As you can probably guess from the title, this writing guide will be about character deaths; why they are so important to have and when you should be using them. I will also give you guys (or gals) some different methods on how to actually kill them so you can keep things interesting. But before we get into all that juicy stuff, it’s time for a quick warning.
Killing off characters is not mandatory. I know a lot of authors are doing it lately, but just because so many people are doing it, doesn’t mean that you need to do it. It won’t make you any less of a writer if all of your characters survive to the end of the book.
However, if your book takes place during a war or some other setting where a lot of people tend to die, you might want to reconsider that. It is not logical if everyone survives during a virus outbreak or if all your soldiers make it out of the warzone. It might even turn people off from reading any of your other works.
Anyways, now that the warning is taken care of, let’s dig into the main part of this post.
Why is it so important to kill a character?
1. Plot Development
Depending on the genre you’re writing for, you may have to kill off a character or two in order to keep the plot moving smoothly. For example, if you were writing a story with an assassin as the MC, you’ll clearly need to do some character deaths, because it is your MC’s job to kill people. That’s kind of self-explanatory, right?
You could also have a character go on a “suicide mission” for the greater good. Like, if there was an issue with the spaceship and people needed to get back to Earth asap, this character could go out into space with a broken helmet, patch things up, and well… die a hero.
2. Character Development
There’s an infamous quote that I see almost everywhere I go that fits nicely in this section.
“Pain changes people.”
If you want to significantly change your MC and their lifestyle, just kill someone close to them. Take away their family, their best friend, their dog, their cat, their fish, etc. etc.
It’s only when you push your characters to the limit that true growth takes place. Plus, if you want to influence your character to do a certain thing, death can be one of the greatest motivators. (Relationships are another great motivator, too.)
Example: Your MC and your MC’s best friend live in a dangerous city with dreams of moving to another city one day even if it’s impossible. One day, the best friend is brutally murdered for trying to run away from home and from that day forward, the MC is motivated to do anything to leave the city to fulfill their fallen friend’s last wishes.
3. Setting + Realism
Think war. Not everyone will survive in a war. So, if your environment is fatal enough, you need a few casualties. That’s all. (This mainly depends on the genre of your book btw.)
Basically, this last reason is all about making sure the logic adds up. If you release a fatal virus in a highly populated city and no one is dying, you did something wrong.
But if you’re writing a lighthearted and sweet teen fiction, death should be minimal. I mean, if you had a ton of deaths and your story is meant to be just a romance, well… I am not sure what to say to you unless you have another subgenre going on in the background.
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Just for fun, here are some extra resources to give you ideas on how you can actually kill those characters because just shooting them all with a gun gets boring really fast.
Have fun exploring them all!
Edit (10/28/18): I’ve just come across a very lovely image that might help you even more with your character deaths. Hope you enjoy! (Right-click to open it in a new tab if it’s a bit hard to see.)