1. TheScorpion

    TheScorpion Member

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    Kill Your Darlings (literally)

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by TheScorpion, Mar 1, 2018.

    Just got off the phone with my editor and he is razzing me about killing off three main characters in my current WIP.

    I'm interested to know what people think about killing off main characters. Two of the three people that die are the mother and the love interest of the MC and both play pivotal roles both in the MC's development and growth.

    Frankly, I can't think of a better way to resolve the story than by killing them but apparently my editor doesn't agree.

    As a reader, does the death of a prominent character make you mad or more entrenched in the story?
     
  2. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Well, you say "resolve" the story. I wouldn't see an important death as a resolution, I would see it as the start of something that needs resolving. Not always, of course, but often enough that I'm puzzled.
     
  3. animagus_kitty

    animagus_kitty Senior Member

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    Depends. The shortest way to say this is,

    Is it done well?

    If it's done poorly--if it's cheap, if the fact that they died so easily is a detriment to the story--then all you've done is killed an important character. If it's done well, it's an impetus for change and a boon to the story.

    If Obi-wan Kenobi had died to Random Stormtrooper 17 because lol, and Luke just moved on, that would be bad. If he'd died to a random stormtrooper as a way to show that even Jedi could be taken by surprise, and that was the lesson the reader and Luke both learned, that would be alright. Dying to Vader was several things, none of them 'cheap'. It showed that death was something you could make peace with; it was a way to show that Vader was powerful; it was other things I don't know because I actually haven't made a study of it. This was just the easiest example for me to come up with.
     
  4. LastMindToSanity

    LastMindToSanity Contributor Contributor

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    I would have to say that you shouldn't kill off characters unless it serves a valid purpose in the story.

    For example, if they were to die in a war or large-ish battle, for instance, than it's understandable that they would die by virtue of "what can you possibly expect to happen in a war/large-ish battle?" Or, if their death directly spurs on your MC to finish growing on their own power, without the need for them anymore, than that's a totally valid reason.

    However, if they were to die and nothing changes except for "oh no they're dead now and now I'm sad I cry", then their death is completely meaningless and will probably upset me.

    The Point: It depends. If the situation provides a valid reason for their death, then they die. If the situation doesn't give a valid reason for their death, then they live and you need to rethink your story.
     
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  5. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

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    This is all I have to say. :p
    Next Chapter.jpg
     
  6. GlitterRain7

    GlitterRain7 Galaxy Girl Contributor

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    Not really. I mean, I don't want to read characters dying for absolutely no reason, but as long as the death was needed in some shape or form, I think it's okay. It may make your editor happier if you included some foreshadowing with their deaths, but that's just a suggestion. I'm going to do that with my WIP, just so it doesn't come as a sudden surprise at the end.
     
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  7. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

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    "So how did you like the way I killed off Norman?"

    "Well it was certainly interesting in your depiction of it."

    "Uh huh, I thought it needed to be a little more than it was originally."

    "That is not what I am wondering about per-se. The way you have
    it written, he literally gets run over by a truck."

    "Yes indeed, I just had a little trouble working in the 'running' part."
    Trucking.gif :supergrin:
     
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  8. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    ... What.
     
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  9. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

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    It is a running truck, how is it so complicated?
     
  10. CoyoteKing

    CoyoteKing Good Boi Contributor

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    For me-- it depends. If the death scene is really good, I'm okay with that. But it needs to be fucking epic.

    Obi-Wan dies in Stars Wars, but he sacrifices himself to help the others escape. Romeo and Juliet drink poison, but they force their families to reconcile. Hamlet dies in a duel, but he takes down the villain with him (and half the cast).

    If everyone dies pointlessly, yes, that would bother me.

    Is it a good death or a bad death? If the main characters fail and die, I honestly hate that. If the main characters win, but sacrifice themselves in the process, that's fine with me.
     
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  11. GlitterRain7

    GlitterRain7 Galaxy Girl Contributor

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    At least Norman can say that no one else died like he did:angle:
    Yet...
     
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  12. TheScorpion

    TheScorpion Member

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    Those are all great points.

    To answer the main question of do the deaths serve a purpose, the short answer is absolutely yes.

    The mother’s death galvanizes her to undertake regaining control of her family’s throne which is currently being controlled by a hostile enemy.

    The lover’s death (he dies to save her) motivates her to end the war that they’d been fighting for her throne in the first place.

    I know editors aren’t always right, it just irritated me because he was so bothered by the deaths, despite him knowing my writing style
     
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  13. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    Is this an independent editor you're paying yourself, or an editor at a publisher?

    If the first - how convinced are you by this editor's qualifications/industry knowledge? If you value his opinion enough to be paying for it, I'd give his reaction some serious consideration. But I'd also consider that possibly what he's objecting to isn't the deaths, specifically, but possibly a sense of unresolved gloom or the lack of a happy ending or a feeling of randomness or some other element that goes beyond two characters dying. I mean, characters die in books. It's hardly verboten. But as others have said, if the deaths aren't done well, there's a problem.

    If the second, and this is an editor at a publisher - has the reaction been given as part of an R&R, or have they already accepted the book but want you to make changes, or...? This will be more of a business decision, really - how much do you want to work with this publisher?
     
  14. TheScorpion

    TheScorpion Member

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    He's a freelance editor I've worked with since college. Very knowledgeable and we have a really solid working relationship - he said he was just caught off guard because it's a bit different than what I've done previously.

    For the story, he had more in mind the happy, boy-gets-the-girl-and-they-live-happily-ever-after ending vs what I've got in place currently. I simply don't want to change it because I don't think happily ever after fits the story (if I did, I would have written it that way). One of the book's underlying theme is about the MC over-coming the misogyny in her world and emerging onto the throne to be the queen she was destined to be, despite multiple peoples efforts to keep her from it. She doesn't need her lover, as much as she grieves for him, to rule. And ultimately that's my point - she can do it on her own.

    I've made sure the deaths serve a purpose and they aren't just random but I was just curious how some people react to main characters being killed off. I remember howling when Dumbledore died in the HP series, but it was masterfully done. I'm hoping mine are in the same vein - that looking back once the book is done, you can see the reasons.
     
  15. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    Have you published your previous work? Are you going to have a readership that shares your editor's unpleasant surprise?
     
  16. TheScorpion

    TheScorpion Member

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    No. Nothing is published yet, at least in terms of my fiction writing.

    I have a number of projects that are in the works as well as two that are being considered for publication through traditional routes but nothing in print yet. Side note, thinking of self-publishing just because the traditional route can take FOREVER.
     
  17. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Lying, dog-faced pony Marine Supporter Contributor

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    I'm too old for Harry Potter, but unexpected deaths can be the most effective. Yes, we like it when somebody we knew was going to die finally does so, but it's the ones that take us off guard that we'll remember. I've used this example here before, but in The Naked and the Dead,

    the lieutenant is an antagonist to the men through most of the book. Then, Mailer switches to the LT's point of view, and we see the reasons for his actions, the fact that he's just as scared as they are, and he's just trying to get everybody out alive, and-

    Sniper bullet through the brain.

    I really don't remember much else about that book, I should read it again, but that death has stuck with me.
     
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  18. Odile_Blud

    Odile_Blud Active Member

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    Depends on why they die.
     
  19. triagain22

    triagain22 New Member

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    I have killed MC's and sometimes it's obvious and sometimes it's not. Sometimes they've served their purpose, and others the only way to motivate another MC was through their death.
    I always reference this when I'm torn or considering killing someone in a story.

    upload_2018-3-4_20-52-23.png
     
  20. Beloved of Assur

    Beloved of Assur Active Member

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    Depends on what kind of story I read. In a war story or political story death of prominent characters feels like a must. While in a romance I'm not sure that I see a need for it as conflicts can be resolved without violence at most times. Although please not that non-violent does not mean nice or happy.
     
  21. peachalulu

    peachalulu Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Maybe this is problem. Does it match the tone of the story or does it just become a preachy twist? Ideological deaths can either have precise meaning -- To Kill a Mockingbird -- and match the tone of the story and be beneficial or they can really expose themselves as writerly tricks ala -- Cold Mountain.

    For me -- getting the throne proves her worth. Killing off her lover seems a bit gratuitous as in -- even kings have wives -- why can't she have her lover? If a man doesn't have to be fully alone to prove himself why does a woman?
     
  22. animagus_kitty

    animagus_kitty Senior Member

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    I kind of second Peach's point. I sort of missed that in the post s/he's quoting, but he's right. Even if it's written well, if the reason he dies is because "she can do it alone", that still feels like kind of a silly reason, to me. :meh:
     
  23. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Contributor Contributor

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    If, as a reader, I think the writer included deaths for what seemed forced reasons or to move the plot forward, shock value, or to resolve a situation, I'll tend to move away from further books by that author. If it reads as an ingrained part of the story, fits the world, conflict, storytelling style, etc. then by all means it's of value to the story.

    When you indicated 'resolving the story' by killing the two main characters, that gives me pause. Of course, it may all fit perfectly. It's your story to tell. In the end, if you're going to self-publish, you go with what you believe is best.
     
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  24. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    That's your point, but unless his death has some other purpose, the reader is likely to find it a problem. "He has to die to make this point" doesn't feel like a death that serves a purpose. To put it another way, a literary purpose isn't the same as a purpose in the fictional universe, and the reader will crave a purpose in the fictional universe. Now, you may have another purpose, but I wanted to make that distinction.
     
  25. TheScorpion

    TheScorpion Member

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    There is absolutely another purpose (sorta of a self-fulfilling prophecy sorta thing at least in terms of the lover's death) but it's hard to explain without delving into details about the work.
    I'm loving the feedback though. This book is the one that is almost ready for publishing so I'm really looking forward to doing some more fine tuning before launch :)
     

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