Monday, July 23, 2012

The Decision to Kill off a Character is a Tough One….

Recently, I read a book where the author killed off a character near the beginning of the book. Later in the book, this made me highly concerned about a certain character I liked. It started to drive me crazy, and I had to know if he was going to live. So I kept reading and reading, even though I thought at one point… “If you kill him off, that’s it…I’m done with this book!” Thankfully, the author had the sense not to kill him. 

So my question is...does killing off a character make a book more intense? Could I add more intensity to my own writing if I killed someone off at the right moment in Vallar 2? In other words, am I not being ruthless enough? Or do I risk upsetting readers?

There is one character that I have been considering killing off for a few reasons.

1. It would make the antagonist all the more hated.
2. It would add even more of a personal factor.
3. It would let the reader know…hey anyone could die here! 

However, this isn’t easy. I’m attached to this character and I don’t want to think of him or her as dead, which I would do. Silly, I know. I’m going to take my time thinking about this one.

Before a character dies, I believe there is some planning that should be considered. Here are the main points:

1. Some foreshadowing, rather than having it happen all of a sudden.
2. The death should matter in some way and not be just for the shock value. This goes along with my theory that every incident in a book should be tied to the plot.

What do you think about killing off a character? 

Writing Update:

Writing was delayed last week because I went on a little vacation with my daughter to an indoor/outdoor water park. After much thought, I left the laptop at home. Before leaving, I promised my daughter, I would be like a kid and go on everything (which I did) but I also think that most of the time I was the oldest person in line for those rides. If only they had elevators to the top of those slides. Also…I wish they could have cranked up the wave pool to about 5 to 6 foot waves (instead of those boring 2 to 3 foot waves) Now that would be real swimming.  

Meanwhile, I’m still working on Vallar 2. It’s hovering around 80K as I keep adding and deleting things. The climax and ending is not even written yet. It’s in my head, but still kind of vague. I always leave it for last because it’s the hardest part to write. 

Anyway my method (usually) is to stick with one project until it’s done, so I’m going to be pushing myself to make progress.

Have a great week, everyone.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Sometimes a vacation where you act like a kid is a good thing.
(Spoiler!) I killed off a major character in one of my books. But it was integral to the story and the other main character would not have taken the path he did unless it happened. Believe me, I hated doing it, as I liked that character a lot. (And been told since that it made people cry.) Useless deaths happen in real life, but we don't want them in our books or movies.

mooderino said...

I think killing off a character is an effective way to sharpen everyone's involvement in the story, characters and readers, but that impact fades with use. Peopel will stop caring as much if they know you have a penchant for killing people off willy nilly.

Moody Writing
The Funnily Enough

PT Dilloway, Superhero Author said...

In my book "Where You Belong" I kill off a bunch of characters. Since it takes place over 35 years a lot of them die of essentially natural causes. Though actually it does start by killing someone from very non-natural causes.

E.J. Wesley said...

Have a friend reading the first book in the Game of Thrones series and she has almost refused to read further knowing the author's habit of killing off characters. Guess some readers are OK with it, and others not. Whatever the case, as a writer, you have to do it judiciously and make certain it is relevant (if the character is of any importance), otherwise the reader is going to tune you out during the next tense moment.

Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

I think you are going about this all wrong. You should not kill off a character to increase the drama but kill off a character if the story demands it. George R.R. Martin has addressed this very thing in the Red Wedding. He hated killing off Robb Stark but he knew that this was the ultimate price Robb would have to pay for betraying the Frays.

Annalisa Crawford said...

I kill off characters quite a lot. In one novella it was the hardest decision, but made sense - without it, the story wouldn't have worked. Most of the things I write have at least one dead person in it, and no I don't write crime or murder mysteries :-)