1. U.G. Ridley
    Online

    U.G. Ridley I'm a wizard, Hagrid Supporter

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2016
    Messages:
    149
    Likes Received:
    104
    Location:
    Norway

    Killing your characters

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by U.G. Ridley, Jul 14, 2016.

    So, I love A Song of Ice and Fire, but I've noticed a trend growing since the show adaptation became popular, and I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in saying that it's getting a little annoying. I'm of course talking about killing off every god damn character.

    I get why killing characters has gotten popular. It's because people like George R.R. Martin knows how to do it. He makes the deaths meaningful, and impactful. The fact that someone died has a serious effect on the other characters and on the story as a whole, and sends the story down interesting paths that it couldn't have gone down before. But many people seem to think that the reason why killing all these characters works so great in Game of Thrones, is just because people die and stuff.

    Holywood in particular obviously likes following trends, so it's something that has ruined a lot of movies for me recently. Characters just sort of die without it actually leaving a big impact on the story, and it just seems... wasteful.

    What are you guys' thoughts on this?
     
    Simpson17866 likes this.
  2. izzybot
    Offline

    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2015
    Messages:
    865
    Likes Received:
    955
    Location:
    SC, USA
    Yeah, I think that each death should mean something. If it's just for shock value and doesn't actually affect the plot or characters in any way, what's the point? I can see the logic behind "anyone can die at any time, so it's realistic!" but realistically, when a reader or viewer knows that, they're going to be less inclined to actually invest in any of the characters. A friend of mine started watching Game of Thrones, but when it killed off almost everyone he liked, just stopped watching - imo that's a perfectly reasonable reaction.

    I guess some people do enjoy "anyone can die at any time" stories, so there must be something to it, but personally I use death as a plot device sparingly. Recently I'm actually putting some thought into backpedaling on some deaths in my projects, because frankly a character is almost always going to be more compelling and useful to me alive. You can always write someone out of the main action without killing them.
     
    Brindy and Simpson17866 like this.
  3. King_Horror
    Offline

    King_Horror Member

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2016
    Messages:
    77
    Likes Received:
    38
    Location:
    Somewhere in the U.S.A.
    I agree with izzybot on saying that character death should hold a meaning. If one is just killin' people just to kill, I wouldn't feel much for those said people getting killed. Being a horror fan, I enjoy seeing people die in creative and imaginative ways. HOWEVER, I like it even better if it's a character I care about.

    My all-time favorite way of killing characters is having two fall in love, like, really into each other. And having the female lead die. Hahaha...I'm funny. :supergrin:
     
    IHaveNoName and Iain Aschendale like this.
  4. Selbbin
    Offline

    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2012
    Messages:
    3,238
    Likes Received:
    1,806
    Location:
    Australia
    If characters don't die, that means characters can't die, and that takes away all tension when there is a threat.
     
  5. Selbbin
    Offline

    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2012
    Messages:
    3,238
    Likes Received:
    1,806
    Location:
    Australia

    Um, shock in itself is a point. Fictional stories drive emotion, whatever that emotion may be. Shock, sadness, anger. These are emotions. And that's the point.
     
  6. izzybot
    Offline

    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2015
    Messages:
    865
    Likes Received:
    955
    Location:
    SC, USA
    Eh, I disagree. I don't think you have to prove you're willing to kill a character by doing it for there to be tension. Obviously you can't drag out the feeling of "someone MIGHT die!" for too long before the response becomes "sure, but they never actually do", but if we're talking about your average novel, imo that tension can carry it. You can also 'prove' that the stakes are high by seriously injuring characters without killing them or just generally terrorizing them into shock or other emotionally heightened states. Death doesn't have to be the only thing that drives home that people are in danger.

    Okay. Work meant only to shock doesn't appeal to me or have much of an effect on me, but I get that it's a thing for other people.
     
  7. Steerpike
    Online

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,095
    Likes Received:
    5,296
    Location:
    California, US
    Sometimes deaths are senseless. That makes a point in and of itself.
     
    GuardianWynn likes this.
  8. ManOrAstroMan
    Offline

    ManOrAstroMan Magical Space Detective Contributor

    Joined:
    May 8, 2012
    Messages:
    817
    Likes Received:
    342
    Location:
    Missouri
    Basically why I stopped reading X-Men after the Decimation event. My favorite characters were either killed off or swept off stage. I get that there were a lot of characters in the X-verse, and it might have been a lot to keep track of, but it was all handled so poorly, in my opinion.
     
  9. Wexeldorf
    Offline

    Wexeldorf Member

    Joined:
    Jul 4, 2016
    Messages:
    20
    Likes Received:
    9
    Location:
    UK
    I think if you create a cast as large as George R R Martin, you have to say to yourself "this small band of characters are untouchable and won't die" and have their story arcs become slow burners. Then with some of the others have them instantly likeable/hateable and put them to the fore of the stories. This becomes the distraction and people think "oh he's killed off another main character", when actually that person was merely a plot twist that directs the story to the ultimate rise of the slow burner characters. It's genius really because you get invested in the initial characters to the point you end up clinging to one of the slow burners to bring hope to the story.
     
    Lyrical, U.G. Ridley and King_Horror like this.
  10. BayView
    Offline

    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2014
    Messages:
    5,656
    Likes Received:
    5,135
    Why the female lead? Why not the male?
     
  11. ManOrAstroMan
    Offline

    ManOrAstroMan Magical Space Detective Contributor

    Joined:
    May 8, 2012
    Messages:
    817
    Likes Received:
    342
    Location:
    Missouri
    Then, there's this attitude:
    "Watch our show! We have gay/black/etc characters!"
    *kills all the gay/black/etc characters*
    "We don't see them as gay/black/etc, we see them as people..."
     
    izzybot and BayView like this.
  12. Felix MacGrath
    Offline

    Felix MacGrath New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2016
    Messages:
    1
    Likes Received:
    0
    I partially agree with you, however I like a book to be realistic, and in real life not everybody dies for a reason, and things don't always progress from it
     
  13. ddavidv
    Offline

    ddavidv Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2013
    Messages:
    353
    Likes Received:
    240
    Location:
    Pennsylvania, USA
    The senseless death in a book still serves a purpose to the story.
    I flippantly killed off a character who only lived for a couple of chapters. Her existence was the catalyst for the entire story but her demise is what drives my MC to cross over from self-defense to killer for retribution. The girl I killed off did die needlessly; she was an inconvenience to the villains and nothing more. Letting her go would have been easy and would have taken the story to a different place.
    Tough. I killed her with as little concern as the villains did.

    It is different when a character has become a truly integral part of the story. My guilty pleasure is Banshee. In the last season I watched they killed off a female deputy character that was the most sane of the entire cast. I felt betrayed and really pissed off. The writers should die!
    Well, no. Not the writers.
    But they succeeded in getting the viewer to react the same way the MC needs to. Furious anger. The viewer now rides along as the MC seeks vengeance. And it is ultimately not satisfying for either.
    The way it was intended. Quite clever.

    It falls upon the writer to kill off with a necessity to the story and in a skillful manner. You need to get the reader to react. Whether they end up mad at you or not doesn't matter if it is true to the story and advances it.
     
    King_Horror and Simpson17866 like this.
  14. King_Horror
    Offline

    King_Horror Member

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2016
    Messages:
    77
    Likes Received:
    38
    Location:
    Somewhere in the U.S.A.
    Well put, David.
     
  15. GuardianWynn
    Offline

    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2014
    Messages:
    2,088
    Likes Received:
    672
    I sort of disagree. By sort f I mean with the concept, I have no idea the trend of movies now adays and yeah they probably are dumbasses lol.

    So the point I disagree on is the point of death I mean, a death doesn't have to be meaningful in a true sense to be good. As someone else already touched upon. The point of death can be the senselessness of it, or a casual reminder to the reader, death is a thing. It doesn't have t be built or grand. Personally? I like it built and grand but that alone isnn't what makes it good. Sometimes you need a shitty death to appreciate the epic death. I mean, heck if all the death was epic with a point, it would eventually be easier to see it coming, ruining the expierence. Got to have some red heirings to keep us on our toes.
     
  16. U.G. Ridley
    Online

    U.G. Ridley I'm a wizard, Hagrid Supporter

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2016
    Messages:
    149
    Likes Received:
    104
    Location:
    Norway
    I actually agree with the point of senseless death. Most of the posts here who say that they disagree with me either got what I said wrong or I did a bad job explaining my point of view (the latter is probably true, haha). So my bad on that part. I love stories that kill their characters, they are actually my favorites because they tend to leave a very powerful impact. It's the reason why I love Game of Thrones, or animes like Attack on Titan, but have kind of grown out of stuff like Lord of The Rings, because despite the amazing lore and stuff, it just isn't very compelling since the sense of any realism is completely absent for the most part.

    My problem is when people kill characters for no other reason than simply killing them; not in the real world sense of: "Hey, people just sort of die sometimes," because I agree with that; but in the sense of killing characters with no idea or respect for what that would actually mean for real people. If you write a romance where one of the people in the relationship suddenly dies like Clannad, then you need to show how fucked up that is for the people in the story to experience (Like Clannad does wonderfully). Walking Dead also has some amazing deaths that feel very hollow and pointless in the real world sense (Even though it also suffers from a lot of really lazily written deaths too). That's what I mean when I say that I don't like it when people kill characters for the sake of killing them; when it's not for the sake of improving the story or affecting the characters in some way or another, or to set a realistic tone, or drive the story in a different direction.
     
  17. GuardianWynn
    Offline

    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2014
    Messages:
    2,088
    Likes Received:
    672
    I can't argue that. I mean, if the argument is simply "I don't think people are writing the deaths well in context." Yep. Sounds valid to me. Reminds me of some of my own death. Kind of curious if you would approve or not, if that is somethig you would find interesting to just randomly chat about? In perhaps a PM cuz spoilers?

    Funny enough though, the one death I bet you would love I have had a lot of people take issue with for a reason i suspect you would find silly. Being that, in a sense the true plot of the book stems from the death, so obviously some emotional toll occurs. Yet, because I want the death to be meaningful, the death doesn't happen right away. Which some people say is bad writing, as they want the plot page 01. And I am like, but.... how do I properly set that kind of plot up, page one!!!!! lol. Ya know?
     
  18. ToBeInspired
    Offline

    ToBeInspired Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2013
    Messages:
    286
    Likes Received:
    172
    Location:
    Asheville
    Kill 'em all. Drown 'em in a sea of red. I want the full Hamlet experience. No one is safe, always that doubt creeping up on you. Is the hero really going to survive?

    Sure, give it some impact. Let the death make sense, that's just called good writing. But I'm tired of the happy endings, everyone living happily ever after. Fuck that. Life isn't a fairy tale, it's grit and tears. It's pain and loss, moments where you feel more dead than alive. It's when everything falls apart around you and you get back up, EVERYTIME.

    Fall down seven times, stand up eight - Japanese proverb

    Why should victory be handed on a polished silver platter? Show me the tarnish and the rust. Drop the damn thing, let me hear it clatter.

    I endorse breaking away from the aversion of characters always surviving, no matter the odds. Sure, the author threw in a few "suspenseful" moments. Oh no the m.c. is in danger! Good thing no one kills off their m.c., I'm 99% sure he'll live to save the day. Why would I want to know the eventual ending before I even start reading?

    I get it, people get attached to certain characters. They see a character develop and they bond. Those bonds turn that reader into a loyal fan. Do you know what happens in real life, an inescapable fact, something no one can avoid? Mortality. Loved ones die, we grieve, we move on. We grow from the experience, possibly forming new bonds in our attempt to find solace. That's life.

    Like I always say though, any idea can work as long as it's written well.

    I'm not really aiming to write much fantasy, but I kind of want to just to make a point. My m.c. is BADass. He cuts through the villains like they were nothing. Ten on 1, pfft. Then he gets attacked by another group of ten later on and is overpowered. My other characters start grieving and lamenting about how could this happen.

    Then one says "no shit he died, who takes on ten people at once? Be real."

    "At least we have Jim to save us."

    "Got mauled by a bear."

    "Bob?"

    "Plague, lost thousands. We really need better sanitation."

    "Dave...?"

    "Infection, wish we had better medical technology than just leeches."

    "C'est la vie."
     
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2016
    I.A. By the Barn likes this.
  19. hawls
    Offline

    hawls Active Member

    Joined:
    May 24, 2016
    Messages:
    188
    Likes Received:
    199
    Location:
    Melbourne
    I went to a panel on "Killing Off Characters" at a convention a few years ago. There were about 8 authors. Most of them were fantasy authors, the others were horror and sci-fi.

    What struck me was that all 8 authors boasted that they killed characters for the hell of it. Just because. Now they may have just been showing off, trying to be funny for the audience. But when pressed on the issue by the audience during question time, none of them gave a thoughtful response regarding developing doomed characters. One of them likened it to a clearance sale "All stock must go!" to make room for new characters in the sequels.

    There have been more thoughtful responses to the topic on this thread than I heard from these inexplicably published authors at the convention.

    My belief about killing characters is that if it does not serve the plot or the overall atmosphere of the story in even the slightest, superficial way, then you are not raising the stakes. You're just littering.
     
    izzybot, Shadowfax and U.G. Ridley like this.
  20. Shadowfax
    Offline

    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2014
    Messages:
    2,520
    Likes Received:
    1,346
    So much litter in GoT!
     
  21. Vandor76
    Offline

    Vandor76 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 5, 2014
    Messages:
    264
    Likes Received:
    189
    Location:
    Hungary
    That is almost exactly what George R. R. Martin said when he was asked why he is killing so many main characters.
     
  22. Simpson17866
    Offline

    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2013
    Messages:
    1,739
    Likes Received:
    1,287
    Only problem is when the author goes so far in the other direction that you know for a fact that everyone's going to die, then you stop caring about them for exactly the same reason you stop caring when you know for a fact that everybody always survives everything.
     
    izzybot and Shadowfax like this.
  23. Lew
    Online

    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2015
    Messages:
    591
    Likes Received:
    406
    I killed off one of my characters, had two almost die, one got really close.

    The one I killed developed from what seemed to be an arch-villain pirate hijacking a ship, into an honorable thief, to a hero that rescued them from certain death and used his criminal expertise to get them out of dire straits safely, to the father figure that everyone loved, who always had the right quip when things were down. Finds the meaning of something significant told him forty years ago, never loved or felt so loved in all his life as now. Almost home and a certain pardon for all his crimes. Next to last chapter!

    The real arch villain, his former accomplice, re-emerges after everyone forgot about him half the book back. And it's deep in a desert, not on the sea which was his melieu so totally unexpected. Attempts to kill them all with a gang of thugs, the girl saves the day (they never check women for weapons, it's 100AD). Grand melee of a fight, all the bad guys are put down. He kills the arch villain himself, a ridiculously easy fight for him, but the arch villain gets in a lucky stroke at the end. Oh no... he's down too, with a sucking chest wound... just time enough to say goodbye to his friends, tell his son he is in charge now, take care of them. He then takes the soldier's hand off his wound so he can asphyxiate in peace.

    But it served a purpose. He had creditors that had advanced him a huge amount of money to hijack an even bigger amount. They weren't going to get their money back, and they were not the kind of people to pardon him, even if the emperor did. So a glorious death instead of an ignominious one.
     
  24. Vandor76
    Offline

    Vandor76 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 5, 2014
    Messages:
    264
    Likes Received:
    189
    Location:
    Hungary
    Are you speaking about cheap horror movies? :)

    Contrary to many other people I do not think that Martin killed too many characters. He is operating with a very large cast in a world full of conflicts and war. No wonder that people die, and not just the evil ones.
    Every death has a huge impact on the plot and people act realistically to accommodate the new situation, but there are always interesting new characters and those that survived since the beginning of the story (any you wish they die soon).
     
  25. Alex R. Encomienda
    Offline

    Alex R. Encomienda Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2016
    Messages:
    159
    Likes Received:
    48
    I'll tell a bit here.. I've been writing since I was 9 years old and I've written everything from technical papers to fictitious works and I've never had a "story" where killing characters was necessary to do until I started my current WIP which is a giant retarded child on my lap at the moment.

    I had to be extremely cautious because the deaths can easily be seen as "shock value" as you say. I still have to edit the scene on my second draft so I don't have to worry much yet.
     

Share This Page