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  #1  
Old July 3rd, 2009, 6:13 am
Dirigible_plums  Female.gif Dirigible_plums is offline
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Killing off characters

In the story I'm working on now, death is a major issue and possibility for all the characters, but I'm not sure how to properly execute (haha pun intended) this. And I want to compare what I'm doing to what others are. So here are some of the main questions I have. You don't have to answer all of them and feel free to say anything else on the subject if I haven't asked it.

How do you find the courage to kill off your own characters? In general do you know they'll die from the start and shape their development around that? Do you decide as the story progresses because it'll benefit the plot since they know too much or are unnessesary. Do you spontaneously decide that a character will die just 'because they do'?' Do you ever give characters reprives? If you give then reprives do you have to exchange it and have other character(s) die? Does it tend to be characters you love or hate or a mixture of both? Do you tend to kill off main characters or less important or nameless characters? Do your characters ever come back from the dead?
Or do you just like to avoid character death altogether?


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  #2  
Old August 1st, 2009, 7:15 am
Beholder  Female.gif Beholder is offline
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Re: Killing off characters

1. How do you find the courage to kill off your characters?
-It can be really hard sometimes. It helps to just remember that death isn't always the end. Though wouldn't consider bringing them back. (unless it's part of the plot) Sometimes you just need to put the story's needs before your own and just do it.

2. In general do you know they'll die from the start and shape their development around it?
-It depends on the story and the author. In Steven King's book, "On Writing", he explains that having a set plot and major conflict isn't necessary. Personally I don't think it matters, because it's not like the character knows they are going to die. (though if they do then yes)

3. Do you decide as the story progresses that it'll beneifit the plot because they know too much or is it unnecessary?
-Okay, I'm not sure if I completely understand the question. Are you asking whether or not you should choose to kill them off after your about half way through the book? If you are, again it depends on the story and the author. I don't think it really matters as long as you can "go with it". If your asking if the character should know they're going to die, then that's completely up to you. I think you should ask yourself if the character really needs to die.

4. Do you decide that the character will randomly die, "because they do"?
-You decide whether or not your character will die from the plot of your story, the conflicts, characters, etc. It really isn't just something random, however if you feel it's meant to be; just do it. It's your story so you can do whatever you want with it.

5. Do you ever give the characters reprieves?
-ONCE AGAIN: It fully depends on your story. If you wish to, you can.

6. If you give them reprieves do you have to exchange it and kill off another character?
-If you really want to then go ahead. It really doesn't matter. If you want them dead kill them. If you want them to avoid death, let them avoid it. If you want to kill another character in their place, go ahead. It's all up to you.

7. Do you kill off characters you love or hate?
-It's just as hard to kill off both. Though if your story's based off death, (or the possibility of it) then you should give the possibility for both.

8. Do you kill of main characters or less important characters?
-Well obviously if it's early on in the book, not main characters. Though if by the end of your story, you feel the need to take off a main character, it will have a much larger impact on the rest of the story and the readers reactions.

9. Do characters ever come back from the dead
I WILL SAY THIS ONE LAST TIME: it depends on the story. It really doesn't matter. I would say from experience that it's a bit cheesy to read about characters brought back, but it's your story, do what you like.

10. Do you just like to avoid death all together?
-Everyone likes to. But sometimes it's enevitable.


I think you need to just understand that it's not what other people have written about death that you need to base your story off of. It's all up to you and doesn't matter who dies or when, and long as the message of your story gets across. I hope I've helped in some sort of way.


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Old August 1st, 2009, 5:31 pm
Meggy  Female.gif Meggy is offline
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Re: Killing off characters

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dirigible_plums View Post
In the story I'm working on now, death is a major issue and possibility for all the characters, but I'm not sure how to properly execute (haha pun intended) this. And I want to compare what I'm doing to what others are. So here are some of the main questions I have. You don't have to answer all of them and feel free to say anything else on the subject if I haven't asked it.

How do you find the courage to kill off your own characters? In general do you know they'll die from the start and shape their development around that? Do you decide as the story progresses because it'll benefit the plot since they know too much or are unnessesary. Do you spontaneously decide that a character will die just 'because they do'?' Do you ever give characters reprives? If you give then reprives do you have to exchange it and have other character(s) die? Does it tend to be characters you love or hate or a mixture of both? Do you tend to kill off main characters or less important or nameless characters? Do your characters ever come back from the dead?
Or do you just like to avoid character death altogether?
You find the courage, because if you are really serious about making a good book, which will involve deaths, then characters HAVE to die to make it a good book. The alternative is you kill all the minor characters and let all the major live, but then in my opinion it wouldn't make a good book.
J.k Rowling has killed off major characters to make in impact aswell as to keep the story progressing. Its important to kill them off especially if it is neccesary for the story to progress, it;s better to kill a character and have a good strong story, then to save them and have a weak one.

Im currently planning a book, and Im not even half way through the plan but Ive done my characters and I have a brief idea of who will die, but how and why I haven't decided, nor have I completely made up my mind. I have a suspicion though, that I'll probably not kill those I intend to, and probably kill someone completely different because by the time I GET round to those deaths, the plot will be better shaped and I'll probably need that certain character later in the series.

I think as you write the story, your views, opinions and intentions will all change. Not the main elements such as the plot, but small things will change. This can include deaths. And yes, you'll probably give a character a reprieve, maybe.


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Old August 14th, 2009, 9:19 pm
Sister_Grimm  Female.gif Sister_Grimm is offline
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Re: Killing off characters

How do you find the courage to kill off your own characters?
I'd say that it's not really a matter of how much courage one has, but rather how it fits in with the plot. It's your own choice to kill off characters -- you shouldn't have to force yourself to do anything. There's really no reason to kill off characters for the sake of killing off characters.

In general do you know they'll die from the start and shape their development around that?
***The more loveable a character is, the greater impact exists when they die, so... yes, it probably is a good idea to know that you're going to kill them off before the fact.

Do you decide as the story progresses because it'll benefit the plot since they know too much or are unnessesary.
***If a character is unneccessary, they shouldn't be there in the first place, really. All characters should be relevant to the plot. The reason you should kill off a character is more to benefit the plot/shock value in your story, so long as the shock value isn't irrelevant to the main idea.

Do you spontaneously decide that a character will die just 'because they do'?'
***Never.

Do you ever give characters reprives?
***Sure. Everybody deserves a break... even if they aren't real.

If you give then reprives do you have to exchange it and have other character(s) die?
***No.

Does it tend to be characters you love or hate or a mixture of both?
***I don't kill based on my feelings for the characters, but rather what would enhance the story best. If good triumphing over evil sounds like the best outcome, then the evil characters will die... if evil triumphing over good sounds like an unexpected but relevant outcome, then the protagonists will die.

Do you tend to kill off main characters or less important or nameless characters?
***Both, though more important characters are more often killed.

Do your characters ever come back from the dead?
***Never. Sometimes, they'll appear dead but they really won't be.

Or do you just like to avoid character death altogether?
***As Jo would say, "never say never", right?


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Old August 16th, 2009, 4:35 am
luvlunalovegood  Female.gif luvlunalovegood is offline
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Re: Killing off characters

It depends on the suitabilty of the death. When death is suitable or simply ineviatble, it needs to be included. Try not to make a death occur simply because you hate that character. I find that those cases tend to be slightly fake. Good reasons for killing a character depend on how they are killed. For instance.

Killed by murder: Homicide victim, antagonist, a war
Killed by health problems: Family members of main characters
Killed by suicide: Somebody who is depressed, Somebody who has done many cruel things
Killed by accident: Bystanders, unimortant characters.


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  #6  
Old August 16th, 2009, 5:12 am
zelinskas  Male.gif zelinskas is offline
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Re: Killing off characters

IMO no one in books should die "just because." The character's death should have meaning, or at least serve to push the plot forward. In coming-of-age stories the mentor character kind of has to die (Merlin, Dumbledore, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Abey Faria). Its necessary, because it forces the main character to "become a man." He can't take charge if he's got an older, wiser person leading him by the hand, telling him what to do.


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Old August 20th, 2010, 4:44 pm
lightreading  Female.gif lightreading is offline
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Re: Killing off characters

How do you find the courage to kill off your own characters?
It's like killing a part of me. I cried for two hours straight the last time I killed one of them. He wasn't even an important character: he was a secondary one at best, but writing those two paragraphs was just so unbelievably painful. Imagine what it must have been like for JKR!
In general do you know they'll die from the start and shape their development around that?
No. It's not possible for me to know.
Do you decide as the story progresses because it'll benefit the plot since they know too much or are unnessesary?
I kill them when my instincts tell me to.
Do you spontaneously decide that a character will die just 'because they do'?'
Yes. Sometimes it just has to happen.
Do you ever give characters reprives?
No.
Does it tend to be characters you love or hate or a mixture of both?
The ones I feel neutral about usually--but more importantly, the ones my other characters care about. That way it'll have a bigger impact on them, and on the plot/story itself.
Do you tend to kill off main characters or less important or nameless characters?
I always name them--I can't kill nameless ones. But I've never killed a main character, and I don't think I ever could.
Do your characters ever come back from the dead?
No. They come back in other character's dreams and thoughts, but never in 'real life'.
Or do you just like to avoid character death altogether?
Avoiding character death is not a good idea, IMO.


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Old August 24th, 2010, 7:00 pm
Fiachra  Male.gif Fiachra is offline
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Re: Killing off characters

If any of you have read A Song of Ice And Fire, you'll know that Martin is completely callous about killing off his characters. Death is a reality in his world, and he has absolutely no qualms about shoving it in our face. Half way through the first book, he killed off the protagonist, Eddard, and we weren't expecting it either. Part of it is shock affect, I guess, but at the same time it's realistic. His books deal with particularly vicious people, in a particularly vicious set of wars.

If, as you say, death is a major possibility for all of your characters, then I would kill a certain per-centage of them, ''because people die.'' However, you should outline your story fairly well, to make sure that the deaths have the desired effect.

Outline. Outline. Outline. When it comes to killing off characters, this is especially important.


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Old April 13th, 2011, 9:41 pm
talt  Male.gif talt is offline
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Re: Killing off characters

By far the biggest thing I think you need to consider is this: Are you writing a character purely to be killed? This is bad because it turns them into a Redshirt and it feels emotionally manipulative to the reader. Always try and give the characters you kill a genuine reason to exist.


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Old April 14th, 2011, 6:36 am
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Re: Killing off characters

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fiachra View Post
Outline. Outline. Outline. When it comes to killing off characters, this is especially important.
I'm dubious of excessive outlining and one of the most effective deaths I've read was by the author's own admission an accident. The character being Tad in Cujo. Stephen King (who generally doesn't outline but goes with the flow) had repeatedly said that he intended Tad to live but he just died.


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Old April 20th, 2011, 12:33 am
Prince659  Female.gif Prince659 is offline
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Re: Killing off characters

Quote:
Originally Posted by zelinskas View Post
IMO no one in books should die "just because." The character's death should have meaning, or at least serve to push the plot forward. In coming-of-age stories the mentor character kind of has to die (Merlin, Dumbledore, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Abey Faria). Its necessary, because it forces the main character to "become a man." He can't take charge if he's got an older, wiser person leading him by the hand, telling him what to do.
Well sometimes people in stories, especially in stories about wars, should die to add a bit of realism. I mean in real life, some people do just die for no reason, so I think they should in books too.

I read a book once with advice from several different authors, and one piece of advice stuck with me. He (I can't for the life of me remember who) said that he always writes a character's end before their beginning. If they die, he says, you should know about it from the beginning so that you can take their death into consideration while writing that character. I'm not sure if I agree with that, but I thought it might interest you.
As for getting courage for killing characters...I'm writing a story and one of my main characters is going to die. I still haven't the guts to do it yet though.


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Old July 6th, 2011, 12:22 pm
iluvsnape17  Female.gif iluvsnape17 is offline
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Re: Killing off characters

How do you find the courage to kill off your own characters?
In general when I decide who dies my characters are just outlines, so my attachment to them grows after I know they're going to die, which means that by the time I actually get to writing the death scene it can be quite sad. But I don't find it that hard because I know it's necessary for the plot and I was never planning on a sequel anyway.

In general do you know they'll die from the start and shape their development around that?
It depends how well I've got my plot worked out when the character is created. I think it's good to know from the start that a character will die because then you can work on their significance through their time alive that will allow the other characters to pull back to that once they've died.

Do you decide as the story progresses because it'll benefit the plot since they know too much or are unnessesary. Do you spontaneously decide that a character will die just 'because they do'?'
In my writing, a character only dies if it will dramatically help the plot. Currently, Anthony must die to be the trigger cause in the main character's breakdown which becomes a crucial moment in the plot. Killing characters for fun is unnecessary and generally doesn't work well in the plot and readers will pick up on this.

Do you ever give characters reprives?
The only reprieve I've ever given was to my main character who I was going to kill quite early on. She was reprieved because of the plot and now merely falls ill and the narration swaps to another person that way. I couldn't kill her because I knew she'd be needed later.

If you give then reprives do you have to exchange it and have other character(s) die?
I never wanted more than one death. After I saved her, it became apparent that a great way to show a character's life falling apart would be the death of a friend, and thus young Anthony had to go. It wasn't a direct swap as they would have died in completely different ways and at different stages of the story, but it was an exchange in the sense that if she had died, he wouldn't've.

Does it tend to be characters you love or hate or a mixture of both?
In general it's the characters I love that die. Characters I hate usually end up quite happy or just fading away, like they seem to in real life.

Do you tend to kill off main characters or less important or nameless characters?
The poor guy I'm killing off currently is one of the main characters best friends. It totally depends on the plot. I like the idea of having a false protagonist, so orginally my apparent protagonist was going to die quite early on, but that wouldn't have worked plot wise.

Do your characters ever come back from the dead?
That wouldn't work in the genre of my writing. I tend to write quite realistic pieces focusing on character and relationships. There's no hint of fantasy or sci-fi in anything I've written that would allow character resurrection.


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Old July 22nd, 2011, 10:00 pm
Dobson  Female.gif Dobson is offline
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Re: Killing off characters

How do you find the courage to kill off your own characters?
It's always there.

In general do you know they'll die from the start and shape their development around that?
Yeah, when I get an idea one of the first things I plan is who is going to die. And I make sure the main character is quite fond of them, because it makes their death scene much more emotional.

Do you spontaneously decide that a character will die just 'because they do'?'
Um...yes.

Does it tend to be characters you love or hate or a mixture of both?
Usually ones that I love. But I like to even it out on both sides, usually more "good" people will die than "bad."

Do you tend to kill off main characters or less important or nameless characters?
Usually main ones.

Do your characters ever come back from the dead?
No. But in the book I'm writing now, the main character sees them in her memory, so in a manner of speaking, yes.

Or do you just like to avoid character death altogether?
Every single story I come up with has to have some death in it, as bad as that sounds. That's how I generate emotion. You have to kind of balance it though. You know, moderate the deaths and who's dying and who's not and such.


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Old August 7th, 2011, 12:05 am
FollowtheOwls  Undisclosed.gif FollowtheOwls is offline
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Re: Killing off characters

It helps a lot if their deaths are meaningful. There are lots of kinds of character deaths:

"Anyone can die" deaths: Authors establish the fact that anyone could die in their story either by killing off an unimportant character early on (wow, they killed that guy before he even had a chance to become important!) or by killing off someone who is powerful, someone you wouldn't expect to die. Rowling chose the latter and killed off Moody to establish just how dangerous book 7 was going to be.

Death of innocence: Cedric Diggory died in book 4 to kill Harry's innocence, plain and simple. Cedric represented ideals. He was brave and pure.

Death of the mentor: In the hero's cycle, mentors die. Heroes are more heroic when they have to fight the final battle alone. And, if the mentor dies before the bad guy shows up, this provides a good reason for why the hero has to beat him, since the mentor is now gone.

Death of the parental figure: Heroes have to do without the things they want and need. This is part of what makes them heroic; they overcome obstacles far better than their peers, and succeed. The easiest way to isolate a character from his needs is to kill his parents. Sometimes, this is even what allows him to go on his adventure in the first place (think Luke in Star Wars).

So basically, don't just kill people off for the sake of killing people off in a story. Make their deaths mean something. Which brings to mind one more thing: their deaths have to mean something to your readers too, so sometimes you'll have to kill off favorites. If you can't stomach that, your stories just won't be as powerful as they could have been, and you're sacrificing the overall quality of your work.


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Old August 13th, 2011, 8:43 pm
SilverDoe_  Female.gif SilverDoe_ is offline
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Re: Killing off characters

I've been thinking about this too lately, because I've had a story in my head for quite a while now that I would have started writing long ago had it not been for this problem. To avoid it getting too sugar-coated and stereotypical, I think I'm going to have to kill a character that I am already very attached to. And I seriously don't know if I could bear it It would hurt A LOT.


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Old August 13th, 2011, 9:40 pm
FollowtheOwls  Undisclosed.gif FollowtheOwls is offline
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Re: Killing off characters

Well then the question is whether to sacrifice your story for your characters or sacrifice your characters for your story.


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Old September 25th, 2011, 2:55 pm
MinervaRonDobby  Male.gif MinervaRonDobby is offline
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Re: Killing off characters

I have had the same problem before but when I get really into a book I find it a little easier to kill of charaters because ,although I have grown emotionally attached to them and feel I know them back to front, sometimes people have to die to make a plot real.
Because in real life death isn't fair, it isn't always the kids who survive and the evil people who die.......
So you have to kill some people off...(but not for the sake of it obviously)


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Old November 18th, 2011, 7:28 pm
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Inigo Imago  Female.gif Inigo Imago is offline
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Re: Killing off characters

I thought this was an interesting thread, so I decided to add my bit to it for fun.

1. How do you find the courage to kill off your characters?
- I take the time to think through a character death and understand that it is necessary to drive the story. A lot of times, a death is used to help shape or mold another central character (as they go through mourning and acceptance) and there would be no logical way for that character to become what I need them to become without this tragedy in his/her life.

2. In general do you know they'll die from the start and shape their development around it?
- Sometimes. There have been stories where I started writing an enjoyable character, then, without warning, I found that I had written him/her into a corner and realized there was no other option but to have them die. I think an unplanned death makes for a better story. If you, as the author, weren't expecting it, your readers won't either. You can always go back and write in some foreshadowing, but it's not entirely necessary. Death shouldn't make sense at first, it shouldn't be logical. Sometimes a death only makes sense in the far, far distant future when you can finally see the effect it had on the people who loved (or hated) that character.

3. Do you decide as the story progresses that it'll benefit the plot because they know too much or is it unnecessary?
- The decision to kill off a character can be made at any time. You could plan, plan, plan during the story and have everything laid out in exactly the manner you wanted OR you could just write and let the characters live out a life inside the world you have created. Sometimes they will find death along the way and then it would be up to you as an author to find meaning. Both approaches are equally effective (with some bias on my part towards the unplanned).

4. Do you decide that the character will randomly die, "because they do"?
- I think death should always have some overarching reasoning for an author. I say this because death WILL affect every other character that has come in contact with the decedent and it will change those characters in some way. As an author, you should have some idea of how these characters will change. If they won't change, or there will never be anything that comes out of the death later in the story (even if much later), then what's the point? I think, for me, this goes back to "Chekhov's Gun." Why put a gun on the table in Act 1 if it will never be fired? Why randomly insert a death into your story if it will never have an impact?

I'm pretty sure I didn't actually answer the question (I went off on my own tangent) but I felt like running with it anyway.

5. Do you ever give the characters reprieves?
- If I do, I try to make sure it's logical and not emotional. I don't want to save a character because I'm emotionally attached to him/her. The readers can and will see through this and they will lose a little bit of respect for you as an author.

6. If you give them reprieves do you have to exchange it and kill off another character?
- Again, it has to be logical and not emotional. Let's say two of my characters are in danger at the same time and my hero can only save one (I bet you haven't read THAT ONE before). I have it planned already that Character B will die because my hero has already long since made her choice. What if that character decided, at the last minute (and without consultation from ME), that they were going to save Character B instead and let Character A die? In that case, yes, I can see making the exchange.

If we're talking about saving a beloved character and letting some Z-list nobody take the fall, then I think that can end up cheating the story of some real emotional meat.

7. Do you kill off characters you love or hate?
- Going back to the beginning, I don't think a character death (or lack thereof) should be an emotion-driven choice by the author. If I have to kill off a character that I hate, it's typically going to be as part of some epic final conclusion.

8. Do you kill of main characters or less important characters?
- It depends. Lesser characters can be killed off as plot devices to drive the story. I think main character deaths should be used to both drive the plot and plant a seed of change in the other main characters.

9. Do characters ever come back from the dead?
- Another poster said this: It depends on the story. Is this a world where characters frequently come back from the dead? Did your main character make a deal with the devil? Are there consequences involved? I donít think itís appropriate for a character to just pop back to life for no reason at all, but many authors have brought back characters in other ways and I think it is fine as long as it works within the confines of the story.

10. Do you just like to avoid death all together?
- Absolutely not. Death is an important part of our lives (and something I've dealt with too often in my own); it simply can't be avoided. If you try to wrap up a story (keeping in mind a young adult/adult theme) while avoiding death when it would have logically fit the setting, you end up cheating yourself as an author.

Disclaimer: Please understand that I am NOT bashing Twilight, Stephenie Meyer or fans of the series, I am simply using the comment below as an on-topic literary reference. Spoiler tags included for those who may want to read the books or watch the movies at some point in the future.

Spoiler: show
The exclusion of death in the Twilight series left me frustrated as a reader. By the ending of the fourth book, after what was supposed to be an "epic battle of wills," everyone was left unharmed and Bella was allowed to continue her peaceful existence with her entire vampire family. I'm not saying Bella or Edward had to die (I think the fandom girls would have had a collective heart attack) but why not one of the other family members? Battles have casualties. For all the fear that was drummed up during the series, the lack of death was disappointing and anticlimactic. Ultimately I felt like Stephenie Meyer was too attached to her characters and couldnít bring herself to kill them when it would have made more sense to do so. I think, in a way, she cheated her readers of realism for her own selfish attachment to the characters. Donít get me wrong, I love a happy ending as much as the next Team Edward-er, but sometimes sacrifices just have to be made.


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  #19  
Old December 6th, 2011, 5:39 am
WildFloo162  Male.gif WildFloo162 is offline
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Re: Killing off characters

I'm working on my first novel and I've known a character was going to die from the beginning. Now I'm getting closer and closer to the moment and I'm having a had time with it. It just sucks. The book is full of death and mayhem (it's a horror novel) but this one kill is going to be really hard. I hope it's as hard to read as I think it's going to be to write.


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Old December 6th, 2011, 5:54 pm
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Desraelda  Female.gif Desraelda is offline
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Re: Killing off characters

Quote:
Originally Posted by WildFloo162 View Post
I'm working on my first novel and I've known a character was going to die from the beginning. Now I'm getting closer and closer to the moment and I'm having a had time with it. It just sucks. The book is full of death and mayhem (it's a horror novel) but this one kill is going to be really hard. I hope it's as hard to read as I think it's going to be to write.
JKR cried like a baby when she killed off Sirius. I think that's why his death wasn't more than a couple of lines.

I've only killed off three of my characters and one of them was Richard III. I don't feel at all responsible for RIII (although I did cry), and one of the other two was a minor character in the beginning of the book. The last one was a very bad guy but I allowed him to redeem himself in the end.

Good luck.


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