I get very attatched to my characters, whether I mean to or not. I think this is a really important part of writing, but the fact remains that sometimes, you are going to have to kill your characters. Killing characters often helps move the plot along or is key for another (often your MC) character’s development (Peter Parker’s grandfather dying in Spider Man comes to mind). In my first novel I created a character who I knew would die, and I still got attatched to her (against my better judgement). But you have to avoid killing characters unnecessarily – I’m sure you all can think of several series (whether books or TV shows or both) that are notorious for “everyone” dying in the end. So when and why should you kill a character?
As I’ve already said, deaths in books should move the plot along. These are the deaths that spur revenge or inspiration (often to your MC) in the fictional world of your book. Often these kinds of deaths happen early on and are the reason for the plot, the beginning of the adventure. A lot of times these deaths aren’t going to be a surprise to your readers. Make sure they mean a lot to your characters. Pick a person your MC cares a lot about.
The other, harder deaths to write, are the ones that surprise your reader. This can be harder, because these characters don’t always die for a reason. The trick is, there always needs to be a reason a character dies. Every character in your story serves a purpose. Consider who is going to step up and fulfill that purpose once the original character is dead. If you’re simply killing a character to get rid of them because they aren’t important to the story, maybe you didn’t need them in the first place.
Killing characters can be fun. After all, writers are often even advised to hurt their characters, to push them as far as they can go to make the story interesting. Keep the story believable, though. I’ve killed several characters in my books. When my main characters are in the middle of a large war I know it isn’t possible for everyone to survive.There’s a certain point where even the best characters break.
You can make a spectacle out of it, and you can build up to it. Or you can make it quiet. In real life, you don’t know when you’re about to die, and the people around you aren’t going to either. Some of the best deaths in literature are the ones like this. The ones that make you ask why? and sometimes curse the author. The ones that are so real they hurt. Don’t kill your character just to shock your readers. Don’t just kill a character because you’re bored. Remember readers aren’t expecting the main characters to die. Don’t kill a character just to have killed a character. It sounds silly but it’s true. There have been a few popular books recently where main characters die (I’m not going to name them for the sake of spoilers) and everyone cries and curses the author but these deaths always have a greater purpose behind them.
What are some of your favourite fictional deaths? Ones you loved and ones you hated? Have you killed characters in your novels?