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BlueLucario
05-24-2008, 11:56 PM
I read a book once where the author killed off like over a dozen well-known characters. A part of me gets mad at that, because I could never find a reason why she killed them. How is it going to benefit the MC? How is it helping the story? I was told she was probably doing it just to enhance the story. And I read when you kill off characters even the flatest one, you must have a reason for it.

I only killed off one character in my WIP, and I don't know why, I thought maybe, the story needs someone to die. I thought the story would be cool if someone died. But I felt stupid, because killing her made my MC semi-evil and gave her ruthless ambitions, and the character's daughter still wants to be friends with her, knowing that she killed her mom. My MC wants to know why she's still nice to her. I'm trying to come up with reasons why she still wanted to follow her to the next city. Maybe the girl was just scared of my MC(I can't blame her though.) or she's just hiding her feelings, even from the author. I had some thoughts of killing off the daughter because she's completely useless.

I just have a curious question, would you need a reason to kill off a character? Does it have to be a good reason?

(If you want to look at it. Go to the first link below and read chapter four. I hate it.)

Brutal Mustang
05-25-2008, 12:03 AM
I don't know. I suppose in real life, people die for no apparent reason, related to no plot whatsoever.:ROFL:

Mr Flibble
05-25-2008, 12:16 AM
Depends of course!

I killed the love interest in a romance, but it worked ( I think). I was just writing and the characters told me it had to happen.

If it feels right, do it, but don't do it just for the sake of it.

Ol' Fashioned Girl
05-25-2008, 12:17 AM
Yeah. To advance the plot.

blueobsidian
05-25-2008, 12:36 AM
I think that there does need to be a reason. It has to add something to the story or be critical to the plot (especially if you are writing a type of book which doesn't typically include a lot of death). The death needs to help lead your book to its conclusion.

The one place my opinion differs is when characters are fighting major battles or wars. It drives me a little nuts if a large group of people manages to survive every single fight, while the nameless characters are dying. It just never feels realistic to me.

dpaterso
05-25-2008, 12:49 AM
How does the character's death affect your protagonist? Does is have any value -- does it allow your protagonist to change or grow in some way? Or is it a senseless, pointless death that no one cares about?

(If you want to look at it. Go to the first link below and read chapter four. Just expect it to suck, I hate it.)
Sorry, that's SO not the way to make me want to look at something.

-Derek

BlueLucario
05-25-2008, 12:52 AM
How does the character's death affect your protagonist? Does is have any value -- does it allow your protagonist to change or grow in some way? Or is it a senseless, pointless death that no one cares about?


Sorry, that's SO not the way to make me want to look at something.

-Derek

I did say, it sort of made her semi evil, and in that scene, it made her look pretty stupid.

jannawrites
05-25-2008, 01:10 AM
I just have a curious question, would you need a reason to kill off a character?

I say, wholeheartedly, YES. In the context of the story it may not seem to follow reason - like death in a tragic accident, in which no one can find reason - but the killing of a character should always propel or enhance the plot. It should, in some way, affect the storyline.

Yes, books include background and filler, seemingly insignificant details - which, when done correctly, set the scene and build the story - but any plot point that doesn't help move things along doesn't belong. This applies to a death - no matter how important the character - as well as anything else.

blacbird
05-25-2008, 01:21 AM
Absolutely, just like you need a good reason for everything else you put in a novel.

caw

Bing Z
05-25-2008, 01:36 AM
I once wrote a trilogy. Part I was nothing exciting (in hind sight). In Part II, a slutty chick gained life by herself and took over the story. But the MC had to be single at the beginning of Part III, so poor chick got an incurable brain cancer towards end of Part II. I couldn't sleep well for the following week. That story was posted on a free story site, and a reader wrote me a feedback, something like "F%$^ you. You killed [name_of_girl] !!!"

Part III was never finished, been halted for 3 years--can't make new chick comparable to the one I killed in Part II. *sighs* Don't you hate mind-murder?

Toothpaste
05-25-2008, 02:26 AM
In the Harry Potter example you gave (sorry I assumed it was Harry Potter, forgive me if I am wrong), I think the point of killing off characters at almost random is to show the horror of war and that life isn't fair. The reason that there isn't a reason can in itself be a reason. In a book about war, to only kill off characters that will somehow directly affect the MC is actually very unbelievable. I think also when JK Rowling's mother died, that really changed how she viewed life and death. I think she wanted to bring in some of that senseless violence and grief into her work.

Telstar
05-25-2008, 02:31 AM
Short answer: yes.

(not so) Long answer: it must benefit the plot.

Breeya Shay
05-25-2008, 02:44 AM
I don't think you necessarily need a reason to kill of a character but if it doesn't connect to anything going on or help the plot move along then there is no point. Go with your own instincts and what you think is right.
Cheers,

Use Her Name
05-25-2008, 02:55 AM
I don't do senseless things in books. I use death sparingly because it is the ultimate negative. If anyone dies in my book it is very important to either the plot or characterization. I don't write or read ultra violent novels. I don't like death.

Phaeal
05-25-2008, 03:13 AM
AHHHH! BIG HARRY POTTER SPOILERS BELOW!












Actually, major character deaths in Harry Potter are NOT random.

James and Lily Potter -- well, Harry has to be an orphan, right?

Sirius Black must go because JKR has made him so protective of Harry that he's starting to get in the way. Plus he competes with Dumbledore for father figure. Hence lame death in the Dept. of Mysteries.

Dumbledore was doomed from Day One to die at the end of the penultimate book. Can't have the Mentor figure interfering with the hero in the last book, where he's supposed to be showing he can stand on his own.

Cedric Diggory. Somebody had to go at the climax of Book Four, to show that Voldemort and the Death Eaters are REALLY MEAN.

Moody. Book Seven needs an early tearjerker, with the rescue of Harry from the Dursleys being the obvious time to whack somebody.

Remus and Tonks are characters of huge potential shamelessly manipulated into getting married and producing an orphaned godson for Harry. I said goodbye to these two the second Remus asked Harry to be Teddy's godfather.

One of the Weasley kids had to die in the last book. The only tension was, which one? Ginny was out -- love interest. Charlie was out -- we didn't know him well enough. Percy? Out -- on a redemption arc. Bill? Naw, she already screwed with him in Book Six. Ron? Well, there were good odds on him dying early in the series, but about midway through, I got a feeling the trio would make it. That just left one of the twins, since everyone liked them. Sorry, Fred.

Dobbie. Needed a midbook tearjerker. Plus he was too much of a deus ex machina in the making.

Snape. Well, what are you going to do with him after everyone has to acknowledge he's a hero? Plus there was the terrifying prospect of him telling Harry his story face to face -- that would have been a tough one to pull off, though it would have been great if well-done. Actually, I was ready for him to die, for all my private hopes he could live on to be good old snarky Snape on a pedestal.

Voldemort. Bad guy. Dead from Day One. Sniff.

Matera the Mad
05-25-2008, 03:17 AM
Hey, watch the spoilers--I haven't got that far yet! :(

lol

I've killed some bad guys, and my MC is an orphan--backstory deaths galore.

Stew21
05-25-2008, 03:29 AM
Don't kill off a character because she is useless. If she is useless, don't put her in the story to begin with.

Phaeal
05-25-2008, 03:29 AM
Hey, watch the spoilers--I haven't got that far yet! :(

lol

I've killed some bad guys, and my MC is an orphan--backstory deaths galore.

If you haven't read 'em by now, you don't deserve to go unspoiled. ;) But, hey, I'll add an alert anyway.

Telstar
05-25-2008, 03:50 AM
P.S. to my previous post.

I have killed 3 characters in the very first chapter, two of them from my MC.

BlueLucario
05-25-2008, 04:03 AM
Lol, rumor had it that Hermione died. I read the seventh book, but I couldn't read the last two chapters to find out.

Yes, Harry Potter was one of my examples.

No one knows why she killed hedwig. But I think it's why, if Harry sent out hedwig, then voldemort or the other death eater would track him.

Sheesh that book was like 1984 and the Holocaust.

blueobsidian
05-25-2008, 04:37 AM
I put Hedwig's death in the category that Toothpaste mentioned earlier -- demonstrating the horrors and inhumanity of war. It was the kind of senseless violence that demonstrates the accidental casualties. I am always entertained by fans that expected no one to die. How would it have been a war then?

dpaterso
05-25-2008, 04:48 AM
And a PS to my previous posts... after re-reading some of my own stories, seems like the main reason I kill off characters is to put a lump in my protagonist's throat -- he or she is emotionally upset and often forever changed by the deaths. Hopefully the reader experiences these emotions along with the protagonist. Which is the entire point.

-Derek

tehuti88
05-25-2008, 06:04 AM
I believe I usually have reasons to kill off characters, but I can't say that I always consciously consider them...they just turn up as the plot permits. It's something I usually don't have to think about much.

I do recall one time when I consciously and abruptly decided to kill off a major character (who was later returned to life). I was almost finished with the story but all my readers had abandoned reading it and I was feeling very angry and upset. I suddenly thought, "Wouldn't it be cool if I just killed this guy off--?" and then did so. HAH. The thing is...his death helped tie up an important loose end that I wasn't sure how to resolve just yet. It's incidents like this that make me wonder if it's my subconscious/unconscious that's really coming up with the plot points before I even consciously realize them?

I've killed off characters for seemingly trivial reasons, but seeing as I write primarily in series stories, I find that apparently meaningless deaths can in fact have a bearing on the entire storyline in the long run. Somebody who dies off in Story 1, for example, can have an effect on Story 4 years later. I don't plan these things ahead of time...they just happen. (Again, the unconscious at work??)

But to just kill off a character for the heck of it...? Unless one's story is some kind of horror/murder/slice-'n'-dice I don't really see the point of that. Kill off a major character for no reason and you'll irritate the readers and have them thinking you did it just to be sensationalistic. Kill off a minor character for no reason and the readers won't even care or notice. No real point to either.

A LOT of more important characters get killed off in my current story, but I like to hope there's a reason for each one. :)

geardrops
05-25-2008, 06:11 AM
Absolutely, just like you need a good reason for everything else you put in a novel.

QFT

... The only tension was, which one? ...

Actually I felt that particular character's death was very unnecessary. Just a cheap ploy at emotion, and it left me irate.

Really, what other logical reason was there for killing off that character, other than to settle the gambling pool at work?

Kate Thornton
05-25-2008, 06:44 AM
Well, you need a reason for *everything* you put in a book - every word needs to be necessary, so every action must be also. Death of a character - be it deliberate, accidental or natural - is such a profound event. Even in horror and fantasy, where death may not be permanent, or in mystery, where death is inevitable if not required, it is still something to be treated with care.

IMHO, cheap ploys, tear-jerking devices and throw-up-your-hands-and-kill-'em-alls just don't belong in a good read.

Linda Adams
05-25-2008, 06:53 AM
I read a book once where the author killed off like over a dozen well-known characters. A part of me gets mad at that, because I could never find a reason why she killed them. How is it going to benefit the MC? How is it helping the story?


Actually, it can help the story in a number of different ways. The first is that in a book, there's should be several major turning points--something that happens that's very unexpected. The unexpected death of a character might make a major story turning point. When I first read Vince Flynn's Consent to Kill, the major turning point was the death of the main character's wife. It was a complete shock and yet a natural outcome of the events that had occurred before it. That turning point led to other events later in the story.

For a book like a thriller, the death of a character highlights that the situation is dangerous and there's risk. It shows the reader that it's possible the main character can fail. It can also create complications or motivations.



I just have a curious question, would you need a reason to kill off a character? Does it have to be a good reason?

It's part of the story, so there should always be a reason. In my last project, we killed four red shirts to show the bad guy was really dangerous.

kuwisdelu
05-25-2008, 10:06 AM
Short answer: Yes. Otherwise it won't make sense and your readers will hate you.

Long answer: No. Why? Because just like in real life, not everyone dies for an obvious reason. There is a lot of senseless violence. There are meaningless deaths. The world is a dark place. Okay, /cynicism. Seriously, I to look at stories like Michelangelo sees sculptures. I don't make up the story. I don't create my characters. They're already there. Their story is already alive, somewhere, hibernating, waiting to be awoken, given breath on the page. All I'm doing is discovering it as I write. When you get the story right, it's not the writer who's killed off the characters; rather, the characters simply had to die, because the story called for it, because that's how it happens. I know that's a rather unhelpful, philosophical answer, that isn't all too useful to you, but it's just how I see it. Don't ask yourself if you have a good reason to kill off a character, simply ask yourself: does this character die? over and over. Ask your character. Ask her ghost. The truth is out there.

SPMiller
05-25-2008, 10:13 AM
I'm gonna go against the majority and say that making characters survive situations they shouldn't is a sure way to make me put your book down forever. Countless published authors make this mistake, over and over and over again, and I hate it.

If you can't handle killing your characters, don't put them in fatal situations to begin with. You're the author. Make it happen the way you want. But don't toy with me.

t0neg0d
05-25-2008, 10:56 AM
Yeah. To advance the plot.

Or! If you want to squelch a sequel from creeping into your mind, itís brilliant! ;)>

sportacus
05-25-2008, 12:24 PM
Killing characters off is certainly easier if there is a good reason to.

Dawnstorm
05-25-2008, 02:01 PM
I can see it. Hero and villain have sword fight on the top of a roof. Dramatic thunderstorm. Just as the villain impales the hero on his sword and the reader goes "Noooo!" lightning strikes the sword, elcrocuting them both.

It was a magical sword, of course, so there's a feed-back loop and a huge explosion. The roof collapses first, and then building, killing all the captives the hero tried to rescue.

The last scene is about a cockroach scuttling away. The roaches never die.

(Can you tell I voted for no?)

Zoombie
05-25-2008, 02:05 PM
Killing a character to make the reader sit up and remember that life is mean and dangerous is important.

Such as the begining of the 8th book of this series I was reading. A formidable, powerful woman who had been a powerhouse of a character for the last 7 books...WHAM! Dies in an aerial bombing raid. Nearly out of the blue. Literally, first she was at a political meeting, then the airplanes droned overhead, then she ran outside to get to the shelter, then BAM!

Dead.

Just like that.

It definitely made the remaining four books a lot more stressful. Every wound, explosion or train ride to extermination camps was fear inducing.

Dawnstorm
05-25-2008, 02:13 PM
I was being silly above, but I meant it when I said that I voted "no". I dislike it when every death is motivated by plot. It draws attention to the fictionality.

My take is if you're writing a good story any death will have an impact and thus be important. I'd rather have the death impact the plot than the plot motivate the death. (But then I'm not high on outlining. Unscheduled deaths always mess up all your plans; true in real life as in writing.)

HeronW
05-25-2008, 04:21 PM
I've an MC I'm terminating in book 4--hate it but it's right. Part of it works in the demon uprising and using the dead to increase their ranks, part is a rough justice since this woman has been a very successful assassin in her short busy career.

tehuti88
05-25-2008, 06:36 PM
Partway through an unrelated serial I'm writing I just realized that a moderately important secondary character is going to have to die. I can't figure out the specific reason (I'm sure it would show up in the plot eventually), but all the signs given in the story so far point to her dying. I think perhaps the reason for her dying might be that things would be TOO HAPPY if she survived, when so far this has been quite a dark story. Seeing as she's the mate of one of the important characters who I like, and it's obvious they love each other very much, I was VERY upset and sullen about this and kept trying to think of ways around it but nope, my brain just keeps saying, she has to die. I kind of went through a mental mourning period.

Another reason why the process doesn't always seem to be 100% in the writer's hands (at least, consciously).

donroc
05-25-2008, 07:08 PM
Always, to advance the story.

Phaeal
05-25-2008, 07:33 PM
I put Hedwig's death in the category that Toothpaste mentioned earlier -- demonstrating the horrors and inhumanity of war. It was the kind of senseless violence that demonstrates the accidental casualties. I am always entertained by fans that expected no one to die. How would it have been a war then?

Nope, Hedwig had to go because she would have made it too easy for the trio to communicate in their exile.

JKR does not kill wantonly. Her deaths always serve her plotting needs.

Phaeal
05-25-2008, 07:37 PM
QFT



Actually I felt that particular character's death was very unnecessary. Just a cheap ploy at emotion, and it left me irate.

Really, what other logical reason was there for killing off that character, other than to settle the gambling pool at work?

Pop and pulp fiction aficionados know the rules, one of which is: If you have a large family or group of beloved characters, at least one of them must die before the end. The Weasleys were doomed, alas. At least Arthur escaped death in Book Five -- apparently JKR meant to off him then. BUT, and this furthers my theory: JKR had no real plotting reason to kill Arthur. Hence she could let him live.

geardrops
05-25-2008, 11:59 PM
Pop and pulp fiction aficionados know the rules, one of which is: If you have a large family or group of beloved characters, at least one of them must die before the end. The Weasleys were doomed, alas.

Yes but why? Other than "it's the rules." It's cheap, lame, and as I said is nothing more than an underhanded way to get people to emote.

Can you tell I never dealt with the parental explanation of "Because"? :)

NeuroFizz
05-26-2008, 12:03 AM
They are called "shreddies" - those characters who are in the story only to be shredded, mutilated and in some way obliterated. Shreddies typically don't have any associated characterization, so the reader has nothing invested in them emotionally. The readers reaction? Quite possibly, kill them. Kill them all. Who cares about them. If that is the type of reaction you somehow want in your story, then write in the shreddies (some stories will be able to use them). If not, realize the reaction (or non-reaction) your readers will have about them.

For example, what kind of brilliant writer would have teenagers (of little emotional development in the story) go outside one-at-a-time when there is a killer out there menacing them? If the characters are that stupid, I start rooting for the killer. Just get those shreddies before they reproduce...

cethklein
05-26-2008, 12:08 AM
Killing characters is tough, mainly because you have to consider that some readers may have gotten attached to them. I kill one off at the end of one of my WIPs, or at least it's made to appear that way. In book two it turns out he survived after all.

As long as it really fits the plot, go ahead, kill them.

Jake Barnes
05-26-2008, 12:45 AM
I think Uncle Jim posted once that it's okay to kill a character, but the reader has to care about him/her first.

Phaeal
05-26-2008, 03:58 AM
Yes but why? Other than "it's the rules." It's cheap, lame, and as I said is nothing more than an underhanded way to get people to emote.

Can you tell I never dealt with the parental explanation of "Because"? :)

The "rules" are actually beloved tropes* These set up expectations in the core audience. Part of the fun of pop/pulp fiction is the satisfaction of such expectations. Not satisfying them can be more or less dangerous.

Another primary pop/pulp trope is "If a character falls and no body is recovered, that character cannot be dead."

This trope was famously demonstrated by A. Conan Doyle, with Sherlock Holmes's plummet off the falls and subsequent return to literary life. More recently Tolkien used the trope with Gandalf, and Peter Jackson liked it so much that he not only dramatized Gandalf's fall, but added a fall for Aragorn.

Lincoln Child and Douglas Preston had Diogenes Pendergast fall into a volcano at the end of The Book of the Dead. I have no doubt that these brilliant interpreters of the pulp tradition will bring Diogenes back before long, somewhat toasted but still kicking.

JKR actually violates the "fall" convention -- she has Sirius fall into the Donut of Doom, and we get no body, and we get no funeral or memorial service, but she fails to bring him back to life. Boo. If she just wanted him splatted by Bellatrix, she should left us the sad, broken body over which to mourn. I won't go into the promises unfulfilled set up by the otherwise over-detailed Dept. of Mysteries -- that can wait for a more pertinent thread. ;)



* When used with reference to literature, the trope is a common theme, pattern, or motif.

kzmiller
05-26-2008, 04:44 AM
I've been marveling at all the great comments. I'd like to highlight (without quoting, because multiple people said them in different and interesting ways) the ways and whys of killing main characters that suit my style of writing and favored reading material:

It's important to the plot.
What would "Bridge to Terabithia" be without the 'accidental' death? That's key--her death was an accident, something that could have happened at random to just about any child, and yet it belongs. It's the book's heart.
In other works the death may be inevitable, it's just what the character does with the time they have that makes the story rock along. Often readers can see the death coming (or are even told the death is coming) but if the writing is good enough, despite their best efforts they become invested in the character and it hurts like hell. And they still keep reading (if there are more characters to keep limping along.)
In still other works (like the aforementioned HP series) if certain characters weren't offed then the story arch wouldn't hold together. Again, the readers may see it coming and it becomes very important to make sure the writing is good enough that the readers don't feel like they're being jerked around or funneled through a bottleneck. The idea is to yank the support structure out from under the character that lives and force them to go on alone.

There are also other story considerations that I guess could also be considered plot stuff but I see them as their own thing.
If a main character dies, the author has just raised the stakes and the tension is increased. Raising stakes is a good thing.
If a main character dies, it shows the reader that the adventure is 'real.' This is related to the stakes thing but not exactly the same thing. Like someone said, they couldn't stand it when characters all lived through unbelievably dangerous stuff. If the characters take a deadly risk and someone pays the ultimate price, it shows that the danger was real.

I hope that helps.

Feathers
05-26-2008, 05:02 AM
Absolutely, just like you need a good reason for everything else you put in a novel.

caw

Word. I need say nothing else.

-Feathers

Linda Adams
05-26-2008, 05:05 AM
Another primary pop/pulp trope is "If a character falls and no body is recovered, that character cannot be dead."


That's interesting. I hadn't heard of this, but I've certainly seen it. Preston/Child did in one of their books where Margo was supposedly killed, but no body, and she turned up at the end of the story, recovering in an asylum from the injuries. Clive Cussler did it in one of his where Dirk Pitt is supposedly killed underwater, everyone mourns his loss, and then he comes ashore on a crowded beach a month later.

Hmm. I might have to think about using it sometime.

Kate Thornton
05-26-2008, 07:39 AM
The "rules" are actually beloved tropes* These set up expectations in the core audience. Part of the fun of pop/pulp fiction is the satisfaction of such expectations. Not satisfying them can be more or less dangerous.

Another primary pop/pulp trope is "If a character falls and no body is recovered, that character cannot be dead."

This trope was famously demonstrated by A. Conan Doyle, with Sherlock Holmes's plummet off the falls and subsequent return to literary life. More recently Tolkien used the trope with Gandalf, and Peter Jackson liked it so much that he not only dramatized Gandalf's fall, but added a fall for Aragorn.

Lincoln Child and Douglas Preston had Diogenes Pendergast fall into a volcano at the end of The Book of the Dead. I have no doubt that these brilliant interpreters of the pulp tradition will bring Diogenes back before long, somewhat toasted but still kicking.


Diogenes does - sort of - return in the latest one...or at least there is enough doubt about his reality to make Aloyisius Pendergast doubt his death.

I love their adherence to formula with such a quirky protagonist.

BlueLucario
05-26-2008, 05:41 PM
Hmm. I might have to think about using it sometime.

Me too. But only because that makes a lot of sense.

Okay, so Rowling didn't really kill off her characters randomly, but just to add plot twists and make things unexpected. What if i did the same thing? Wowing the readers?

So according to the poll, there has to be a good reason to kill off a character. Could you list as much as you can think of? Or if there are bad reasons, try to list those and explaion why they are bad.

dpaterso
05-26-2008, 05:53 PM
So according to the poll, there has to be a good reason to kill off a character. Could you list as much as you can think of? Or if there are bad reasons, try to list those and explaion why they are bad.
:eek: I thought that's what this thread was about! Haven't reasons and examples already been given above? Might it be worthwhile re-reading the thread first?

-Derek

NeuroFizz
05-26-2008, 06:37 PM
Could you list as much as you can think of?
There really is no limitation on this--because every story is unique. If you have the desire to kill off a character, just stop and ask yourself why you are doing it.

Does it help with your story in some way (any way)?

Is it just gratuitous?

Even gore-type horror stories are not served well by purely gratuitous killing.

BarbaraKE
05-26-2008, 07:25 PM
That's interesting. I hadn't heard of this, but I've certainly seen it. Preston/Child did in one of their books where Margo was supposedly killed, but no body, and she turned up at the end of the story, recovering in an asylum from the injuries.

This was 'Dance of Death' (which I just happened to have finished yesterday). And there was a body but it turns out to be the body of someone else.

Actually I really dislike the fact that she survived. Too cliche and the circumstances too unbelievable. It seemed like a total cheat (IMHO).

writin52
05-26-2008, 07:54 PM
I read a book once where the author killed off like over a dozen well-known characters. A part of me gets mad at that, because I could never find a reason why she killed them. How is it going to benefit the MC? How is it helping the story? I was told she was probably doing it just to enhance the story. And I read when you kill off characters even the flatest one, you must have a reason for it.

I only killed off one character in my WIP, and I don't know why, I thought maybe, the story needs someone to die. I thought the story would be cool if someone died. But I felt stupid, because killing her made my MC semi-evil and gave her ruthless ambitions, and the character's daughter still wants to be friends with her, knowing that she killed her mom. My MC wants to know why she's still nice to her. I'm trying to come up with reasons why she still wanted to follow her to the next city. Maybe the girl was just scared of my MC(I can't blame her though.) or she's just hiding her feelings, even from the author. I had some thoughts of killing off the daughter because she's completely useless.

I just have a curious question, would you need a reason to kill off a character? Does it have to be a good reason?

(If you want to look at it. Go to the first link below and read chapter four. I hate it.)

It's crazy but maybe that author ran out of things to have those characters do, so her muse made her do it!:Shrug:

geardrops
05-27-2008, 12:23 AM
Just to clarify: I understand the tropes. I understand readers anticipate certain tropes.

I just think "Because it's a trope" is a poor excuse for killing off a character.

Talkatoast
05-27-2008, 12:40 AM
I think you need to have a good reason for killing off a character--well, mostly your main character.
I never kill off a character without having some reason for it. I don't blatantly write the reason, but it can be found if one reads in between the lines.

Dale Emery
05-27-2008, 03:45 AM
With questions like this (do you need... should I... is it a good idea to...) it all comes down to:

What are the choices?
How would each choice affect the reader?
Which of these effects do I want to have on the reader?To apply this to your question:

If you killed a given character without a good reason, how would that affect the reader?
If you killed a given character with good reason, how would that affect the reader?
If, lacking a good reason to kill a given character, you kept that character alive, how would that affect the reader?
Which of these effects do you want to have on the reader?Dale

Phaeal
05-27-2008, 06:48 PM
Just to clarify: I understand the tropes. I understand readers anticipate certain tropes.

I just think "Because it's a trope" is a poor excuse for killing off a character.

oh well. It's good fun when done right. My point in the posts above is actually that JKR doesn't always do it right.

I'm not thrilled with the Fred Weasley death. Yeah, it fulfilled the trope, but like the other deaths at the end of the novel, it was almost offhand, cursory. Compare the deaths of Fred, Remus and Tonks to the death of Dobby -- huge difference in emotional impact.

What was needed in the epilogue was not only a fan-ficcy seeing off of the next generation at the railroad station, but a visit to the graves of the fallen heroes -- acknowledging them was a trope unfulfilled here.

AZ_Dawn
05-28-2008, 01:22 AM
How to Kill a Character (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/HowToKillACharacter)
How to Cheat Death (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/HowToCheatDeath)

Enjoy!

IceCreamEmpress
05-28-2008, 03:40 AM
Gee, in the world-wide War Between Good and Evil, one does expect lots of people to die.

BlueLucario
05-28-2008, 05:27 PM
How to Kill a Character (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/HowToKillACharacter)
How to Cheat Death (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/HowToCheatDeath)

Enjoy!

Sorry, reading this, I'm having the bad Mary-Sue vibe. That's just me probably.

geardrops
05-29-2008, 12:06 AM
Blue, that site is TvTropes. It's pointing out all the cliche stuff that happens in television and movies.

AZ_Dawn
05-29-2008, 01:16 AM
Sorry, reading this, I'm having the bad Mary-Sue vibe. That's just me probably.
That's okay; I think a lot of those were pretty lame myself, especially in the How to Cheat Death list. But the lists show some of the cliches about death and survival so you can either avoid them or play them to the hilt and beyond.


Blue, that site is TvTropes. It's pointing out all the cliche stuff that happens in television and movies.

They have some literary references, too, though a lot of times you have to hunt for them.

BlueLucario
05-29-2008, 03:59 AM
Blue, that site is TvTropes. It's pointing out all the cliche stuff that happens in television and movies.

Oh is that what this is about? Sorry didn't catch on.

BlueLucario
06-05-2008, 04:43 PM
By the way, there's this character I plan on killing off. She's a great character, and the readers like her.But she's sort of flat and I have a feeling she won't be much help for the main character. I just don't have much use for her right now.

Is this a reason to kill her off?

sadron
06-05-2008, 05:37 PM
Yes I need a reason to kill off characters, to move on with the scene.

blueobsidian
06-06-2008, 02:53 AM
By the way, there's this character I plan on killing off. She's a great character, and the readers like her.But she's sort of flat and I have a feeling she won't be much help for the main character. I just don't have much use for her right now.

Is this a reason to kill her off?

To me, that sounds like a reason to go back and edit her out of the story entirely. If she isn't of any help, why is she there in the first place? Would her death make sense in the story and help propel it forward, or is it just a way to eliminate her? If she is likeable and dies without a good reason, you may lose some of your readers.

If the readers love her, perhaps tuck her away for another story where she would prove useful.

amber_grosjean
06-13-2008, 04:21 AM
I took the poll and said "no"

My reason is this..... I believe you do have to have a reason for anything going into the story. It doesn't have to be a reason though. I read someone's reply that said in real life people die for no reason at all. We're trying to write as realistic as possible, death is the closest thing to being realistic. People live, people die. That's part of life.

Having death in a story would move the story along, may not be in the direction you wanted but it does move the story. People are affected by death. It can show personality, how this person reacts.

Now if a writer is killing someone because they simply don't like that character, there's something to be said about that character--maybe they can be earased totally from the story because he/she simply didn't belong. Or if the writer killed the character just to kill someone, then that wouldn't be a reason, that's just an action.

Just a thought

Write4U2
06-13-2008, 10:05 PM
I kill off a bunch of characters in my novel. Three are killed in the first chapter by a psychopath. The psychopath kills two other characters by mistake halfway through the book. Another is killed because he knows. Then an attempted murder, then another murder, then the psychopath is killed.

So, let's see:

3+2+1+1+1, so eight murders, plus one the psychopath killed that is revealed during self-talk that doesn't happen in the current time frame/action of the book.

They're all relevant to the story and to the main characters(s).

There are two main characters, plus two that are sub-main characters that are germaine to the three next books in the series. There will be murders in the next books, but they are not main characters who are getting killed off.

amber_grosjean
06-14-2008, 10:15 AM
In one of the books that I'm rewriting, I killed my MC and then brought her back. It really didn't happen until book 2 though lol.

The MC lost her aunt and then had a little girl. She really wanted her daughter to know what it was like having her aunt around. Being a witch, she simply traded places with her aunt. It was a very emotional chapter in my book which at the time was a very important event in the characters' lives. It was the MC's idea, I just went with it. The bond was too strong not to let her have her way.

Amber

Buddikins
06-14-2008, 10:30 AM
Yeah, you need a reason, otherwise it looks sloppy, like you couldn't work out what to do with the character, and couldnt be bothered writing them out more conveniently.
Like in Phillip Pullman's The Amber Spyglass.. Uhm spolier following.



He kills off that angel, and the guy that's tracking Mary.
The angel has been GONE for ages, and the guy... Well, he's about to come into it properly and BAM both dead.
It was sloppy, and made the guy tracking Mary a useless character.
It's like, oh, this guy... I know, I'll just kill him!

Danger Jane
06-14-2008, 10:08 PM
With questions like this (do you need... should I... is it a good idea to...) it all comes down to:
What are the choices?
How would each choice affect the reader?
Which of these effects do I want to have on the reader?To apply this to your question:
If you killed a given character without a good reason, how would that affect the reader?
If you killed a given character with good reason, how would that affect the reader?
If, lacking a good reason to kill a given character, you kept that character alive, how would that affect the reader?
Which of these effects do you want to have on the reader?Dale

And therefore, there is always a [good] reason for any major occurrence in the novel.

Danger Jane
06-14-2008, 10:12 PM
He kills off that angel, and the guy that's tracking Mary.
The angel has been GONE for ages, and the guy... Well, he's about to come into it properly and BAM both dead.
It was sloppy, and made the guy tracking Mary a useless character.
It's like, oh, this guy... I know, I'll just kill him!

I never noticed that that was sloppy...Father Gomez (the tracker) was a menacing character, and therefore contributed to the tension.

BlueLucario
06-14-2008, 11:24 PM
I never noticed that that was sloppy...Father Gomez (the tracker) was a menacing character, and therefore contributed to the tension.


Another stupid question: What if an author killed off a character just because the story needs their deaths? Or because the author thought it would be cool if a character died.

I'm not going to kill off my characters now, but I'm just curious.

ChaosTitan
06-14-2008, 11:29 PM
Another stupid question: What if an author killed off a character just because the story needs their deaths?

I'm positive this question has been answered, as nauseum, in this thread. Multiple people have stated that the best reason to kill a character is because the story requires it.


Or because the author thought it would be cool if a character died.


It's the author's prerogative to do so.

Again, I think all of these questions have been answered.

BlueLucario
06-14-2008, 11:32 PM
Nope, Hedwig had to go because she would have made it too easy for the trio to communicate in their exile.

JKR does not kill wantonly. Her deaths always serve her plotting needs.

Why do I get the feeling that her deaths are only serving Harry's purpose. I have this really bad vibe that the deaths are helping Harry in a way.

Toothpaste
06-14-2008, 11:51 PM
Blue you do realise that characters aren't real right? Sounds like a dumb question, but think about it. You asked above what if the "only" reason to kill off a character was for the sake of the story. Hon, that should be the top reason to kill off a character. Characters serve the story, not the other way around. Characters serve the author's choices, not the other way around.

I know you are very attached to your characters, many authors get that way. But in the end WE CREATED THEM. We created them to tell a certain story. If the story requires a character to die, then the character must die.

As for the Harry Potter thing. I would argue that most deaths in HP are yes, "helping Harry in some way" because Harry is the main character of the story, and the story is of his finally fulfilling his destiny. OF COURSE the characters die so that they can impact Harry's life. They die for others reasons too. But hon, they are not real. They don't get a say. An author gets the final choice in determining what he/she wants his/her story to be.

Buddikins
06-14-2008, 11:54 PM
I never noticed that that was sloppy...Father Gomez (the tracker) was a menacing character, and therefore contributed to the tension.
IMO (and it's just that) he didnt add anything to the novel. He was never close enough to getting Mary to really contribute to the tension.
If he'd almost killed her (sadistic, aren't I?), or actually done something except track, I could have accepted him.
But he didnt, and I thought his whole sub-plot was pointless.
Then, of course, Pullman is published. I'm just jealous :tongue

BTW Blue, how do you think the deaths helped Harry?
Maybe motivated him more in his fight against Voldemort (in case his parents', Sirius' and Dumbledore's death didnt do the trick), but otherwise I dont see your point..

BlueLucario
06-15-2008, 03:00 AM
BTW Blue, how do you think the deaths helped Harry?
Maybe motivated him more in his fight against Voldemort (in case his parents', Sirius' and Dumbledore's death didnt do the trick), but otherwise I dont see your point..
Hard to explain. I already explained the Hedwig part. I had more in mind but I forgot them. Try reading Phaels post.

And Toothpaste: Yes. I know. But It's very difficult for me to accept that.

MadScientistMatt
06-15-2008, 11:31 PM
I've got a fantasy WIP that was quite a bloodbath. Some of the characters did die with a very good reason. Others just died because they ended up crossing swords with someone who was a better fighter. The choice to fight just followed from the plot and character, and the character's death happened because it was the wrong choice. Only rarely did they know it was, indeed, a lethal choice before the fight.

Jason P
06-23-2008, 11:41 AM
If it doesn't advance the plot, don't do it. I think that applies to anything in a novel.

Pachydermia
07-15-2008, 03:28 AM
I don't know. I suppose in real life, people die for no apparent reason, related to no plot whatsoever.:ROFL:

Okay, I agree with this particular statement...
but it was hysterical to me that it was followed by a ROFL smiley thing.
so, thank you.:Hug2:

dwellerofthedeep
07-15-2008, 04:14 AM
I voted yes. I also don't think Harry Potter is entirely free of random killings, though I think it was only the final battle that seemed too rediculous to me. Mainly that no Death Eaters seemed to go down at all until the final part and yet numerous other characters bit the dust for what seemed like no good plot reason in my opinion.

dgiharris
07-15-2008, 06:27 AM
I will add that when characters die for no reason, it adds to the realism of the story. It also hieghtens the stakes. That is, as the reader you don't know what the hell is going to happen. ANYTHING COULD HAPPEN.

So in a wierd way, a random killing does advance the plot and story along by adding to the realism. It also reduces the 'predictability' of the book (IMO).

Mel...

blueobsidian
07-15-2008, 06:53 AM
But if you are using random killing to create a mood for your book, advance your plot, or add to the realism of the situation (such as in a war), then you are still doing it for a reason. There is some logic behind why the death makes it into your manuscript.

Keyan
07-15-2008, 08:03 AM
As a writer, I seldom kill characters, partly because I'm lazy.

As a reader, I find it annoying if an MC is killed. I feel cheated, like when a book ends without a resolution. I've been following along, getting invested in the character, and pop! she/ he is gone. The exception is when the MC's death is Very Meaningful - a glorious sacrifice, for instance. Other than that, if the death is given the weight it deserves, we spend a fair bit of time mourning or dissecting the circumstances or whatever. I don't have a problem with illustrative deaths, where a minor character is killed to show that the MC was in real danger.

I often have this sneaking suspicion that the main reason the death's in there is to announce that the book is Serious.

I accept that real-world deaths can be pretty random, but to me, the difference between RW and a story is that causality in a story is much tighter.

But as long as Serious means Someone Important Dies, I suppose I'll have to get off my butt and kill some characters now and then. <Laying out arsenal of knives, guns, bombs, infectious diseases, crumbling cliffs, and choppy bodies of water. With alligators.>

Albedo
07-15-2008, 09:55 AM
I can see it. Hero and villain have sword fight on the top of a roof. Dramatic thunderstorm. Just as the villain impales the hero on his sword and the reader goes "Noooo!" lightning strikes the sword, elcrocuting them both.

It was a magical sword, of course, so there's a feed-back loop and a huge explosion. The roof collapses first, and then building, killing all the captives the hero tried to rescue.

The last scene is about a cockroach scuttling away. The roaches never die.

(Can you tell I voted for no?)

I see this as a beginning, and the remainder of the story concerns the efforts of the captives' families to sue the estates of the hero and villain, the builders of the villain's keep and the makers of the faulty sword. :D

Magic Sword Quest 2: Civil Claims Court