Killing off characters

by Isabella

Question: I am writing my plot outline and listing all of the characters I am planning on putting in my story, but I realized, after figuring out simple information on the characters, that I am killing off quite a lot of them throughout the story. Most of the characters are 'support' characters and a few (one or two) are more important to the main character. I realize that some books do kill off a lot of characters, especially in the case of the 'A Song of Ice and Fire' series by George R. R. Martin, but I am doubting myself.

Thank you so much for your time!

Answer: You have to trust your instincts and knowledge of your genre.

There are lots of good reasons for killing a character. Sometimes it is to illustrate the price that must be paid for the sake of the goal We call this a "Cost" in Dramatica.

Sometimes a death can be an inciting incident or a major plot twist.

Sometimes a death can be a Forewarning of what will happen to all the characters if they fail in their quest. An example is when a villain kills an innocent person. Forewarnings heighten the tension by making the Goal more urgent.

Sometimes death is the price a character incurs for making the wrong choice (and thus showing another character what the right choice is).

Sometimes characters die to illustrate the evil nature of the person who kills them. For instance, when the villain kills his own ally, it is also a Forewarning - showing why the villain should not win.

Sometimes deaths can be used to bring about the crisis as the characters are running out of options. For example, in The Hunger Games, there are only 24 tributes. As they die, one by one, you know that Katniss will eventually be forced to face Cato. Another example is the murder mystery, And Then There Were None, in which 12 people are on an island and one of them starts killing the others. The reader doesn't know who the killer is, but you know that eventually only two people will be left (the hero and the killer) and at that point, the mystery will be solved.

Also, some characters just deserve to die, such as villains themselves.

Like I say, not every genre can handle a lot of deaths, but some certainly can (thrillers, horror, adventure, war stories, etc.).

Best of luck.

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