Off With Their Heads


My entertainment for the past week has been coming up with ways to kill characters. A bit morbid? Sure. Very me? Absolutely. Naturally, these ideas range from the mundane, to the strange, to the utterly bizarre.

Now let me just say, most of my ideas will never make it in to print (nor should they.) As amusing as it may be to me to write someone being murdered at Disneyland while riding one of those boats on It’s A Small World, I can’t say it actually fits in to the fictional world I’ve created… and not to mention, I don’t particularly want to be sued by Disney.

In any case, killing a character in whom readers have invested, tends to ensure you’re going to receive a strong reaction. At one point or another, every writer is going to wonder whether they should or shouldn’t go there. This is what I always keep in mind.

  • Avoid pointless angst in getting there.

Death of a character breeds some level of angst, but typically there needs to be some balance. Simply re-hashing the same thing over and over isn’t going to cut it.

  • Does the death make sense?

There’s nothing I hate more than reading a novel where the author clearly went for the shock value involved with a death. You’d better have a point, or else your reader is just going to feel cheated.

  • Don’t be afraid to kill your characters.

I’ve created characters I dearly love. I live these characters, I breathe them, and it’s not uncommon to find me with a notebook full of random thoughts about them. Killing one of them may be the hardest thing I’ll do, but I’m not afraid to go there. My general rule is that there is nothing, whether plot, phrasing, or character that is safe when I write. Sometimes, it’s for the best.

And finally…

  • What are my characters telling me?

Some characters were born to die, simple as that. If your character is telling you that it’s time for him to go, don’t try to save him. Let him serve his purpose, but when it’s his time, bid him farewell.

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