1. Possibly Awesome Writer
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    Possibly Awesome Writer Member

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    Killing Characters

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Possibly Awesome Writer, Aug 2, 2011.

    Do any of you like killing main characters, like right at the end or maybe minor characters in the main body (though probably not both unless it's quite long). How much is too much, should I do it at all and most importantly, how should I go about it? Would much appreciate ideas.:confused:
     
  2. Batgoat
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    Batgoat Senior Member

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    It's not a matter of liking it or not; if the story turns out that way, then it happens.
     
  3. Rassidan
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    Rassidan Senior Member

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    From my experience if you are going to kill the main character you have to make it something spectacular. As for minor characters it doesn't matter so long as the death aids some one, in some way. Or you could just be a person who wants to kill characters off. But if that is the way you want your story write it that way.
     
  4. LostInFiction
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    LostInFiction Senior Member

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    I have several characters in my WIP who don't make it to the end and, as it turns out, are actually amongst my favourites making it tough for me to say goodbye to them but even more poignant to do so. Each death in my story serves a purpose to the plot so they are really relevant and very fun to write. I do find it sad killing off a character as I've usually worked hard to bring the character to life but then the overall plot really benefits massively. The main point for me is that if I care enough to feel sad about a character dying then I've achieved something important. I've created a character that I believe in.
     
  5. Show
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    If characters cannot die, then the story loses something important. It's easy to take the characters for granted.
     
  6. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    What is the purpose behind the death? How does it affect the story, the other characters and advance the plot? Does the death make sense, fit the storyline and fit into the storyline?

    Just some questions to ask yourself as you contemplate and writer the death(s) into the novel.
     
  7. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    It doesn't even have to be at the end. I've read books where the MC dies half way through and the author switches to another viewpoint character.
     
  8. AmyHolt
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    AmyHolt Contributing Member

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    Here's an opinion - I really don't like it when the main character dies. I'm a sucker for a happy ending so unless the main character has fallen in love with a ghost and therefore is finally getting to be with their true love, I'm probably not a fan.
    Other character - I don't mind having them die even if it's heart wrenching. Actually I think if works beter if it is heart wrenching.
     
  9. WriterDude
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    WriterDude Contributing Member Contributor

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    It gives the reader a real sense of danger. If you watch TV-shows like Smallville, Supernatural and countless others, the seasons more or less always ends with at least one of the main characters dying. They do it so you want to watch the next episode and find out what happens, but the character(s) pretty much always survives. To use Smallville as an example, one season ended with Lois Lane unconscious alone in a plane with no pilot and Clark stuck in the Phantom Zone. (another dimension with no way out.) It was intereting, but a) Clark was the main character, so obviously he had to find a way out. If he didn't, there wouldn't be a Superman. And b) Lois Lane dying like that? Hm... no. It's Lois. Of course she'll have to survive. But if we already know both survive, where is the sense of danger?

    I was a big fan of Oz, a tv-series set in a prison. The fun thing is one of the main characters died in the first episode, and people kept dying all the time after that. In fact, there was a joke about actors being killed off in the series if they showed up late for the set. :p I don't know if that was true, but a lot of people did die in the series. So if one person is in danger, can he or she survive? For once, you really do need to keep watching to find out. You can't take their survival for granted. ;)
     
  10. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    WriterDude,
    I understand your point, but structuring a novel based on how a television series is presented, especially season-ending cliffhangers, may not be the best method. While there is crossover, what works in television and film doesn't necessarily translate as well into literature or prose, or however you want to define one's writing.
     
  11. WriterDude
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    WriterDude Contributing Member Contributor

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    You are missing the point. I'm not talking about structure at all, but about characters being mortal. When they are in danger, they should be able to die. If you watch a cliffhanger in a tv-series, you know there's a 99% chance everyone will survive, so where's the sense of real danger? Take a normal fantasy-book as an example. It's fantasy, so there's bound to be fights going on. But if you know everyone will survive until the end, what's the point in the fights? What if you have five heroes on a quest, they get into a random fight and one of them dies? If he/she can die, can't the rest of them die too? And if they can die, it would make the next fight far more interesting as you never know who'll survive it. ;)
     
  12. Show
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    I agree. That's my philosophy too. Characters become more precious when they CAN die. (Even if they don't) Unless it's intentional and plot related, characters shouldn't be immortal.
     
  13. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Writer Dude,

    I did not miss your point, but was making one of my own. Beyond that, why resort to TV shows when you could point to novels to make your point?

    More than a few characters, including main ones have met their end in my stories and novels. Sometimes this occurs in the early on, sometimes midway, sometimes at or near the end. It just depends on the story being told and the purpose for the death(s) to occur. I've had readers contact me about characters meeting their end in my novel, Flank Hawk, sometimes apparently somewhat upset. I'm sure the same thing will happen in the sequel I'm finishing up, Blood Sword.
     
  14. AJSmith
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    AJSmith Senior Member

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    I think another thing to keep in mind about killing characters is what those deaths do to those still living. For me, the aftermath of a death of a rather important supporting character is a huge opportunity to see how the MC and other characters will develop as a result of that. So not only might it move the plot along, but it is another factor, changing the living characters... better or worse.

    I just killed one of my very important, supporting characters today. I really liked her a lot and I didn't realize she would be dying until a couple days ago. I cried the whole time I was writing it, not because of losing her for the story, but because of what it did to her husband and the other people who loved her.
     
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  15. Mckk
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    I had the opposite experience. I was plotting my basic outline and tried to kill off my supporting character - not even a huge one at that - and realised I just couldn't do it. I absolutely adore him and I just couldn't do it...

    Although it would move the plot forward and would serve as a great scene... What do I do? :(
     
  16. MJLowson
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    I would agree that it can make the story seem less real if there is a general immunity for the characters - as someone has said, it makes the reader recogonize the realism of the story

    That said, I only want to kill off a character - in the middle of Killing off a character for the first time is if it is a natural progression of a story - in my WIP the one of the two MC dies of cancer - which is how I feel my story should end for his character - keeping him alive I feel would not be a natural way - given that he does not want any treatment.

    I wouldnt say I intend on being a serial killer though
     
  17. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The death of a significabmt character should have a purpose in the plot network, and it should have consequences for other characters to deal with.

    The depth of the purpose and the power of the consequences should be proportional to the prominence of the character in the story. Conversely, even the death of a minor character should spread ripples.

    Do not trivialize death.
     
  18. Ursus_Buckler
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    Ursus_Buckler Member

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    You shouldn't kill off characters for the sake of it; it should be something that enhances the plot. A death or two can always make other characters a lot more compelling. The best example of this is when playing a Nuzlocke Run on a Pokemon game (a fainted Pokemon is treated as dead); the fact that you can LOSE these Pokemon make the ones that actually survive all the more meaningful. Same principle.
     
  19. Possibly Awesome Writer
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    Thank you! Differing viewpoints but I get the general message about not being a serial killer (good comparison whoever it was) and only killing them off if it advances the plot. I've already decided what to do with the MCs but there were a few others I wasn't sure about.

    Here's a challenge:

    I'm also thinking of making it a slightly more complex romance plot. At their first meeting the girl (Lizzie) is prejudiced against guys (I won't go into details) and acts frosty towards the guy (Scott) which makes Scott dislike her. Over time she thaws and they become friends and then Lizzie slowly realises she likes him but before she can really act, Scott (who remains mostly and really stupidly oblivious to her feelings) gets his attention snared on a gorgeous princess of a powerful nation (he has the odds in his favour) and they split up. Over time they grow further apart and eventually, when influenced by magic from an old enemy (fantasy thing and if it sounds stilted and cliched that's only because of the way I wrote it just now, it's actually fairly good) she tries to kill him. Through events I won't get into they are repeatedly forced back together and eventually fall in love. Scott's a fairly decent person but how should I go about the forgiveness? His trust in her is utterly destroyed so how do you build that back up?
     
  20. Possibly Awesome Writer
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    If you really can't bring yourself to kill him then simply find some other use for him. If you've already planned it all and there is simply no use for that character then you can either rework the plot, (but that can stuff it up, particularly if you're already writing) or do the necessary deed.
    Love the book just slightly more than the characters, or else your story sickens and dies.
    Nothing like sage advice with some imagery. I love doing that. Anyway...

    Don't get too attached to a character, especially if that's a relatively minor character because then they could eclipse other characters and even the plot.

    Really at the end of the day I think it's best to have a strong realistic plot but also make it a little flexible, to allow for improvements or changes.

    Hope I've helped because you guys have certainly helped me. Look at what I learnt and inferred (I like that word) already!
     
  21. LostInFiction
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  22. [ESCAPE]
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    It depends on what type of story you're writing, really. If you're writing some thriller/mystery or something like that, kill people off at your leisure.

    On the other hand, if you're writing some sort of epic fantasy etc., then you probably shouldn't kill every other person.

    I really don't mind if characters die, even if it's the main character facing his/her demise. However, the death must be done in a way that... isn't just something along the likes of "because i have no reason to be in the story anymore for reasons stated, the author wanted to kill me off".
     
  23. WriterDude
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    WriterDude Contributing Member Contributor

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    Because that was the first that came to mind, and I have read far too many stores where the characters only "almost" die. ;)
     
  24. JimFlagg
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    I don't see any thing wrong with it just some things you have to watch out for if you go this route. First, if it is first person then be ready to have another character take over the narrative or you will have to kill the MC at the end of the story. The other thing you may need is a prologue or some story to tell the reader what happened after or the reader may feel jipped.

    As for to do it or not that is up to you.
     
  25. Geckofeet
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    (Hello everyone! This is my first post :D Nice to meet ya all!)

    I totally agree that killing off a main character can be a great twist in your plot development, especially if he/she was very close to the other characters. Personally, I kill one MC in each of my longer stories (no, I don't think I'm sadistic :D it's just so much more THRILLING when you can write about the anguish and distraught the other (main) character goes through because of the death of their beloved.)

    Best part is when you pick it up after some time and reread it and you shed tears from the sheer emotion of it. If you can feel your character's anguish, that's when you know you've done the right thing (yes, by putting my characters through a bombardment of emotional pain). I can honestly say that that may be the one part in my story that I'm absolutely proud of. If you've never done it, you should try it sometime.

    However, I have found one person who's read my story who's an absolute sucker for happy endings. She hated it and I just kind of gave up trying to please her after a while. It's my story!
     

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