Gw Temp


Article - 'Killing Off Your Characters' by Xanqui

An item about Plots/Characters posted on Jan 30, 2004


Xanqui gives tips on how to deal with the death of a character in your fictional world.


Before I go on with this article, I would like to state that this article is not about how to create the perfect scene where a major character is killed off. This article is about how to get over their deaths and move on with the story without him or her. As stupid as this sounds, if you’ve been working on a story that you’ve devoted yourself to, it can be a lot more difficult than it seems to be.

Throughout your story, you’ve been developing this character, and giving him his morals and beliefs, knowing that at one point in the story, he has to go. Some people end up going on with the story, stretching it further and further, just to keep the character in as long as possible.

So the first step is: KILL HIM OFF.

It sounds cruel, but it needs to be done. Find the point in the story after the character has reached his potential to be whatever you want him to be. Build up the scene as much as you want, then portray the dreaded moment with whatever detail you wish. Whether it be a swift death, or a slow, painful death where he has the time to give one last speech to all of his friends, you need to reach the point where someone who cares for him reaches over his face and lowers his eyelids.

The second step is: QUESTION YOURSELF.

If you loved the character so much, and want to continue using him in more events in the story, ask yourself: was it really necessary to kill off this character? You have total control of the story, so why not play the story out to your liking?

But also, question yourself about whether you should bring the character back or not. If it was vital to the storyline, and had a great effect on the development of other characters, or controlled the motivation, then the death was pretty necessary.

The third step is: ACCEPT IT.

The characters must be moving on now! Sure, their friend is dead, but they must not let him die in vain. They must stand in his place and finish the job, whatever it may be. It’s alright to have conversations through the rest of the journey about the deceased one, but no one wants to see a character who just moans their friend’s death. Keep the conversations limited, and make sure the characters converse about other things, like, I don’t know, other plot elements.

You as the storyteller must realize that the character had his time to shine. You can always go back and add more scenes involving this character, so don’t force it on the audience to hear more and more about the character.

The fourth step is: LET IT GO.

The worst thing you can do at this point in the story is bring the character back. Unless the story is specifically about bringing the character back, DON’T DO IT. Using some lame wish thing, or magical spell is a terrible plot device, and lacks creativity in so many ways. You could always introduce another character similar to this one, or something along those lines. But if there’s only one thing you learn from this article, let it be this.

You used the death of the character to inspire motivation, or to alter the story in some way, so bringing back the character will only ruin everything you worked so hard on.

The fifth step is: MOVE ONTO ANOTHER STORY.

This step is strictly for you as the story teller. You’ve finished the story without doing something stupid like bringing back the character, and you have accepted the death of this character as a part of the plot, and know that it is not a wise move to bring him back.

So try writing a continuation of the story, introducing other characters, who you may kill off as well. Or you could move onto another story entirely, where you will have an entire new set of characters to fall in love with. Then again, you could always do a sequel specifically about the hero’s quest to find this lost loved one and restore the life he or she loved.

Many story writers have a problem with loving characters too much. According to several people who knew J.R.R Tolkein, the guy spent years developing characters, and when he reached the point where he needed to kill one off, it hurt him deeply. So try taking a break after you’ve ended the death scene, and spend time doing other things. When it’s no longer bothering you, move on with the story.