Reply To: Character Deaths…advice?

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I actually recently wrote the initial shock of one of my characters finding out his father was dead.  The context is as follows:

Luke is on a team of monster hunters.  His father Jeffrey is Luke’s dad and a retired monster hunter.  Once, when the team was hunting some Indian demons, Luke went on ahead of everyone and got overwhelmed and captured.  The demons did a ritual to summon their king Ravanna and have him possess Luke, which was interrupted when the team came back to get Luke.  But the ritual still worked so Luke was now possessed and because Ravanna was just evil he tried to kill Jeffrey.  Later Ravanna was killed when Luke was shot in the shoulder with a particular arrow.  Here’s the scene:

There was a gentle knock at the door.

Luke opened it to find Mal standing in the doorway. “What’s up?”

Mal’s expression was somber when he spoke: “We, uh,” he began, then cleared his throat. “We just got a call from the hospital.”

The younger Hunter felt himself tense, his stomach sinking slightly. “What’d they say?”

Malcolm cleared his throat again. “Jeffrey’s dead.”

“Ah.” Just one word, but it still came out shaky. His stomach had plummeted and his heart was starting to pound in his ears. This wasn’t right, this wasn’t supposed to happen…. He felt like throwing up.

“You alright?” Mal asked, drawing Luke’s focus back to him.

Luke nodded vaguely. “Yeah. I’ll be fine.” He didn’t sound very convinced.

“Let me know if you need anything, okay?” Malcolm didn’t look too convinced either.

“Yeah,” Luke said, nodding again.

His mentor gave him one last meaningful look before heading back down the hallway. By this point he knew Luke preferred to handle this kind of thing in private, alone with himself and his thoughts.

Luke waited a moment after he’d left, then quietly, carefully, closed the door and slid the bolt home. He swallowed. Inhaled, exhaled. Numbness settled over him, accompanied by a leaden blanket of dread that constricted his chest. His hands trembled and he took in a shaky breath as he sank down against the door. A lump of guilt had lodged itself in his throat, making it a struggle just to swallow. He exhaled and tried to take a deep breath, fighting desperately against the panic restricting his lungs. There was so much…too much…all this grief, dread, panic, guilt…it was crushing him. He couldn’t breathe, couldn’t speak. His eyes burned as hot tears began to spill down his face. Anger swelled within him. This was his fault. If he’d just stayed with the team, if he’d just fought harder against the demon, if he’d just…but he hadn’t. After all, even if Ravanna had been the one in control, it was still his hands that had pulled the trigger. His hands that had held the knives. His hands that were stained with his father’s blood. And now Jeffrey was dead. Dead by his hands.

Drywall exploded in a white cloud as Luke threw his fist into the wall. God, everything was so raw. His shoulder ached from the sudden movement, the wound not yet fully healed, and brought him a little closer back to the moment. He needed to ground himself, get his bearings, calm down. Part of him distractedly lamented Maddie’s absence, but he quickly dismissed the thought. He needed to focus on the moment.

Luke closed his eyes, inhaling sharply through his nose. He could hear footsteps in the floor below, the faint creakings of the stairs as someone went down them. Someone was talking downstairs. Above him the fan hummed lazily on a low setting as it circled through the air. He could hear his own breathing, shallow and jagged, but slowing and steadying. The room was cold. On his arm the pulverized drywall powder felt dusty and dry. The door behind him was solid and hard, perhaps a little cool and leeching heat from his back. He opened his eyes. The weight in his gut was a little less heavy, the constriction in his chest a little less tight. He could breathe again.

Sighing softly, Luke leaned his head back against the door as the last few tears trickled down. A gentle, quiet relief spread over him. He still wasn’t okay, but he wasn’t drowning either.

On the stairs below he could hear someone coming up, accompanied by pattering feet. Probably Mal coming to check on him, probably bringing Maddie to help.

Luke dragged himself to his feet and brushed the dust off his arm. He’d be alright. He just needed time.

Hope that helps some.

"Remember, you go nowhere by accident. Wherever you go, God is sending you." - Rev. Peter R. Hale

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