Killing Off Characters

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I'm sure a death of some fictional book character has traumatized each of us in some way. Whether it was a major or a minor character, their deaths affect us! If you're a big reader like I am (and I'm hoping you're a big reader, if you want to be a writer) then you can probably list on more than your two hands the characters you've loved who have died.

So maybe you've considered killing of a character(s)? Well then caution! There are many ways to mess it up, to make it emotionless, to make it pointless, etc. I'm going to do my best to show you the way around those, so that when it comes time to kill a character, you're prepared.


- Its advances the plot.

- It fulfills the doomed character’s personal goal.

-  It motivates other characters.

- It’s an appropriate punishment for the character’s actions up to this point.

- It emphasizes the theme.

- It creates realism within the story world.

- It removes an extra character.



- Shocking readers just for the sake of shocking them.

-Making readers sad just for the sake of making them sad.

-Removing an extra character. (I know, I know. I just said that was a good reason. But you have to double-check this one. If the character is an extra, then you better make sure he really belongs in this story at all.)


Now that we have those out of the way, let's talk through this. Think about the character you want to kill off. Actually, think about all the characters in your story.

Each character should be there for a reason.

I don't mean they all have to play a major part, or all be involved in a plot twist, or all contribute tremendously. But don't have floater characters, or characters intended solely to be likeable and then get killed off.

Before you kill off anyone, run this through your head:

1: What are the good reasons for killing them off? -Make a list. Make it as long as possible. Why should this character die? (Search the list of "good reasons" I listed above and see if your character's death can attribute to any of those.)

2: What is this character's role in the story? (Friend, mentor, etc.) -Is there someone else who can step up and fill that role once this character is gone?

3: Are you killing off this character just because it seems like that's what authors do these days?

4: Are you killing characters left and right? -Well...sorry to break it to you, but your character list may have been just a little too big to begin with. Once again, try not to have pointless characters here.

5: Does their death make sense?/Is it practical? -If your story takes place in the middle of a war, it would be acceptable that someone might die. However, if your story takes place in an ordinary girls life and people just start dropping like flies, this is definitely off. Also, HOW you kill them off makes a difference. Make it different, memorable, unique, sad, tragic, however you like, but try your best not to make it stucco and blunt. For example: "and then a truck hit him and he died." ...I don't think the reader will feel much emotion there.

Now maybe you'll think it through before you decide to slaughter your whole cast....

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