1. Holocoz
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    Holocoz New Member

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    Regarding killing characters

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Holocoz, Sep 1, 2008.

    I'm almost at the end of my first novella. My main idea about the ending is to kill the main character, so that it would produce this dramatic effect at the end, and also to make the entire theme of the novelette "show".

    However, I started to feel attached to the character itself... and I'm finding it a little difficult to kill off this main character. So, I made two drafts of the novella: one involves the character dying, one involves giving him a happy ending.

    The questions really aren't about these two endings. My questions are these:

    Why kill off main characters? Any other reasons to kill main characters aside for the sake of drama and the sake of the theme? How do you decide upon this?

    I still cannot decide whether or not I should kill this character...
     
  2. AnonymousWriter
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    AnonymousWriter Contributing Member

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    If the reader feels attached to the main character then killing them will produce a reaction. This is what you want. It doesn't always have to be a happy, relieved reaction. Don't be kind to your readers, give them something to think about. I would say that you use the draft which leaves the the biggest lasting impression...
     
  3. Holocoz
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    Holocoz New Member

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    Hmm.. You have a point. I know this sounds weird, but d'you have any tips on how to overcome my hesitation in killing this character off?

    Sorry. Now I know how hard it is to become a writer, because there really is a big tendency to love the characters you create...
     
  4. AnonymousWriter
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    AnonymousWriter Contributing Member

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    Just do it. I guess we all feel attached to our characters to some extent, otherwise we wouldn't write a story about them. If your charcter is leaving that much of a reaction on you, causing this dilemma then the reader will feel at least a little attached to the charatcer aswell. You don't have to kill the character, since I haven't read the story I don't know if it would benefit the story or ruin it. Only you know the full story, so it's your decision.
     
  5. ABMiller86
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    ABMiller86 Member

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    Without knowing everything about your story it becomes difficult to give the best advice here. However i think this problem can be solved by simply looking at your character. In most cases the characters death is something he chose to do (i dont know if that is the case for you).

    My basic point is stay true to your character, if this death falls into play with the character that you have been building thus far in your righting then it would be a great in justice to suddenly change, however maybe you find that this action that leads to your characters death doesnt fit with who he/she is.

    Hope something in there helped.
     
  6. Palimpsest
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    Palimpsest Senior Member

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    His/her story is done. Subtracting that perspective, or role, is what the story needs for you to be satisfied with it, or it's the event that readers must witness and feel to truly "get" your story.
    If you get so attached that you become afraid to hurt him, I'll probably get bored with the story and jealous of your attentions.
    Any other reason to keep your main character, other than that you just like him? That wasn't supposed to sound snobbishly rhetorical. If you truly feel that this must not be the end of it, because there's so much more potential in this character's journey, and in fact the story is better off with him alive at the end-- then by all means, spare him.
    Or if you could pull it off -- a resurrection, returning as a reincarnation or a ghost or an animated memory chip, or simply returning from a "close call" (when he was supposed to die)... happens all the time (although, personally, I've never met a character that I loved enough to prevent me rolling my eyes at the "S/he wasn't really dead!" revelation.)

    If the reasons in the first question don't work... well, feedback can help. I remember hearing somewhere that the movie 28 Days Later originally killed off Jim. The creators still prefer it, refer to it as "the true ending" but test audiences didn't respond well to it, so... DVD special feature time :)

    And books can have that too. Beyond the Labyrinth by Gillian Rubinstein, I think pulled off two endings really well.

    But since the matter of "double endings" wasn't your question, I still say look at the big picture... maybe it was a hollow stunt in the first place to kill him off. Maybe it was maudlin to give him a happily ever after.
    Maybe there's some middle ground to explore, like the last emotional beat is "I give up" but we don't see him die, or he's maimed but resolute... but would your gut, heart, and logical mind shout "More blood!" or "You finished him off but it doesn't feel finished... it should end happier." ?

    Which ending ties up all the loose ends in the way you, overall, prefer?
     
  7. Heather Louise
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    Heather Louise Contributing Member Contributor

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    Id you do not intened to follow this novel with another on using the same charector, and if the origional plot involved their death, do not ruin your story because of your attachment. I know it is hard, I feel very connected with my charectors, they are like peices of me, but if that is how it is to be, then it is to be. This may sound daft, but I find when I am writing, if something needs to happen, it happens.
     
  8. DarkMaiden273
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    DarkMaiden273 Member

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    I agree to stick true to your characters and their personalities. In my novel, one of my main characters decides to die in place of someone else at the end because of a prophecy, but then 'miraculously' doesnt die. But that's because my novel has a sequel. If yours will not then I say kill him off if it fits with the story. Even if you have an attachment to this character it will cause a reaction to the story and possible make it more enjoyable or worthwhile to read.
     
  9. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    The death of the protagonist at the end really depends on how he/she dies, and if it fits the context of the story.

    The death occuring for dramatic effect, I don't think will cut it.




    In my opinion is a better reason.



    The reader's reaction, as discussed in an above post, is important. Will the reader feel it is a satisfying, if not appropriate ending?

    Keeping a character 'alive' or 'around' because the author is attached, I do not think is an appropriate reason, but it may differ from author to author. Characters are not people. They are a literary device, tool or vehicle (however one wants to name it) used in the telling of a story.

    Terry
     
  10. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    People die. That's what happens in real life. And if you're attatched to the character, then perhaps it's a good thing. The impact will be all the more devastating to the reader, if they connect with the character.
     
  11. Holocoz
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    Holocoz New Member

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    Wow.. thanks a lot for the tips. I've decided to do what really fits in the story, instead of falling victim to being attached to my main character. It's just that this is the first time I've made it this far in writing something, and the character's journey has been so amazing for me, as his author.

    I guess I should get used to this in the future and hopefully learn to overcome it.
     
  12. goldlioness
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    goldlioness New Member

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    My Intention, is to kill all four main characters at the end, at book five. But things can change and people change
     
  13. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    That's true. I intended to kill all but two characters at the end of my latest novel, but ended up giving two of them a reprieve. Not the ones I would have prefered to have saved, but then it doesn't always go the way you want it to.
     
  14. Nilfiry
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    Nilfiry Contributing Member

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    While killing characters is great for effect, you have to make sure the characters' death are pivitol to the story. You can't just kill a character for no reason other than dramatic effect.
     
  15. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    That applies to everything, really. Every word that you write should serve the story in some way. If it's just waffle, or just there for the sake of it, then you should cut it out.
     
  16. AnonyMouse
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    AnonyMouse Contributing Member Contributor

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    Don't let your attachments get in the way. If you really love the character, you'll let him or her do what suits them best. If the charater is well-developed (and I'm assuming it is, because you're so connected to it) the end should come naturally. Besides, if it's a fitting death, it will pay tribute to that charcter better than a 1,000 lifetimes ever could. Die gloriously!

    And there's always prequels...
     
  17. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    No matter how attached you become to your characters, they exist for one purpose only - they are there to bring your stories to life. Every activity, every injury and challenge, every triumph, and every demise, all must serve that purpose.

    Whatever you do to or for them, do it not because it is best for the character; do it because it is best for the story.
     
  18. Alex_Hartman
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    Alex_Hartman Contributing Member

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    Do it.

    If it helps to make you do it, write the scene where you kill him off, but give him a different name. After you write it, change it back.
     
  19. Wastelander
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    Wastelander Member

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    If it really makes the story as you seem to describe it, then kill the main character. It can't be about your feelings for the character it needs to be about that of the reader.
     
  20. Leaka
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    Leaka Creative Mettle

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    In an emotional sense, you should kill the character. You know you have created an impact on the reader when you feel the impact yourself.

    As, why I kill main characters because I am a horror writer and attachment is the least thing I need.
    But I know when I am writing a horror story when the story disturbs.
    If it disturbs chances are it will disturb others and that is what I want.
     
  21. Fatalism
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    Fatalism Member

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    I'm going to have to agree with one of the posters, reaction to a story makes people feel involved. You don't want it to be too plain that's predictable right? I mean, not all stories have to be different and something new; we can get great stories that are predticable, but you still want to leave the reading thinking. Giving some feeling, and feeling involved in the story.
     
  22. CommonGoods
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    CommonGoods Senior Member

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    In one of the short stories I wrote, I ended killing of the MC, because it made sense. It was my 4th story with him as MC, I was attached to him, but in the end, no other ending would have fitted.

    Never kill off a character to kill of a character. Kill of characters cause it makes sense in the context. And if its the MC, try to make the reader gasp in shock. They have to love the character as much as you do.

    Poor Riljeb Darkgazer, may he rest in piece (he broke his neck after being pushed out of a window... the poor blind guy never saw it comming)
     

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