Have you ever been writing a death scene in a novel and have this feeling that if your character was a real person he or she’d be giving you puppy eyes while pleading for his or her life? “Please don’t kill me!” he or she says. For me it happens all the time. Yep. Pretty much every time I go to kill off a character. Which I am currently trying to do at the moment with no success…
So today’s lovely post revolves around killing characters. Yes, killing characters.
From a reader’s perspective there is nothing worse than when an author decides to go and off one of your favorites, but honestly as a writer it’s painful too. My characters become special to me and that makes it all the more painful when I have to get rid of one of them. After all, I am their creator, and I certainly know them better than anyone else. So how does one really go about killing a character? Well, I will give you a few methods. As I am an amateur character killer, please feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments.
1. Cry- Just do it. You might have to shed a tear or two, but just do your best to get it over and done with. Take the time to mourn the character properly and keep the tissues close by as you take them to their imminent death.
2. Plan ahead- plan in advance whether you will kill a character or not. If you know in advance then do your best to distance yourself.
3. Off-screen death- write a death without the details. In other words, have someone find the body, or hear mention of the death in a letter. This is somewhat easier to do.
4. Character’s marked for slaughter- This goes with planning ahead, but create characters specifically meant to die. When that is their intended purpose it is often easier on you as a writer. It also means you can give them habits that annoy you.
5. Alternative methods- is there a way to get rid of this character without death? Can they be banished, sent to prison, turned into a frog? If there is a way to get them out of the plot without death go for it!
6. Evil characters- Obviously if you feel you must kill off some characters killing the bad is the best option. These deaths leave readers feeling satisfied and are easier to write in the long run. Readers may also be more willing to forgive a good character dying if an antagonist also joins them.
7. Humane death- Choose a death for the character that they would want. For example making them a martyr or sacrificing them for a cause or another person. While still extremely sad it can definitely make the death seem for more of a purpose.
8. Picture readers- In all honesty it is my goal to make readers experience emotion, particularly sadness. If I hear someone read my novel and cried I feel I have a success (unless of course it’s meant to be a comedy but was just so terrible they had to cry). So picture your readers feeling emotional over this death. Picture how much it will bring to your book as a whole.
9. Consider the end result- Sometimes a death just needs to happen for a plot to progress. There are many examples in literature, but perhaps considering Oliver Twist’s mother. Had she not died at the start then there would have been no plot to the story, but instead the orphaned child manages to have a tale due to his circumstances. Sometimes a death must happen for more than just making the plot interesting. Sometimes it is necessary to the story.
10. Give up- If all else fails cry and give up the story completely. We can’t always be strong as writers.
So there are some nice little methods or tips that I have. If anyone has any to share please feel free. I still have to work on my killing strategies as well. Now please excuse me while I go cry over my latest inability to pull the trigger.