1. MarcT

    MarcT Active Member

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    Killing off characters that you like or even love

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by MarcT, Feb 7, 2017.

    I knew it had to happen, but when the moment came I could barely type the words.
    A character I'd built up who had formed an important relationship with another needed to die horribly and I honestly found it quite challenging to write. She's a journalist who assists another journalist in a key element of the plot, they succeed in their quest and she falls for the other, younger journalist. That element in itself made it much harder to kill her off and it was interesting to try putting myself in the mind of of the younger woman when she finds out that her special friend had been murdered.
    It would have simple to have them live happily ever after and maybe bump into each other again, but nowhere near as interesting.
    I don't have a problem killing off the undesirables, but maybe that's just human nature.
    What do others think?
     
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  2. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView

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    I think this is a good sign - if you didn't care about your own characters, how could you expect readers to?

    I don't write in a genre where the good guys die (generally) but I killed a dog in one book and I cried actual tears. :p Some of the people who read it have, too, so it was worth it. Our job is to make people feel stuff, right?
     
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  3. S A Lee

    S A Lee Contributor Contributor

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    You're definitely not alone, and I don't just speak from personal experience.

    JK Rowling admitted that she cried over Sirius when writing Order of the Phoenix, and when she apologised for killing Remus Lupin (it's been a tradition of hers to apologise for one character she killed off on the anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts) she revealed that she cried in front of her editor over the fact she was making Teddy an orphan.

    I think what it boils down to is that we accept that people die, so the death of someone we don't care about is easy to put together. But when we work with a character and develop a bond with them, it's hard.

    But as you say, it isn't as interesting, and more often than not, it's unrealistic for a major character to not suffer.
     
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  4. Mckk

    Mckk Member Supporter Contributor

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    It might be satisfying and soothing for yourself personally to write that alternate, happy ending - not for the book, no, but just for yourself. That's what I did the one time I thought I was killing off a character anyway, and it really helped - I cried lol. (I say "I thought" because in the end the entire story got scrapped)
     
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  5. Adam Kalauz

    Adam Kalauz Member

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    I'm planning to kill one of my favourite SC's if/when I write the squel to my current novel. i'm kinda percolating the plot right now, but I'm certain that probably my favourite character from the first book, not the MC, has to die.

    And I didn't think about how that was going to feel until now. :(

    *bummed*
     
  6. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I tend to write action adventure stories about soldiers/mercenaries /hit men and so forth - obviously there's going to be a fairly high body count in these and it has to include principal characters sometimes in order to remain realistic.

    My current WIP After the Wave starts as it means to go on with the MC shooting his deputy in the head in chapter one because he's been hit and they can't carry him (and the enemy are so barbarous that leaving wounded behind is not an option)

    Between there and where I am currently the friendly body count is 21 including 8 named characters 2 of them major (the enemy body count is significantly higher), its war, that's what happens.
     
  7. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Contributor Contributor

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    Why kill them off when you can absolutely devastate them physically,
    and demoralize the hell out of them?

    I have often considered killing off an MC, but not really sure how to do
    it. Or who would fill their spot when they are gone. I too am writing
    a war story, so it is a possibility. Though it would seem I am more
    of the 'torture the hell out of them' type of guy. :p

    But at the end of it all, I am not sure how well it would go killing off
    an MC. There are plenty of sad points littered through out the whole
    ordeal. Not sure playing the George RR Martin card will make the
    story better or worse. (Admittedly I have never read his work). :p

    So you need to decide if it is in the best interests of your own story
    if you should kill them off or not. Suppose you could write both
    sides of that coin and see which you prefer.
     
  8. KevinMcCormack

    KevinMcCormack Senior Member

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    I think you have probably written an awesome character.

    My trilogy spans generations, so most of the characters in my first novel are dead by the start of the second novel, including my number one favourite character that I've ever written.

    One way I cope with it is that I've written a 12 short story anthology with the characters, and wrote some childhood events with foreshadowing of his death, such as we see with some classical era heroes, or Christian martyrs from Acts.
     
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  9. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin The game sour like a pickle be.... Contributor

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    I kill my characters in the middle of the page whenever I get frustrated. I'll write something like, "And then an anvil fell out of the sky and squashed him like a grape." Or something. Usually it makes me giggle and I can delete it and move forward. But then there was the one time I looked at it and thought You know, a falling anvil might be just what this scene needs!
     
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  10. QualityPen

    QualityPen Member

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    I'm writing a fantasy story that is told from multiple points of view and halfway through the first book I already have a body count of several POV characters, a dozen or so secondary characters, and a few thousand soldiers and civilians. Hell, by the end of just the prologue I have a body count of 1 POV character, one named character, and 29 unnamed mercenaries. I haven't even gotten to the point where the main characters turn on one another (one of the POV characters gets killed by his friend) or to the point where they unwittingly release the god of fire and death, who immediately murders half a million people.

    In the following book one of the POV characters accidentally kills his own fiance with a stray shot during a dual. One of the other story threads takes a major twist when the POV character everyone thinks that story thread is about is murdered by his brother for power.

    In the fourth book, the adopted son of a POV character who has somehow survived dozens of life threatening battles against all odds, is killed during the last battle he is expecting to fight. In the fifth book, that same POV character's newly wed wife, a super-loveable character who has been his love interest for 25 years, has her brain turned into soup. She is still alive, but mentally she is not there anymore.

    I literally have a list of interesting ways to kill off characters.

    Aaand I just realized how dark my story is. Once this is published I might be in the running for highest character body count against G.R.R. Martin.

    How do I cope? I imagine the shock my readers will have and laugh at their tears. >: D

    But if I am to be serious, I hope that the sacrifice of these characters makes the story more intense and interesting and entertains my readers.
     
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2017
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  11. Arcadeus

    Arcadeus Senior Member

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    I wrote a story centered around a cat. The plan was for the cat to have been abandoned and confused, taken to a pound. The cat would than be adopted and be as asshole, yet slowly become a part of the family even so. Signs of sickness would show and the cat would have to be put down.

    I based the cat on me and my wife's still living cat.

    My wife read the story and smacked me for it. "How could you kill my cat?"

    So I explained to her that it had to happen in the story and that I was crying when I did it.
    Tears in my eyes are I wrote the first draft of the death scene.
     
  12. NoGoodNobu

    NoGoodNobu Contributor Contributor

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    "The death means nothing unless the dead mean something to you."

    If we don't have some sort of passionate attachment—love, hatred, fear, anger, et cetera—the character's death isn't meaningful. No one will feel anything. And generally the point is to make us feel something.

    I've never cried or teared up at my own writing, but then I don't tear up over powerfully emotional scenes in films either—or laugh outright. The funniest things ever usually get a quiet, airy "heh" as testimonial of my finding it hilarious. I don't usually have a visible or audible reaction to things.

    But I've killed my favourite characters before, in wonderfully awful & poignant ways. It was perhaps painful, but there was more pleasure because the story was better for it and the deaths weren't throw away side characters only there for the sake of dying. My friends who read hate me for it, and I now have a false notoriety with them for killing off my best characters—which I've only ever had two stories that had death feature at all (and nearly everyone died in those).

    If you feel awful killing off a character, you're probably doing it right〜
     
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  13. RaitR_Grl

    RaitR_Grl Member

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    I think if you hesitate to kill a character because you've grown attached to them, you're doing it right. I once heard that George R.R. Martin had such a hard time writing the (MAJOR SPOILER ALERT) Red Wedding, that he skipped over it, wrote the rest of the book (book 3, Storm of Swords), and then went back to write that scene.
     
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  14. Paul Kinsella

    Paul Kinsella Member

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    I can totally relate. When I wrote my book, I intentionally wrote in a very likable character that I planed to kill very early in the book. The idea was to create uncertainty in the minds of the readers. "If SHE can die..." they would think, "Then ANYONE could die!" But when it can time to kill her, I found myself tempted to spare her life.
     
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  15. Pinkymcfiddle

    Pinkymcfiddle Banned

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    All of my characters died in a freak boating accident approximately 15k words into my novel. I then realised that I couldn't finish my novel without any characters, so I had to retcon their deaths with the help of a friendly pod of dolphins who prodded them towards the shore. Except there was one evil dolphin who killed Jeff.
     
  16. Paul Kinsella

    Paul Kinsella Member

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    Really?!? Where can I read this story?
     
  17. Pinkymcfiddle

    Pinkymcfiddle Banned

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    It's called "The Wizard through the Magical Looking Glass- A Tale from the Reverse World"

    When all of the characters (except Jeff who is cut in half by a dolphin's speeding fin) return to shore, they uncover a conspiracy within the local council to take bribes in return for rewarding building contracts on substantial public sector works. But then they stumble upon an alien spaceship, which imbues them with magical powers, and they attack the local town hall in order to defeat the unscrupulous council workers. There is a massive gunfight.
     
  18. vonHelldorf

    vonHelldorf New Member

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    I love a good heroic death. If it stirs emotion you've done your job. It's going to be great for your readers and story by the sounds of it!
     
  19. Paul Kinsella

    Paul Kinsella Member

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    Okay... now I know you're just #@$%ing with me.
     
  20. rktho

    rktho Contributor Contributor

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    I've got a character who dies and it's sad because I like him and I think people will like him too. But they won't be sad for long because he comes back in the next book (since I used time travel to bring back the villain, meaning he'd come back to life too.) But I chose ANOTHER character who won't come back after he's dead. But that's not until the middle of the last book.
     
  21. rktho

    rktho Contributor Contributor

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    I hope it's not as violent/sexual as George R. R. Martin's work, 'cause I wanna read it.
     
  22. Garnovski

    Garnovski New Member

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    Personally, if you killed a character I really liked, I would be pissed off and would close the book for a week. Then, I'd recommend it to all my friends, because a book that can make me that angry is a good book.
    Quick thoughts on rktho's point about bringing a character back: If you do so, please set up the possibility to do so before the death, because (and I speak only for myself on this) if I mourned a character, bringing it back out of nowhere would turn me off completely. I remember crying as a kid when Krillin died and then losing respect for the DBZ franchise when he came back easily. that is a slippery slope indeed.
     
  23. Paul Kinsella

    Paul Kinsella Member

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    Personally, I hate it when a character is killed and then "brought back". It makes everything that comes after disingenuous.
     
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  24. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    Seriously, at least make it hard enough that it stays a) incredible uncommon, and b) not always a good idea because sometimes it would just make things worse.
     
  25. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    yep thats right up there with "and then i woke up" as a shit literary device ... I've ocasionally had a character bought back from near death so the reader thinks hes dead, but he's not actually (e.g hit in the chest but he was wearing body armour type of thing) but actually killing them then bringing them back is lazy and implausible
     

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