How Much Development of Characters Who Die?


I've been experimenting with ways to heighten the tension in my plot while tying it in with the world I created. In my story, I want to hammer in the point that anyone can die so I seem to have racked up a rather high body count amongst the supporting characters.
But I want to make the reader sympathize with the characters so that they don't just seem like sticks being thrown into a fire.
How much development should I give a character whose entire purpose is to hammer home the hopelessness of the situation?


While it is difficult to answer this question without reading your manuscript...

Perhaps keep in mind that when it comes to appreciating the tragic loss of a life, sometimes what matters is not how well the reader knows comes to know the character before they die, but whether main character feels empathy or other feelings for character before they die, as well as how the main character feels about the death.

Sometimes too, one good detail or incident is enough to make a reader fall in love with a character, or at least feel sympathy or empathy for their situation. And if the reader feels attached to the character, their death can be have a significant impact.

Something else to bear in mind is that sometimes the death of one character can be more impactful than the death of 100 characters, simply because it's easier for a reader to feel attached to one character. This may not be a problem in your story, but consider that the deaths of 100 characters a reader is attached to could be overwhelming and counterproductive. Dramatica theory advises us to balance the costs (the price paid along the journey of the story) with dividends (small rewards that are incurred along the journey that are unconnected to the objective but serve to boost the morale of both characters and readers). So the deaths of 100 characters the reader is attached to would require a lot of dividends, otherwise the story could become so emotionally exhausting readers might stop reading.

Of course, unless your work is a multi-volume epic, you probably wouldn't have enough space to fully develop 100 characters, or the reader's attachment to them. Sometimes it's better to have one powerful tragic loss than too many. Think Galdalf in The Lord of the Rings or Rue in The Hunger Games.

These are just things to think about.

Best of luck.

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