1. Esaul
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    Esaul Member

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    Killing off Characters

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Esaul, Nov 10, 2006.

    This is a very serious question that I am curious about. My "cowriter"/"editor" (who has been slacking) has wanted me to kill off characters and we are planning a sequel to the first book. At least two to three characters that are important to the book die (not going to mention whom) and they are good. One "bad" guy if you will dies. Should there be like a balance of how many people are killed? Or should it not matter as long as i have it evenly space out?
     
  2. zerobytes
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    zerobytes Contributing Member

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    I'm probably not the best person to answer this question because I typically avoid series novels BECAUSE they always kill off the characters that I am interested in. (e.g. Dune books, Wheel of Time, etc). I'm down with people dying as part of the story, even the hero/heroine of the novel, but as novels move to children of heros or unknown characters I usually lose interest. HOWEVER, like I said, I think I'm an exception to the rule here - most series do very well with this process.

    The one instance where this isn't true for me is if there is a creative twist in the same world that moves the story to a different character (e.g. Ender's Shadow).

    So, when you're editor is asking you to kill characters - that's dandy - but make sure it's for a reason and not just for the sake of killing people off. A great example of an effective killing of a character is Boromir in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Yes, people will die - but why develop them to just leave them in the dust? It has to accomplish something IMHO. The death of Boromir is pivitol to the madness of Denethor, the growth of Faramir, and the breaking of the fellowship. You can kill not-so-main characters if you need to show that your world is real - again, in LoTR the death of King Theoden.

    ZB
     
  3. Esaul
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    Esaul Member

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    There is reasons why at least two die. And it affects the turnout of the second novel. That was a good explanation.

    I loved Theoden, he was my favorite
     
  4. Spherical Time
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    Spherical Time Contributing Member

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    I can't help it. Several of my characters die over the course of my planned series, and I have to say, sometimes it really works well. I would examine it carefully though. Once a book is published, you're not going to be able to change it.
     
  5. Esaul
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    Esaul Member

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    That is true.I know two definite characters that will die, I am hesitant on the others at the moment. Their roles can turn the story either way for me.
     
  6. Raven
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    Raven Banned

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    In life people die. In war soldiers are killed off. So you can imagine a story will have these same themes. Death follows us through time like a predator you can't escape death because eventually time will sneak up on you like a predator.
    So if your writing a story and it comes to the point where a charactor will die/be killed off then so be it.

    Sometimes a death of a charactor doesn't have to have an added depth to the story. Yeah Boromir is pivotal to the LOTRs story.
    However in other stories series charactors have been killed off for meaningless reasons. And in reality that does happen.

    In my own dark series which I named the Crimson Fist saga I kill charactors off in each story a different charactor will die. But a new charactor will emerge it happens even in sequel movies. My story is based far into the future and the charactors are in a constant universal war meaning they are always fighting. So in that scenario it is pivitol that charactors die/get killed off. Otherwise it'd be pretty pointless writing about soldiers at war.

    I also think its important to kill of charators because it spices things up in some instances brings a tear to the eye which keeps the reader still reading. Then you can introduce new charators in the next story then the reader isn't going to become bored with the same old, same old. You get the drift.




    ~Raven.
     
  7. Daniel
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    Daniel I'm sure you've heard the rumors. Founder Staff Contributor

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    I love it when main character's die. It makes me all giddy inside. :p

    If it's a serious book in which there's danger and no one dies, it makes it less believable.
     
  8. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just as there is a reason to have a character in a story, the death of a character should have a purpose. It should propel the plot, solve a problem, create problems, raise the stakes for those surviving characters, support the theme, add mystery.

    As has been said previously, if there is war, if there is danger, it is very likely that characters in the novel will suffer, be maimed, or perish.

    I don't know if there is a reason, if you're planning a sequel that you should have to balance the number of "good" characters that die with the number of "bad" ones. Maybe with the plot line/theme you've developed, it is necessary.

    Just a few thoughts.

    Terry
     
  9. IW-Cavalier
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    First off I wouldn't like to have a co-writer at all, but I've never published shit nor will I ever most likely, but still. I write because I love it and it's what makes me who I am, and I don't change my plot because someone thinks I should. If you feel that a character's death would make the story better, by all means kill away. However, if you are killing characters to oppease your co-writer, that's shit. Just like Zero said, character deaths aren't just people dying. A character's death is a trigger for an event, which in turn triggers another event. Oh and sometimes it makes a book more interesting to have more bad than good characters. It adds a certain spice to the good character, making him, her or them go up against overwhelming odds, but having an even number or more good than bad is no worse of a choice. Personally I don't like having more good than bad unless there is a few bad characters commanding much more power or respect, because then it becomes rather obvious that the good guys will win. I always said that you don't read a book to see if the good guy win, you read a book to see HOW the good guy wins. Dunno if that helped any but there you go.:p Good luck with the book.
     
  10. itsaboysname
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    itsaboysname New Member

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    When people kill off characters to show that the world is "Real" or whatever, like to show that there's a danger, I think that's dumb.

    The only reason you should kill a character (I think) is if it means something. Of course, if that's just where the story has led you to then go nuts and follow the story's direction. But I think that a death has to mean something, it shouldn't be just because you want to kill them. It has to have weight, you know?

    That makes sense right?
     
  11. krosangnomelord
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    krosangnomelord Member

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    Here is the best explanation I can give:

    All people eventually die. Sometimes they can die immediately with no purpose fulfilled, or simply nothing accomplished. It is realistic. It happens everyday.

    Not everybody has to die with meaning behind it.

    But the death has to make sense. The motives behind their death must be logical. A person can't just be killed because the killer felt like it. They should have motives. Now if someone dies in a battle, that is also realistic. People are not invincible.

    Now if the death is a method to advance the story, and you see no other way for the plot to unfold, then go through with it.

    Don't create a character unless you know how their fate. Otherwise there is no point in making the reader invest feelings into this person that you don't have a plan for.

    I hope this advice helps.
     
  12. Shawn
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    Shawn Member

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    All deaths should have relevance to the plot... just because death is a fact of life, doesn't mean it is a fact of good literature. Everything that happens in a story should evolve the plot, make it more complex, and develop the characters. If killing off a character makes a huge leap in the plot, go for it.
     
  13. Corleone
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    A character of mine dies at the end of what I'm writing, except I'm not sure which one to kill!
    I've tried ways of getting around the death and make the ending just as hard-hitting without it, but doesn't quite work.

    This may be strange but I'm very close to my characters, I (obiviously) understand them very well and don't want either to die, nor do I want the other to have such guilt (basically one is going to kill the other, it's a gangster-type story)
    Ahh, I'll work it out!


    If a main character dies half-way through, then you try and pick the rest up with a different character it's hard for the reader, especially if the original character is a good one. Personally I think if anyone really important has to die make sure you have another character who is just as strong to continue with.
     
  14. onyxprop
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    onyxprop Member

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    Agreed. I remember reading of these C.S Forrester books Horatio Hornblower and there was a particular character I grew fond of. He was in every book except the very last one. He was killed off, and it wasn't explained in the book how exactly he died, and WHERE he died, if he survived for a short period of time etc etc. As a reader I never got closure, so i actually grieved and had to force my way through the final book with the character not there. I liked the fact the author kept the entire death a mystery and let us guess as to what might of happened. All we knew as readers is that the character was going off to blow up a train with a bunch of other officers. They returned, and he did not.
    Anyways, when I kill off any of my characters in a story I make sure i've built up enough 'life' in him/her so that the reader understands why the person had to die. Sometimes, the character deserved it, sometimes it was an accident, and sometimes it was so sudden that it even astonished the author. Of course we cry but novels are just as real as life.

    I've lot track of my mind....I don't know really what point i was building up to now... ah oh well :rolleyes:
     
  15. Neo
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    Look at Halle Berry's Catwoman - the main character was killed off at the beginning!
     
  16. Neo
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    Neo Member

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    You know what I mean - concepts like killing off charcaters need not be one-dimensional.
     
  17. Evelyn
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    Evelyn Senior Member

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    (If you were thinking of killing off one Good Guy and one Bad Guy in strict alternation, please don't. Not unless what you're writing is a chessboard :)


    Otherwise, let the demands of the story kill characters off as necessary. If you want someone dead and the story doesn't call for it, change the story until it does (or else let him live).

    A deceased main character can come back in a sequel as a secondary character - in the form of a ghost or haunting, some specially created legacy (e.g. letters to be opened on certain dates, etc.), or in a series of intercalary flashbacks.
    (All of these need to be handled quite carefully to avoid coming out trite, cliche, or just plain horrid.)

    I have one story in progress with a character whom I'm not sure whether to kill off or not. It's not a story framed in terms of Good Guys & Bad Guys, but the character is a murderous psychopath.

    (OTOH, two out of the other three main characters aren't all that much better, and to imply that murderous psychopaths always get what they deserve is not in keeping with the story's theme.

    (OTOOH, the story development among the other three main characters becomes a lot easier if there's not always a murderous psychopath to take into account.))

    I have about five more chapters to write before I get to the point where I might kill him off, so I'll just have to see what happens between now and then.


    Just my thoughts,

    - Evelyn
     
  18. krosangnomelord
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    On the thought of bringing a character to life back through flashbacks, that is a GREAT example. One could even use the flashbacks to add backstory to a character that has an early death in a story
     
  19. Heather Louise
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    Heather Louise Contributing Member Contributor

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    my say is why kill them off, just make them hide in a closet when they are not wanted, lol.
    no, seriosly i hate it when they kill off a good charector in a book, example Dumbledore in Harry Potter 6, i cried for ages, lol. but if you have to then you have to i suppose.

    and no, i don't think you have to keep a balance between "good" and "bad" charectors dying, to me that sounds a bit too coincidential that three from each "side" dies.

    Heather
     
  20. Neo
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    dumbledore...died? *wells up*
     
  21. Shawn
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    Shawn Member

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    Or read "Hamlet" it's probably the best example of killing off characters with meaning.
     
  22. Domoviye
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    Domoviye Contributing Member

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    They threw a really big party and everyone lived happily ever after.
     
  23. onyxprop
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    onyxprop Member

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    If only Bush came back to haunt Hornblower's ship and its crew. I'd be happy with even that!
    :(
    *suddenly runs away crying*
     
  24. Evelyn
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    Evelyn Senior Member

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    (At the risk of veering into the political...)

    I've thought of many worse places for George W. to go, but perhaps none better....
    :cool:
     
  25. Raven
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    Raven Banned

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    Indeed.

    As for killing off charactors I aklways found killing off a main charactor was always good and gives new depths.






    ~Raven.
     

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