1. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    Killing off a Character

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Thomas Kitchen, Apr 26, 2013.

    So I'm beginning to plan the second book in my series (no "don't write series" rants, please) and it's become clear that I will have to kill off one of my three main characters. I know which one, and I have asked myself whether it is necessary, and it is, one big reason being that it's importat to the plot, another being to show the darkness of the world I have created, and that life isn't perfect.

    So, with that out of the way, onto the discussion/question: do any of you have trouble killing off the characters you love? I presume you do because you're all writers, but I also hate change and to see a character which I am close to and have built up only to see them dashed to pieces seems difficult to do for me. Has anyone else had this problem? What can I do to "ease the pain"?

    Thanks. :)
     
  2. blackstar21595
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    blackstar21595 Contributing Member

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    If it benefits the story, I'll do it. To me, my characters are being tested physically and mentally by what happens to them. Some triumph and some don't. I don't have my characters lose their struggles because I want to see them lose. A character will get a win if they tried their hardest to achieve it. I think you should think about this to 'ease the pain.' Did the character try hard enough to avoid their own death?
     
  3. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes. I cried when I killed one of my characters.
     
  4. ChaosReigns
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    ChaosReigns Be Still and Know Contributor

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    i have that issue with the one im writing, im debating whether or not i should kill him off in the end or not (its a horror, so either way he's f**ked) and considering those in the outside world think he is dead anyways...
     
  5. Thornesque
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    Thornesque Contributing Member

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    Oh, definitely. The first time I ever killed off a character that I loved, I cried. Hell, I cry just doing something bad to a character. But it definitely adds a sense of realism to the story if not everyone gets a happy ending, especially if the character you give an unhappy ending is one of the characters that has been most important to the story so far.
     
  6. Ian J.
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    Ian J. Active Member

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    I have no problem killing off a character if that's what the story calls for. But killing off a main character who's essential to the plot (especially one who is needed for a series) simply can't happen anyway and they are likely to be the character I mostly connect with. I'm not as such attached to secondary characters enough to worry about their lives not continuing.
     
  7. jeepea
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    jeepea Member

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    I decided I had to kill a main character in a nearly novella length story. I did this at the end of the story and, at the time, it didn't seem to bother me to have him die. I finished the story and sent it out. The minute the story was in the mail, I began to regret having killed him. I can't say that I cried, but I got very emotional about it and felt that, as his creator, I had arbitrarily and unjustly condemned him to death. Well, the story was not accepted for publication from that particular magazine. I was actually happy about this as I rewrote the end of the story and this time he didn't die. I did a little more editing, sent out the story and it was accepted. I felt like I had been redeemed by bringing him back to life. It's silly sometimes how you can become drawn in to the lives of your characters.:)
     
  8. Gallowglass
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    Gallowglass Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hey, as long as the books can stand on their own two feet as well, more power to your elbow.

    I treat characters in the same way that I treat people. Having had first-hand experience of it I can say that, for some at least, knowing that the person about to die holds no fear in their minds or uncertainy or guilt about their actions in life does wonders for their loved ones moving on. Those with a 'my purpose is concluded' air about them make it very easy for others to escape their grief. The same applies to fictional characters: write them as having that attitude, if plausible, and you'll have a much easier time bumping them off.
     
  9. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I just finished a novelette in which I killed a major character. I'd originally thought I would kill a minor character (I'd set up the equivalent of one of those red-shirted Star Trek guys to be the cannon fodder, or in my case, the disease fodder), but it rankled that he was just there to be killed. Then I thought I'd kill my MC's boss - she was a major character and very important to the people in the story. It shocked me when I first thought of killing her, but that lasted about ten minutes. Then I got really excited, because I realized how much better the story would be when she is the one I sacrifice. I found I had a new wave of enthusiasm for writing this story.

    So killing a major character off can hurt, but it can also inspire.

    Good luck!
     
  10. Eric242
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    Eric242 Member

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    So true! That kind of major move can really go both ways. It can tip very easily either way so make sure it's doing for your story what you want it to.

    As for me, I've killed major characters in stories before and I'm sure I will again. Some stories don't end well unfortunately.

    It's always sad to see them go, but you have to make sacrifices sometimes! Best of luck.

    Eric
     
  11. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    First of all, I have no problem with series. I think the only time anyone here discourages series is when someone is just starting out writing. That is primarily because it tends to be overwhelming.

    On to your question, yes it hurts tremendously. Even if it's a character that is evil or that was intended to die from the start it still is difficult for me. Killing off a character in a group of characters can be good for character development as well. It creates a vacuum and changes the group dynamic when the remaining characters have to find a way to fill it.
     
  12. Kaga
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    I've written a couple of stories where either the MC or someone close to the MC dies, and if the story calls for it I have no problem killing off characters. In my case the deaths of my characters have either been by choice, because they were in emotional pain and/or because they didn't see any light in the proverbial tunnel. In either case I understood why they did it, perhaps because I've been down some very dark holes myself, and I think that was my key to ease the pain.
     
  13. Inquisitor Ehrenstein
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    Inquisitor Ehrenstein Member

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    I've had problems. You just need to do it though. Don't think about it. If you spend time looking for ways out, you're just going to force stuff and it's not going to be good. I used to have a very hard time with it. In one situation, I reworked the story, which did turn out to be better. I would say it's worth exploring other possibilities just since that can take you in a good new direction, but don't just avoid it without some sort of direction change.
     
  14. Ian J.
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    Ian J. Active Member

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    We might worry about killing off a character, but the opposite can also be true - killing a character might feel right, but sometimes we actually might be making the wrong decision, perhaps because we're trying to 'shock' the reader when what we should be doing is keeping the story alive.
     
  15. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    Thanks for everyone's answers; I feel better knowing I'm not alone! :p
     
  16. Sved
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    Sved Senior Member

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    Supposedly George RR Martin doesn't like to kill his characters either. He compares it with smothering one of your children, but for the sake of the story he has done it a 'few times'.

    In India it's not popular at all. A novel or movie where the hero dies doesn't make sense and would be hard to sell.
     
  17. Sue Almond
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    Sue Almond Member

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    Would you feel better if s/he dies doing something noble? When Sidney Carton dies at the end of 'A Tale of Two Cities' its a real tear-jerker, but no one forgets, 'It is a far far better thing I do.......' If they have been a main character and yet need to die for the sake of the plot, as you suggest, then maybe that is the answer, make their death 'count', make it memorable for its own sake not just because it might be a shock to see an important character die.
     

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