A to Z Challenge 2013

Friday, April 5, 2013


Today's topic is death.  No, I don't mean my own demise nor am I planning anyone else's.  Nope, I'm talking about the death of a character.  This can be a touchy subject for some writers because we invest a great deal of time in creating our these fictional people;  the thought of them dying sometimes makes our heart ache.  Or maybe that's just me.

The first time I ever killed off a character, it came as a complete surprise to me.  I hadn't planned for the story to go in that direction, but the next thing I knew it the character was lying on the floor no longer breathing.  And it was the right thing to do.  It was one of those moments where my writing actually gave me chills, and it wasn't because of the death itself;  it was because of how well I'd written that particular section.

Now that I'm trying to add a little more directed plot to my writing, I find myself thinking how to arrange for the demise of a character.  I mean, it's not like all of us have a classroom of former students begging to be killed off in our novel.  I'm not complaining, Beth;  You handled that with supreme excellence and left the rest of us green with envy.

To write the death of a character takes a great deal of careful planning and skill.  We don't want a cliche event that everyone can see coming, unless of course they have some disease or something that would make their death an obvious conclusion.  And even then, writing in a disease can be too cliche.  The most significant deaths are those you aren't really ready for.  It can make the reader gasp, and if you're lucky they get to imagine how they'd handle that same set of circumstances.  Heck, some readers get downright upset at their favorite character dying - but that doesn't mean they'll hate the writing or story.  Hopefully they'll come to understand why it was necessary.

How do you handle death in your writing?   Have you ever regretted killing off a character?


J.L. Campbell said...

Good post. I don't often kill characters, but when I do, it's usually characters that I can do without.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I killed off a main character in my first book and it was the most difficult thing I've ever done. But if it hadn't happened, then the other character would've never moved forward the way he needed to.

Eric said...

J.L. - Thanks. I haven't killed off any inconsequential characters. I guess I like the idea that death can be a useful literary tool, to bring a great deal of depth and impact to the story.

Alex - Wow, I've not done that yet. I can imagine how difficult it would be though.