Killing off Characters

Not going to lie, I totally wanted the title of this post to be “killed them all of course” but I figured it would look a little too creepy for those who don’t understand the reference. Overall message here: watch The Jinx. Dear God, do it.

ANYWAY

Hey!

Let’s kill some fictional people! What a wonderful topic to cover.

Killing off characters is not child’s play. There are lots of things to consider before deciding to force your beloved characters into a death trap. Luckily, whilst browsing Pinterest I came across this amazing little chart to get us started (special thanks to Helping Writers Become Authors).

how_to_kill_a_character__infographic

This checklist gives me life. It’s so perfect.

Now that you’ve gone through and made sure it is, in fact, a good idea to go ahead and pull the metaphorical trigger, here’s some additional food for thought.

Becoming Emotionally Attached

I hate this one. Absolutely hate it. I’m dealing with it in my current WIP and it’s a daily struggle. When it comes to this lovely setback, my main piece of advice is to just keep on remembering why this death needs to happen. Why it’s important. Because otherwise, you’ll start convincing yourself Romeo and Juliet can totally make their relationship work. Double suicide? Tst, please. Let’s get some cake and streamers because these lovers are going to make it! Yeah. Don’t let yourself do this. And when all else fails, have a real sit down with yourself and come to terms with the fact that this character is fictional, they were never even alive to begin with.

The Aftermath

Are people pissed? Sad? Completely gutted? Ready to enact revenge? These are important things to know that go right along with motivating other characters or advancing the plot. What purpose did this death serve? Know that and you’ll know your aftermath.

Preparation (mainly when dealing with major characters)

While sudden deaths are great for certain circumstances, in my experience, unless you really just want to shock your readers, don’t do this. I’m not advising any HUGE hint drops here, but give your readers a little bit of warning. Set the tone. We’ve all been that audience member who leaves a book/TV show/ movie feeling like we’ve just been delivered a personal slap in the face after a character dies suddenly. Not because it made us sad, or ripped our heart out. No. Because it was a cheap shot. Moral of the story here, give your readers some warning. It could be something as simple as having someone mention this mission is far more dangerous than most, or even touching on doubts your protagonist has about leaving someone behind…just something. Because chances are, you don’t want this death to happen just for shock value (and if you do, take another look at that checklist). Give your readers anything they can latch onto, which will, in turn, make the eventual death more meaningful.

Have fun killing! (Even I cringed at that sign off…)

For more joy, check out this video by the lovely Jenna Moreci:

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2 thoughts on “Killing off Characters

  1. Back at it again! You’re killin’ it, Katie! (haha… puns) I really appreciated this post and the graphic you found. I struggle with finding the right time to kill off a character, and determining whether or not their death is actually necessary. Thanks for this post! You’ve given me a lot to think about in my own writing. (I can practically hear my characters thanking you.)

    Like

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