1. softballlover3015
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    softballlover3015 New Member

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    Killing the Main Character?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by softballlover3015, Aug 29, 2011.

    Hi,
    I'm curently writing a book series. I'm tryin to plan ahead so I don't confuse the reader in later books. Part of the plot relies on the fact that the main characters have to die in the end. I was wondering what your opinion was of killing the Main Character? Is it too dramatic? Does it ruin the story?
    Any opinions Welcome!
     
  2. StrangerWithNoName
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    StrangerWithNoName Longobard duke

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    It might be a good idea, it depends by the way you implement it.
     
  3. Backbiter
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    Backbiter Contributing Member

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    Ah, I actually spoke with a friend of mine about this a while ago.

    Don't feel bad about killing your main characters, or any characters, for that matter. If it serves a purpose to the story, then do it. If it can be used to move the plot along, do it.

    Don't kill off a character just to have him die, however. In my opinion, it should have at least some meaning, especially when it's a main character.

    Just take a look at your story and see if the death of this main character will help you out in the long run.

    I hope this helped!
     
  4. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree, if the death helps the story, do it. IMO, it's much more detrimental to a story to have characters who are immortal (unless it's outright stated that they are, which doesn't typically work in most genres), over character who can die. That doesn't mean character deaths should be taken lightly but if it needs to happen, then it needs to happen.
     
  5. softballlover3015
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    softballlover3015 New Member

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    Okay thanks, that helps a lot!
    See my character has to die to break the energy bridge( which is tied to his life) to stop demon's from invading the world. So when he dies the bridge collapses the demon's can't come into the human world.
    Thanks for your help!
     
  6. Fullmetal Xeno
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    Fullmetal Xeno Protector of Literature Contributor

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    I say go for it. I hate it when i read a book and nobody dies in it, when it has weapons involved. It's so unrealistic. Im not saying you have to kill the main character, but one that will give a whole new fate to the story and another chip in the wood block.
     
  7. SilverWolf0101
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    SilverWolf0101 Active Member

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    If your killing the character just to kill him, then avoid it, readers tend to hate the easy-way-out ending kind of approach.

    But if it's something super important to the story (like I gather from the bit you gave us) then by all means kill the poor soul.

    I actually don't mind main character deaths as long as it's MEANINGFUL. Even if you do kill the character in the beginning, it could still be good. Yu Yu Hakusho is a good example of this. As are many other books that currently escape me at the moment.

    All that said and done, if it's important and meaningful, don't be afraid to kill the main character, or any character.
     
  8. 'Nevermore'
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    'Nevermore' New Member

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    I'd be with Silverwolf, you have to make their death meaningful. Look at examples from good books were the main character dies. They have to make an emotional and physical impact on your world. But, be careful to balance out noble sacrifice and human traits, don't make it overly altruistic and frustratingly noble.
     
  9. James Berkley
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    James Berkley Banned

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    people dieing is part of life. it happenes
     
  10. demonmr98
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    demonmr98 New Member

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    Killing off a main character is fine, but the real problem is the way you go about it. I find that if you kill off the main character, or any rather important character without great thought it could lead to the readers not allowing themselves to become attached to any other characters. If the reader knows that you, as an author, would kill off characters without a second thought, you could lose real reader to character bonding. Ways around this are to kill the character at the end of the story and/or do it meaningfully.
     
  11. Kaynic
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    Kaynic Member

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    The way I see it, there is no real meaning in death; people don't die for a purpose; they die because that is life. In books, I tend to enjoy those deaths that are dealt with realistically; i.e. no drawn-out last words, no Hollywood death, no parting of comrades, especially in war literature. Often when main characters die in these stories it's frustratingly fake and inauthentic. In war there is usually very little build-up to death; people die suddenly, without a chance to say anything, killed before they know what hits them. Guess what I'm saying is that a character doesn't have to have a drawn-out or "Hollywood" death for it to be an impact; I find the realistic deaths are those that affect me greatly, and I'm all for killing off the main character if it fits with the tone of the story and rings as authentic. Many of my own characters die without build-up, though admittedly, they are elite soldiers in a brutal and merciless war, and many who die do so after being wounded so severely they are barely lucid or incoherent from pain, shock, or meds.
     
  12. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes, but novels are not real life! Whatever made you think they were? As others have said, while death may be written about, there has to be some point to this, either to the plot, or the overall message--unless you are just a body-counting journalist. Simply including death because 'it happens' is no reason at all IMO.
     
  13. Kaynic
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    Kaynic Member

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    Of course, but they reflect real life, regardless of their content. Did you read my full post? I specifically said that I find "Hollywood" deaths distasteful and inauthentic and enjoy books that deal with death realistically (though there has to be a few other merits, naturally); the first statement is merely opinion, nothing else. To the contrary, including death simply because it happens can have a very profound, shocking impact on the reader if done well, and if they are attached to the characters; i know it has on me, and it adds to the sense of realism in certain stories and breaks the popular idea that main characters always make it through.
     
  14. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    Actually, that's not true. People dying is a part of death. Life actually contains no death. That would be stupid. And it doesn't just "happen". There's usually a lead up to it, whether it's an accident, murder, disease, or old age.
    Accidents have causes themselves. Drunkenness or loss of focus or anger or a whole host of other reasons.
    Murder has premeditation and motivation.
    Disease has pain and terror and preparation.
    Old age has an entire LIFE leading up to it.

    So I second (third?) the idea that there needs to be a reason. There needs to be a lead-up. It needs to make sense. If it comes out of nowhere, it'll piss me off.
     
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  15. Quezacotl
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    Quezacotl Contributing Member

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    Inevitable self-sacrifice can be interesting if the character is interesting.
    The aftermath however, has to be from a unique/interesting perspective. From the eyes of a lover or the eyes of his/her friends seems dry, try from the eyes of the enemy.
     
  16. James Berkley
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    James Berkley Banned

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    No one ever dies around you. Lucky.
    I sort of take the opposite theory; there is death all around us. it writes who we are. Your family dying, saving someone from death, failing to be able to save one. Sometimes having you bring death to someone else. We all live with death, we experience the acceptance that some day we too will die.
     
  17. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    Actually, my mother died ten years ago and my brother underwent brain surgery recently and it's unknown how long he'll get out of life.
    What I'm referring to is that life and death are separate things, and death doesn't actually touch life at all. You're either alive or you're dead, basically. You said "death is a part of life". I say it isn't, since you don't switch between life and death (or, at least, the average person doesn't). Death is absolution. Life is progression.
    What you mean, really, is that death is a part of knowledge and conditioning. We know of it, but not about it or what happens when it comes. We know of it, and we learn to cope with it and grief. But it's not a part of life.
     
  18. James Berkley
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    James Berkley Banned

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    guess we have to agree to dissagree on that one.
     
  19. Show
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    Your approach seems most suited for a war novel, which is fine. But in regular everyday life, there is likely some reason for the death and thus a build-up is essential. If you just randomly kill a character out of nowhere, it's also bad storytelling since in fiction, there needs to be some kind of lead-up or groundwork. And even in your example, there's at least some buildup cause a war's going on so it's a given that characters could die at any second. Deaths in stories need framework. No major plot twist in a story, death or otherwise, should just be done just because. And it sounds to me like even in your stories, your deaths serve your intended purpose and fit into your intended framework.
     
  20. Berenice
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    Berenice Member

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    My current writer's block is due reading a story in which the author kills off a (much loved by me) character simply to paint another character tragic. I not just won't ever read that author again, this triggered me so badly I dropped into full inability to create at once, lasting now for 7 weeks. The killing came without forewarning, was entirely gratuitous and meaningless, and not even necessary (it is possible to do tragedy, sense of loss and pain without resorting to cheap cop outs).

    By which I want to say, be very careful what you subject your readers to. Have the nicety to foreshadow solidly enough so that people can opt out prior to the deed (unless you write horror, then everyone is prepared for any kind of death anyway). Don't do "pat" or "twee" using deaths, readers won't forgive you that, especially when you earlier did your best to attach them to your characters. And yes, be darned sure the killings are meaningful. You also need to be aware that most readers past teen age (and quite a few teenagers as well) have their own experiences with death and may prefer not to be constantly reminded of those. Once you lost people death ceases being romantic with a vengeance.

    That said, the way you describe it I'd find such a death meaningful enough. Make sure people understand the necessity relatively early, so they have the option to commiserate, but to also detach.
     
  21. colorthemap
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    By all means don't make it the main POV character(if first person) that's just messy.
     
  22. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I've seen that done effectively, actually. Midway through a novel. Certainly was unexpected.
     
  23. ShadowScribbler
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    I say go for it.

    While I am one of those readers that becomes enamoured of characters (I'm not over all the deaths JK Rowling threw in Harry Potter), I have accepted that I do not believe books where no one dies. Your novel doesn't have to be tragic, but death is something that is inevitable in wars and other violent conflicts. If demons are involved, it is a given and something I expect.

    Don't be too hesitant of killing your characters! You have to love them enough to destroy them, you know? So as long as you do their deaths justice, I'd say you're going down the right path.
     
  24. Kaynic
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    Kaynic Member

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    Whoops, forgot to quote you. Anyway, this is in response to Show:

    What exactly do you mean by reason here? I take it to mean the actual cause of death, nothing else. If you mean reason in the sense that a friend was struck and killed by a car in a tragic accident for a reason, then I disagree; people die in accidents every day for no reason other than they were unlucky. In real life death is indiscriminate and without reason; my aunt was killed two years ago in a private plane crash, and it was sudden and senseless. She had her whole life ahead of her and she was one the best people I've ever known, but she was still killed for no other reason than that these things happen all across the world, every day. I disagree with the idea that there has to be some kind of buildup to a death; in fact, I personally feel it cheapens the idea of death. If done well and fitting with the tone of the story, sudden and unexpected death of a character is perfectly acceptable to me. Of course, most story plots do involve the chance of death.
    My intended purpose is to stay realistic and authentic as I can, so yes, they do in that sense.
     
  25. Show
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    Real life death still effects the surviving people. And even a plane crash can have an amount of build-up (build up doesn't have to be something built for an entire story). EVERYTHING you do in your book should have a reason. Maybe you should step back from just looking at death and look at stories as a whole. Nothing we do is really random. It ALWAYS has a purpose, to further the story. In the context of the story, the death may be random. But you should still know why YOU are doing it. If you are just killing a character for the sake of killing the character and make no attempt to have any build-up or fallout, that's just bad storytelling and with any major event (I assume we consider death major), there needs to be a reason why YOU are doing it. And from what you've told me of your story, you DO have a reason. But if you just throw your main character into a car crash in the last chapter of your book with zero build-up or fallout, I doubt readers will really buy the "real life death has no meaning" excuse. Just about EVERYTHING in a work of fiction should have at least some meaning. Death shouldn't be an exception. (and another note: For every seemingly random death, there's likely a very real one with plenty of "build up" and fallout. With the countless deaths from murders, negligent accidents, medical issues, and natural accidents, I think one can easily have death in a story have a reason and be very realistic.)
     

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