Character Deaths…advice?

Forums Fiction Characters Character Deaths…advice?

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  • #50500
    ScarletImmortalized
    @scarletimmortalized

    Ah, brutally murdering  killing characters. The edge of the knife where one wrong move can mean utter disaster. It’s not like I’m innocent…I’ve often played with killing characters to see what reactions they bring. I’ve been yelled at…called a liar (gave that character a  future that violently ended in a blink of an eye), and had several hard objects thrown in my direction. *shivers*

    But I have a dilemma…only friends and family have read these deaths and I’m not sure how one goes about killing them in a published story. I know all the warnings, don’t kill unless it advances the plot and some other popular warnings. However in my case it is historically accurate that these two die. So I have a few questions.

    What were some of the best character death’s you’ve read or written?

    What cliches involved in deaths do you despise?

    What cliches do you like?

    What makes a character death sad for you?

    What character deaths made you want to stop reading the book?

    Any misc. info you’d like to share?

    “Scarlet, What are you eating?” ~ “Ghost peppers...” ~ Robin sighed.

    #50510
    NCStokes
    @ncstokes

    @scarletimmortalized Not to sound enthusiastic about stabbing readers in the heart, but… I am really enthusiastic about stabbing readers in the heart. *evil laughter*  Both of my favorite deaths are huge spoilers, but the thing they have in common is that they were both a) a sacrifice to save someone else, b) unexpected, but not out-of-the-blue random or for shock value, c) mourned realistically by other characters. I think the thing that hits me most in a death is that they had so much they could have done with their lives, but then DEATH. *sobs* (yeah, there are certain characters I don’t think I’m ever getting over) A note I’d like to make about sacrifices, {aaaand here comes the rant} is that they should always be absolutely necessary and happen sparingly. I read a series once where people were sacrificing themselves left and right, and it lost its emotional punch. The philosophy seemed to be, “We got a problem? Welp, guess I got to die.” The fist time it was touching; by the end I was wondering why everyone was so low on the will to live. {Rant over}

    Good luck on writing! *hands you a box of tissues and a vial to keep reader’s tears in*

    *shameless self promotion* https://weridasusual.home.blog/

    #50544
    Parker Hankins
    @parker

    @scarletimmortalized, First off! A lot of writers are a bunch of murderers. *evil chuckles* I might be the worst one. XD!!

    SO, I haven’t read too many character deaths but I would say the best one was Jigson’s death in Prisoner of the Pyrenees by C. R. Hedgcock. It was the saddest, most emotional, death ever!! *sniffs and cries everytime I read it and think about it*

    Cliches. Hmm. Maybe dropping off a letter at the gravestone. The super sunny, heart-melting characters. When the characters are in the middle of a war or something else and forget about the dead character to finish the fight. I HATE that.

    Cliches I do like. Um, dropping off a letter at the gravestone. This must seem confusing. But, it has to be done right. It has to be heart-wrenching.

    A character death that makes me sad is obviously liking the character. Realistic grieving. Very good emotions. Flashbacks with that character.

    Living in a world of mystery and dangerous predicaments while working with the AWESOME Meraki's.

    #50667
    Chelsea R.H.
    @seekjustice

    @scarletimmortalized

    *cracks knuckles*

    Okay…

    I have built up a reputation as a bit of a serial killer (of characters, of course. Not people *nervous laughter*) and I’ve learnt quite a lot through the process of having beta readers go through my book as to what worked and what didn’t.

    Probably my favourite death is in A Tale of Two Cities (I’m 95% certain you said you read that) and I think what makes Sydney’s death so moving is the fact that he didn’t have to die. In fact, his whole life could have been the way he wanted it to be if Charles died, he could have smartened up a bit, married Lucie and been happy. But he chose to die in Charles’ place because of the love that he had for Lucie. So I think that’s a well done death scene because of that.

    Clichés I hate would definitely be the lack of grief. I think its reasonable for someone to put away their grief enough to finish a task (say, get out of a battle, escape a dangerous situation etc) but after that they’re going to break down but I rarely see that happen in fiction.

    If the readers can see the death coming they tend to withdrawn themselves from the characters. When you say its historically accurate that these two characters die, do you mean that they are real historical people?

    The clichés I do like are sacrifice and dying valiantly and all that. 🙂

    And I think the key to making a characters death sad is simply to make the readers care about the character. But I also think that a good character death draws you closer to the main characters as well. In one of my novels, I killed tw characters that the readers really loved and they were upset that they died, but it also helped them draw closer to the MCs as they grieved for their friends because they had the shared experience of feeling sad that these two characters were dead.

    So that’s a few of my thoughts.

    Mahalo keia huiʻana

    #50703
    ScarletImmortalized
    @scarletimmortalized

    Phew, I’m not the only serial killer on the site! So a big thing seems to be realistic grieving. That’s good. Its usually the character’s reactions that kill me when a character dies so that makes sense.

    @ncstokes that book where everyone is sacrificing themselves sounds horrible. I once read a book where I’m pretty sure every single character died, if not in the actual story then in the epilogue. It was brutal and none of them lived a happy life or a long one for that matter. Note to authors, if you can’t pull off killing your characters in the epilogue like Tolkien…don’t do it…its baddd.

    @parker I’ve actually never seen the ‘drop the letter off at the graveside’ before…I once killed one of my fanfic MC’s entire family except for a sister. The day before he married he went and cleaned the graves off and talked to them about the girl he had found. Does that count?

    @seekjustice Ughhhhh Sydneyyyyy….I never will be over that. Never ever ever. Yes, they are real people. They are part of my Civil War story. One died in a POW camp of typhoid, the other was brutally murdered because he was mistaken for his brother. Those are great examples! Don’t you just love ripping people’s hearts out? 😉

    “Scarlet, What are you eating?” ~ “Ghost peppers...” ~ Robin sighed.

    #50711
    Parker Hankins
    @parker

    @scarletimmortalized, I don’t think that counts.

    Living in a world of mystery and dangerous predicaments while working with the AWESOME Meraki's.

    #51158
    Grace
    @h-jones

      SPOILER ALERTS. PROCEED WITH CAUTION.

      To answer your questions…

      #1) Janner Wingfeather from The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson.

      Every character that died in the movie Rogue One. Holy cow, that movie.

      #2) The emotional speech as Character A lays dying, scraping for breath, while Character B cradles them in their arms. Very seldom does this happen in real life, I’d imagine. The real heart-breakers come when there are things left unsaid.

      The sacrificial death. “Someone has to stay behind!” *character steps forward* “I’ll stay.” *other characters* “NO!” *sob sob sob*

      #3) I don’t think I particularly like any death clichés, bwahahaha xD They’re never really sad for me. I mean, they are if I’m attached to the character, but if they go out in an unusual way I appreciate the artistry of it much more.

      Oh. But wait. Never mind. If a father sacrifices his life for his son, that gets me every time. I bawled like a baby the first several times I saw How to Train Your Dragon 2. Lord, have mercy… it was awful.

      #4) I’m not sure… character deaths in and of themselves don’t really affect me all that much, honestly, unless I am extremely attached to the character. And you get attached to a character by experiencing their life with them, all its joys and sorrows.

      #5) Fili and Kili’s deaths in the Hobbit (book, not the movie). It was just so sudden and unexpected and you’re kind of just like, “WHAT JUST HAPPENED!???”

      Also, something to keep in mind is that death shouldn’t be the primary tear-jerker in your tale. There are so many things that are sad that don’t involve death in the world. Take Inside Out, for example (not talking about Bing-Bong, even though that might be what everyone thinks of xD). At the end of the movie, where Riley comes back to her mom and dad after running away and confesses about missing her old home, and her parents give her a hug and she cries, that was probably one of the saddest scenes in a movie I’ve ever seen. Much more so than many deaths. So, think outside the box. 😉

      Secretly Hedgehog Jones. Don’t tell anyone.

      #59682
      Veraza Winterknight
      @kari-karast

      Okay. So first off, I just want to say, ALL WRITERS ARE EVIL. I mean, why else would we kill off characters? Second, I think sacrificial deaths are cliche, but definitely a good reason. Or dying saving someone else, even if they didn’t know they were going to die doing that, that’s also a good reason. (Who am I kidding? One of my characters, oh wait, two of my characters, no… several of my characters die sacrificially or saving someone else. I don’t think I really kill them any other way. Whoops.) Also, DO NOT kill anyone unless you have a very good reason. Killing a character just to kill them is, in my opinion, a huge waste. I would give just enough foreshadowing so the reader wouldn’t be completely shocked, but still be able to be surprised and extremely upset over it. (Don’t ask me how to do that. I’m still working that part out.)

      SPOILER ALERT

      In the third Trials of Apollo book by Rick Riordan, a character dies. A main character. It was tragic, but well executed. Yes, it was a sacrificial death. The guy died to save his friend. Who was formerly his girlfriend, and even though they broke up, he still loved her enough to die saving her. It was also foreshadowed a bit, but it still hit you as a surprise. AND I’m going to stop now, before I start crying.

       

      Anyway, I hope this helps!

      "You can dance with my henchman."

      #87164
      His Bard
      @his-bard

      SPOILER ALERTS. PROCEED WITH CAUTION. To answer your questions… #1) Janner Wingfeather from The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson. Every character that died in the movie Rogue One. Holy cow, that movie.

       

      No kidding, Janner Wingfeather’s fate broadsided me, and I can usually predict how stories are going to end. I don’t often get emotional over books, but that one got me closer than most.

      Rogue One was a bit numbing, really. Rather depressing. Its like, how many emotional deaths do we really need in rapid secession. Like, can we not have one single character walk away alive?

      Spoken words are forgotten. Written word lasts forever. Writers are the most powerful mortals to exist.

      #87550
      Edmund Lloyd Fletcher
      @edmund-lloyd-fletcher

      Rogue One was a bit numbing, really. Rather depressing. Its like, how many emotional deaths do we really need in rapid secession. Like, can we not have one single character walk away alive?

      Yeah, like maybe it would have been stronger had there been only one lone survivor who was driven half mad with PTSD, survivor’s guilt, etc.  As it was, it seemed more like they wanted to eliminate everybody so they wouldn’t be still alive to mess up the existing StarWars canon.

      More thoughts:
      1) Deaths, even minor ones, should always up the stakes.  Even if it’s a support character splatted it should at least demonstrate that the MC is in terrible peril.
      2) Any important character’s death should be shocking/horrifying enough to make the reader go bug-eyed.  Like, “No… WAY that just happened!!!”
      3) As others have suggested, the important character’s death should also be heart-wrenching to both the reader AND the other characters.  (As in the Rogue One example above, go ahead and let it scar the others for life!)
      4) Any important character you want to kill off, you should have at least invested enough time to make your reader fall in love with them.  The last thing you want is for the reader to not feel anything, and shrug and go, “Well, there goes that guy, I guess.”
      5) As a Christian book, character death provides a great opportunity to explore the deeper issues of mortality and even the afterlife.  (Alas, poor Yorick.)

      Saddest death scenes:

      • Spock’s death in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
      • Artax in The Neverending Story
      • Gandaf, “Fly, you fools!” 😉
      • The movie Cliffhanger, just in general.
      • Uncle Ben in Spider-Man (2002 version)

      Homeschooling father of 10, writing Christian action/adventure novels from my home high in the Rockies.

      #87655
      Ariel Ashira
      @ashira

      Have you read Brandon’s articles on killing characters?  They are very good!

      How to Kill Characters without Enraging Readers

      Three Reasons You Should Kill a Main Character

      "No matter how much it hurts, how dark it gets, or how hard you fall, you are never out of the fight."

      #102161
      Livi Ryddle
      @anne_the_noob14

      @h-jones@seekjustice @kari-karast @edmund-lloyd-fletcher

      A Tale of Two Cities (I’m 95% certain you said you read that) and I think what makes Sydney’s death so moving is the fact that he didn’t have to die. In fact, his whole life could have been the way he wanted it to be if Charles died, he could have smartened up a bit, married Lucie and been happy. But he chose to die in Charles’ place because of the love that he had for Lucie.

      YES. AGREED.

       In the third Trials of Apollo book by Rick Riordan, a character dies. A main character. It was tragic, but well executed. Yes, it was a sacrificial death. The guy died to save his friend. Who was formerly his girlfriend, and even though they broke up, he still loved her enough to die saving her. It was also foreshadowed a bit, but it still hit you as a surprise. AND I’m going to stop now, before I start crying. Anyway, I hope this helps!

      YOU READ IT, TOO!!! 😀 😀 😀 AND YES I CRIED SO MUCH AAAAAAA Have you read Tyrant’s Tomb yet? There’s a death in that one that… *sniffs* I’m sorry… *sobs* I gotta go find some tissues… *hiccups* IT WAS AWFUL AAAAAA

       Fili and Kili’s deaths in the Hobbit (book, not the movie). It was just so sudden and unexpected and you’re kind of just like, “WHAT JUST HAPPENED!???”

      YES. AGAIN, AGREED.

      2) Any important character’s death should be shocking/horrifying enough to make the reader go bug-eyed. Like, “No… WAY that just happened!!!”

      Gandaf, “Fly, you fools!” 😉

      *nods* Yes. Yes, yes, YES.

      "Hey. Spit that out."
      *ignores him and swallows frog*
      _____
      "This is the way."

      #102163
      Veraza Winterknight
      @kari-karast

      @anne_the_noob14

      I have read it, yes.

      I’m waiting for Tyrant’s Tomb from the library. It’s taking forever. I have heard there’s a horrifically heartwrenching death in it though. I have the feeling it’s Reyna. But DON’T tell me if I’m right.

      *offers tissues and hugs*

      "You can dance with my henchman."

      #102164
      Livi Ryddle
      @anne_the_noob14

      @kari-karast YES IT’S AWFUL and I won’t tell you anything about who it is. I won’t even tell you if it’s a guy or a girl

      *takes tissues and hugs* *sniffs* Thanks 🙂

      "Hey. Spit that out."
      *ignores him and swallows frog*
      _____
      "This is the way."

      #102166
      Veraza Winterknight
      @kari-karast

      @anne_the_noob14

      So I’ve heard. Is it worse than the one in Burning Maze? Thank you

      You’re welcome.

      "You can dance with my henchman."

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