When to Kill Off a Character?

A question I have considered a time or to myself…I’m not averse to killing a character off  🙂

I’ve been working on one of my short stories lately, because I want to at least try to get something published this year…and I ran into a little snag. On Sunday, I finished a rough draft for it, but it didn’t seem complete. I had alluded to the idea that one of the characters does […]

https://amandagreyfiction.wordpress.com/2016/03/21/when-to-kill-off-a-character/

9 thoughts on “When to Kill Off a Character?

  1. It’s a tricky question (assuming you don’t do what they do in comic books, which is endlessly kill characters and then bring them back to life later).

    I killed of a character fairly early in my second novel, mostly because it was a dramatic death and would have a good effect — story wise — on some other characters, but then she sort of haunted me.

    So, I used this, having her haunt a couple of other characters — the ones who were rather guiltily relieved that she was gone — and I had a big flashback chapter showing more about why she’d acted the way she had.

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    1. Oh that’s good. I like the idea of them still being part of the story even though they are dead. Mr Game of Thrones likes to kill his characters too, I am almost afraid to like one of his characters too much in case I can’t cope when he eventually kills them off. Please not Aria or Jon Snow! 🙂

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      1. Joss Whedon has pointed out that one benefit of killing a character is that it ups the stakes for all the other characters — you’ve announced that this is not the type of story where everybody makes it to the end.

        For one example, given what goes on in Lord of the Rings, a whole lot of characters make it out alive — but there’s always Boromir’s death fairly early on to shake any sense of complacency the reader might develop. (I’m hoping that by now I don’t need to add a spoiler warning about this. 🙂 )

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      2. I agree Anthony, and I think it depends on the story genre, but for books where there is a lot of danger it feels too fake and unrealistic if no one dies, and I like the idea of keeping the reader on their toes 😉

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  2. Vogler’s ” SUPREME ORDEAL” is at the mid-point of stories. This concept better involve a life or death situation (literally to the character or figuratively.) It is game over. It is “there is no way in hell we’re going to make it out of this one alive, sane, well, whole, in one piece – whatever. Ordeal involves a death to SOMETHIHNG VERY IMPORTANT TO THE HERO, so this does not need to be an actual death of a character.
    Facing greatest fear. Indiana Jones feared snakes – smack dab in the middle of the movie, he finds himself in a snake pit. The ordeal is life challenging in either an external or internal (or both) ways. Indi gets taste of death.
    Vogler took an aside and used Peek-a-boo as an example. Playing Peek-a-boo with a child is a scary thing to a kid. You can literally make them cry by withholding eye contact for a longer period of time than the child’s comfort zone. And then you peek and they get relief and detail their fear and then…They want to play again. Same with the audience. Using fear as a tool to generate emotion in the audience generates horror and simultaneous identification and fascination.
    Vogler’s Writer’s Journey is not a well written book. In point of fact, it began as a memo to Disney, who he worked for, and is/was used as a guide for the plot points they should look for in movie scripts.

    Basically, bungee the audience. Let them fear falling and make them fall. Let them fear the cord breaking and dumping them into deep water when they don’t know how to swim.

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      1. I compiled ‘plot points’ from various sources, then chose the ones that resonated with me to build a basic outline. I merely copy/pasted that section of my notes and hope they’re useful to you. 😉

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  3. Interesting. I have a romantic suspense that had started out as a mystery. When I finished writing and submitting multiple times, it turned out to be more the father of the heroine’s story instead of the hero and heroine. So, he had to go. Once I killed him off, I could see it but before it had to be pointed out to me.

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