Killing an Important Character

Sometimes it’s gotta be done, and sometimes it’s better done sooner rather than later.

Killing a character can- and normally is- a major part of a book. It may not be the most important scene or aspect of the novel, but pulling off a death correctly is important. For me, at least, killing off a character in an unbelievable way can ruin the book. I’m sure lots of people feel this way.

Only one “important” character dies in the first instalment of Taichiren’s Heart. In the original draft, the character who died was an v’yeras scout who became good friends with Eldjcer. This character died to save Eldjcer and give him the opportunity to save Aelhurst, the v’yeran city. Essentially, his death makes the ending end the way it did; for without his sacrifice the ending would have been very different.

Essentially, a character’s death needs to be meaningful. There are several questions to ask yourself before killing off a character in a book.

What does this character’s death do to the story?

Since we’re talking about important characters here, their death must provide something to the story itself. This can be through story progression, revealing character or story information, and/or how the character’s death affects your other main characters. For example, if Jimmy’s beloved mother dies, it’s more than likely he’ll spend some time grieving. It’s not often that someone’s parent will die and the child will just wake up the next day and forget about it.

Is this the correct time to kill this character?

Though it’s the sad truth, some characters can just simply overstay their welcome. Is your once useful character now just dead weight? Even if they’re a loved character, if they provide nothing to the story, they need to go. However, they don’t exactly need to die  in this case, but usually that is the more dramatic way out and preferred if you don’t want to write any further stories with that character and can give them a meaningful death. If you can’t make their death worth something, just retire them through some other means.

Is there something to gain out of killing this character?

There are several ways to go about answering this question, for I feel it’s different when it comes to protagonists and antagonists. For antagonists, you generally want the reader to feel that something has happened by the protagonist killing an antagonist. If you’ve successfully gotten your reader connected to your protagonist, it’s likely that the reader will be rooting for the destruction of the antagonist, but it’s still important to ensure that you don’t kill the villain too soon or too late.

Killing a protagonist can be difficult to do correctly, in my opinion. You don’t want the death to be too sudden or expected, as that can lead to reader frustration or confusion. Sometimes you can pull this off right, but I wont talk about that today. In general, when it comes to the death of a protagonist, you want to provide a fair bit of foreshadowing, but not so much that you tell the reader how and why that character is going to die; only to plant the thought of it happening it their mind.

Hope you guys found this useful. How do you feel about killing off your characters?

~Erynn

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