1. Felipe
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    Felipe Active Member

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    Killing off characters

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Felipe, Dec 16, 2011.

    My books follow the same family through history. Being in a high risk group (pirates) it's not realistic that none of them ever die. One of my favorite characters was aging when the saga began and I finally had to kill him off in the last book that i wrote. I have to admit I was emotionally attached to him, as was anyone who has read the books and it was difficult to do, but it's real life. Have any of you had to kill off a well liked character yet?
     
  2. TheSpiderJoe
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    TheSpiderJoe Senior Member

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    I'd imagine that any death would be tough to go through given the extensive history with the character.

    For me, the toughest character death I ever had to experience was Optimus Prime in the original Transformers movie. Granted I was 5 at the time but it hit me very hard and kind of paved the way to how I deal with that subject in my own works.
     
  3. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    not yet, but then I dont write the kind of novels where people "have to die", neither do I write series and that helps too, maybe.
     
  4. AmsterdamAssassin
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    AmsterdamAssassin Contributing Member

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    One of the greatest rewards of being a writer is being able to create a character loved by readers and mourned when s/he dies...
     
  5. Kallithrix
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    Kallithrix Banned

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    I had a minor supporting character die in an early draft of my novel - although we barely even met him he was the MC's brother in law, so naturally my MC was cut up about it and grieving. However, because the character was only a small part the reader couldn't really share that grief with the MC. So I upped the stakes and changed the victim to someone I had spent time and effort making into a likeable character who was fully integrated into the plot. It was hard to do, but it helped the story because now the emotion is real to the reader, not just told. As a writer sometimes you have to be brave and kill people you would rather let live.

    On a sidenote, I think Tolkein wimped out on letting Frodo live. In fact, if he was going for realism, he should have killed about half the cast.
     
  6. Metus
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    Metus Senior Member

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    My thoughts exactly. Killing a major character does one of two things. If you handle it badly, your readers end up with a bitter taste in their mouth and stop reading, maybe forever. But if you do it well, (and I can't define well, because there are many ways to give a character a good death and many more to end their life poorly), it just pulls the reader that much deeper into your world.

    Now, back to the main question, I haven't killed off a major character yet, but I'm planning on it. Either the protagonist, his brother, or his love interest (or two of the three) is going to die by the end of book two. If the protagonist dies, one of the other two will take over with the story. If two end up dieing, more minor characters will be "promoted". Luckily, I make very complex supporting characters who are seen almost as much as the protagonist, so I don't have to shoddily dump in backstory to make the protagonist's replacement fill his shoes. (If I end up killing the protagonist.)

    Whoever dies, their passing will have a profound affect on the remaining characters and the story of book three. (Yes, I have three books planned out. The outlines take up a crazy amount of paper. I should have typed them, lol.)
     
  7. UnknownBearing
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    UnknownBearing Contributing Member

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    I kill a lot of characters. It's not necessarily something I do just for the sake of it, but just seems to be the natural way my stories progress. I think that sometimes loved ones hold a character back from doing what needs to be done. Not a conscious intentional thing, just the fact that they exist. A man with more to lose is a coward compared to the man who has lost everything. All of my main characters experience death up close and personal, sometimes dying themselves with the story progressing without them. Mainly because my stories are always those over-blown complicated science fiction sagas where it's impossible for everyone to survive. I need to start writing more down-to-earth.
     
  8. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Oh, wait a minute. I just realised I AM about to kill off a character in my novel later, but it's not one of the more important characters, it just happens to be the best friend of one of them. I guess I'll have to get back to this thread after thaT.
     
  9. Ettina
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    Ettina Active Member

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    I can sometimes be a bit too hesitant to kill off a character, simply because I like to keep my options open. On the other hand, if I do kill someone, they're staying dead (unless the point of the plot is their ressurrection) - even if they never found the body. Having characters come back to life too readily cheapens whatever amount of death you have in your story.
     
  10. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    What a wonderful question! As the gods of our creations, we cannot help but get attached to our characters. They are, after all, a part of us. So, plotting and fulfilling the demise of one of our immortalized creatures can be tough. I had one such character who, although young, hale and hearty, apparently with a full life in front of him, had such a backstory that there was no other resolution to his storyline but to kill him off. I enjoyed him so much and, for a time, resisted. He was an incredibly likeable and endearing fellow whose outcome I did not know when I gave birth to him but he had to go ... so I shot him.

    My daughter never had the patience to wait for the completion of even a first draft of a ms and would read my works in progress leaving notes in the margins throughout my handwritten drafts. One day I found, scrawled in large letters across the top of the page whereon I killed off this particular character, "MURDERER". She did not speak to me for three weeks (a mixed blessing if ever there was one!) except, whenever I happened to speak directly to her, to snarl and glare at me and repeat under her breath the epithet, "MURDERER".


    I also have a family saga covering four generations so, yeh, people die in that one, too - old age, disease, accidents. You know ... that's life. It happens.
     
  11. Cacian
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    Cacian Banned

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    If I write something then it is my duty to ensure it is conserved.
    A bit like ensuring a species does not become extinct because it is there.
    I think a human will endevour to look after what he or she is given and one of the most endearing human instinct( apart from those very few who do not think) is the need to conserve something and stop from slipping away from them.
    So taking this as my principle I shall follow in the same path and look after what I took time to create or write.
    So no killing characters I am afraid besides one does not want to come back 10 years later and decide that they have changed my mind about that certain character or story?
    There is always that possibility so killing a characte/s is not commendable and might just mess up the whole concept of changing one's mind.
     
  12. Tenelen
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    Tenelen Member

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    I would respectably disagree with your notion of not killing characters because you might change your mind about them later. Sometimes characters die, and it builds an emotional connection between your MC and your reader. Why? Because everybody on this planet has lost someone or something at one point in time. It makes the story more real. In life, things die; it is a law of nature. Nothing can live forever and keeping people alive in your story simple because you fear that you might not want them to be dead later does not seem like a good plan, nor does it make too much sense to me.

    Keeping your characters alive just because you fear not having them seems, unnatural.
     
  13. Cacian
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    Cacian Banned

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    I hear you about real life and how a person dies but we both agree that life/humanity will go on.
    But you would agree that once a story is written it deos not die.
    It is there and nothing will get rid of it.
    You write something someone else wil come and read it and so on and thus stays in a book and in one's memory.
    I am like that with my characters. There is nothing to say that one day a writer will change his or her mind about a particular ending of a story.
    What if it is too late because that ending saw the death of a character/characters.?
    What does that writer do? He would not be able to amend the ending.
    To keep your character alives keeps your options opened in case you change yourmind.
    There is no guarantee in life and so by allowing my self all possibilites I am more relaxed about my stories.


    Killing is not natural.
    keeping them alive is more natural then natural.
     
  14. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    I have yet to kill anyone off yet. But I already know who is going to die in my seven book series. Needless to say, I am not looking forward to it.
     
  15. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    I agree to an extent; but not every book has to have a death. However, it does need something to make an emotional connection to the reader. Which can be many things other than a death. But, I will agree with the OP in his choice to kill characters in a long running series. That would be unrealistic to keep them all alive.
     
  16. Cacian
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    Cacian Banned

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    This sound rather worrying..;)
     
  17. Felipe
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    Felipe Active Member

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    Felipe looked up to see Andreas step outside of his cabin, then pause on the porch to stretch. When he stepped down to the ground, it was not with the quick, precise movements that Felipe was used to seeing. Andreas had a distinct limp now as his aging brought on arthritis in his knees, particularly the left one.

    Andres approached the pavilion, poured a cup of coffee then sat at the table with them.
    “So, what is the plan?” he smiled.

    Juan Carlos and Neo excitedly explained the upcoming trip to Jamaica then the raid following as he smiled and made suggestions looking at the map. Felipe studied him closely, his face was deeply lined now and his hair was entirely snow white. He held the nautical chart far from his eyes with his arms as he squinted his eyes slightly to see.

    The plans were made so the boys rolled up the map, rose and walked quickly toward the shoreline. Felipe looked at Jeanne Pierre, catching his eye he glanced at Andreas then glanced away.

    “If you will excuse me, nature calls.” Jeanne Pierre said smiling. He rose then walked toward the jungle.

    Andreas was sitting across from Felipe as Felipe looked at him.
    “What? What is it? Something is on your mind.” Andreas said.
    “I do not know just how to put this.” Felipe said.
    “Then just put it honestly, that is always the best way.”

    Felipe looked into his eyes. “I am concerned about you, you are getting very old to be attacking enemy ships and soldiers.”
    “I am still quicker and more accurate with my blade than any Spaniard.”
    “Yes, but your knees and eyes are not. I remember the time when I could shoot arrows at your head and chest as fast as I could all day long. You could deflect them with your sword, do you remember this?”

    “Of course I remember! You are treating me like an old man whose memory is fading.”
    “Do you think that you could still do that today with your eyes like they are?”
    Andreas hung his head for a moment, then looked at Felipe and replied, “No, I could not.”
    “So, if we were in battle, you could not see an arrow being launched at you, correct?”
    “Yes, that is correct, so what are you saying to me?”
    “I am just saying that I think that the time has come for you to hang up your sword.”

    “Sit, for the rest of my life on the beach, staring out to sea with only my memories? Watch all of you just sail away into the sunset? For the rest of my life?”
    “Uncle Andreas, I love you like my own father, you raised me in the way of the blade, but in every man’s life there comes a time when he must admit that his time has come, that he is too old to continue to fight. You have killed many men and taught all of us how to fight expertly. I think that your time has come.”

    Andreas stared out to sea for several long moments, “I have lived my entire life on the sea with a blade in my hand. I would rather taste Spanish steel in my belly than the pabulum of a toothless old man. As you said to Chavez in Belize, I will die on my feet, not on my knees.” Andreas tilted his head, studying first one side of Felipe’s head, then the other, “You hair is getting gray Felipe, you too are getting old.“
    “The hell you say.” Felipe replied with a smile. Andreas smiled at him, then rose and walked away.
     
  18. Felipe
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    Felipe Active Member

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    In the case of Andreas, he was already "an aging master swordsman" when the books began in 1614. After three novels, thirty years had passed and it was only natural for his time to come. But the entire series is based on Vengeance, so this renews the ongoing battle between good and evil.
     
  19. Tenelen
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    Tenelen Member

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    I don't mean it like that. He said that his character was aging, as in old, and that he finally had to "kill him off." That does not mean that he had to kill him, it meant that in the story he had to die. It's natural for one to die of old age, or something in their body failing with age. The reader will continually question why somebody who was old at the start of the series is still around for years in.

    I also am confused as to what you are saying about wanting to change the story. I don't write with the intent of keeping all of my options open just in case in 10 years I change my mind, and I'm not sure others do either. Once I decide what happens in the story, that happens; otherwise I feel like I am writing a weak story. I'll give you an example that isn't about death.

    If character A feels love towards character B in my story and I want him to pursue that, I will. I'm not going to have character A keep it a secret just in case later down the road I don't want him to be with that character B but with character C. If character A is a strong character who knows what he wants and is willing to fight for it then it wouldn't make sense for him not to pursue character B (and the reader would be upset if he didn't as well).

    Do you understand what I'm saying? I'm not trying to argue with you, but to understand where you are coming from.
     
  20. Cacian
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    Cacian Banned

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    Hi Tenelen I do understand what you mean and I know you are not arguing with me.
    What I mean is I personally would not want to kill off my characters and all of them because I never know what I am going to write next.
    I don' t know my next story would need that character or not?
    How do I know what I am going to be like tomorrow let alone in 10 years time.
    so I was suggesting that one holds on all their characters and not kill them off because
    a) you took time and effort to create them
    and
    b) you never when you might need them.
    No one is sure of what the futur holds in terms of what stories we are going to write.
    Instead of killing them off hold on to them just in case youwould want that character somewhere else.
    Saving your characters is better long term.
    Killing them off is a very easy thing to do.
    so instead of getting rid of them, keep them you never know when you might need them.
    A clever writers keeps all his/her options opened and save time on creating something then keep for later.
    A good writer creates credible stories, a clever writers reuses his characters and thus write more stories quicker and better.
    H/she knows already what characters he has because he has taken care of saving them.
     
  21. Raki
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    Raki Contributing Member

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    That may be a nice thought when thinking of future stories (I can't let this character die because he may be needed in the next story), but it is incredibly unrealistic. My view is to write the truth. If your character swerves right when he should have swerved left, it's game over. As cold as it sounds, I don't like saving characters and try my best not to do it--not because I'm attached to them or believe others may be attached to them or that I may need them again, but because I'd rather they save themselves. If they can't do it, they can't do it, and their part in the tale is over.

    Still, just because a character dies does not mean you cannot use that character again. A single, simple book is not enough to reveal all there is to know about a single character. There are more stories you could write, if only ambition would take hold, but it's important that you are true and honest to the characters and story you are presently working on, much more so than what may or may not come down the line.
     
  22. Felipe
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    Felipe Active Member

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    As hard as it will be to do, my main character will also die and he will die fighting. I have jumped forward 400 years into the present and written about their relatives, so he will in effect live again. the fortune that the original ancestors amassed has made a lot of things possible for them. They are now in the age of computers, planes and automatic weapons.

    Still, I'm going back to fill in the story up to today. This extended family of pirates will fight in every major war and conflicts that affect the family. In real life, people grow old and die.
     
  23. Felipe
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    Felipe Active Member

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    Darn double post.
     
  24. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    Clever and good writers have no problem with writing completely new stories, with new characters, over and over.

    Plus, for me at least, half the fun is creating characters.
     
  25. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    The more I hear about your series, the more I like it. To me at least, it is a really awesome concept.
     

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