K is for Killing (a character)

This post is part of the Blogging from A to Z challenge–blogging every day in the month of April (except Sundays!) with each letter of the alphabet.

Sometimes in the course of writing a story we come to that dreadful point where, in order to advance the plot and make things work, someone has to die. Maybe it’s someone who deserves it and we could all see it coming. Maybe it’s someone who is innocent and it will rip the hearts out of your readers–and out of you, as well.

Killing a beloved character is never easy, but sometimes it must happen. As I work on this entry I’m also doing edits on one of my books, and I’m actually at the part where I had to kill such a character. I didn’t plan these things to coincide, they just did. It gives me some perspective on talking about the subject.

Killing off one of your precious babies is never easy, even the villain, because they’re all beings you’ve created and grown yourself. You understand the nuances of each character and it’s always a big deal, no matter how important or insignificant their role. People in the real world die every day, and when it’s people we don’t know it doesn’t affect us, but it affects someone. Every death is mourned. Even if your readers are happy to see a character go, you have to mourn them–and live with the fact that you’re the one who killed them.

Some genres have a lot more deaths than others. You’ll probably find characters dying more often in say, a mystery than a romance. Sometimes that makes it worse, if you have to kill off a character in a genre where people don’t often die. A death has to have purpose and be handled with finesse, so the readers don’t come after you with pitchforks.

Have you ever had to kill off a character? Was it a beloved one? How did you feel about it?

8 comments

  1. I write horror and suspense, so I’ve definitely done my share of killing, but it’s never easy. In one of my last books, my villain is extremely sympathetic, and I was so depressed about his death that I took some time off from writing–I knew he had to die, but I really didn’t want to kill him. I cried at his death, and for some time afterward. They are real people to me.

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    1. Aww! I agree, it’s never easy to kill someone, even the villain. I recently killed both of the villains in a book and one of them was exceptionally hard, because I’d really grown to enjoy writing him. Sigh, writer problems!

      Thanks for stopping by!

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  2. In my second YA, I killed off a character and each time I read the scene, I always tear up. That said, I like it when authors kill off characters. It shows they want a good story because chances are they created a character that I love and it will be that much worse when they die and make the book memorable.

    ~Patricia Lynne aka Patricia Josephine~
    Member of C. Lee’s Muffin Commando Squad
    Story Dam
    Patricia Lynne, Indie Author

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  3. It’s never easy to have to kill off a sympathetic character, even if s/he’s dying in old age instead of unnaturally, in the prime of life. I still miss one of my characters who died at only 26, though she comes back every so often as a helpful ghost, and sometimes a not so helpful ghost, when she’s going after her loved ones’ enemies. I was surprised at how emotionally gutted I was at writing another character’s death, even though I’d known for years he’d die in my third Russian historical, a victim of the Great Terror. He’d never been a particularly endearing character, though he was never a villain. I’d really grown to care about him more than I ever thought possible.

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