mid way through the story (Harry Potter in the middle of the series, Star Wars the middle of the movie) Because you need the early part to develop the audiences connection. It doesn't just have to be death, either. A good storyteller will turn the possibility of failure into something real, making the dramatic tension into something tangible. I think Katawa Shoujo did this the best (check it out its a good virtual novel, and its free) In the middle of one of the routes the main character throws up his arms and walks away. He spends the next week living his life as if he was done with her (In Katawa Shoujo failure is a real possibility, there are bad endings). This event happens even if you choose the right options, but it adds to the air of dramatic tension. The audience is shown the price of failure in a very real and vivid way. They live it. They live it for a week, a week of misery and self doubt. God that was a good game. The writers were terrific. Actually, you know what? This is now a Katawa Shoujo thread. Heres the link to download the game, read it, enjoy it, and get back to me. It's a terrific example of characterization and a wonderful lesson on dramatic tension. The world is simple but incredibly vivid. Now that I got that out of me, I am interested in hearing your guys thoughts on the matter.