Killing Your Characters

With The Cerberus Rebellion in the hands of my beta-readers and 3/4 short stories finished, I’ve been working on plotting out the character arcs for my main characters over the rest of the series (right now, 5 more novels).

When I first developed the general idea for where I wanted this series to go, I had a pretty solid idea for how I wanted each character to end up. As the first novel developed, however, my long term goal for person shifted.

My plot, as it stands now, is radically different from what it was. First off, I had to kill an important secondary character in order to nudge one of the main characters down a certain path. As I’ve developed the arcs for the series, I’ve realized that at least one of my POV characters needs to die at some point toward the end of the series to bring closure.

This is really the first time that I’ve considered killing off a main character. In all of my other works, the main character comes through at the end.

I think the catalyst for this change of perspective was reading the Song of Ice and Fire books by George RR Martin. I won’t spoil it further than saying that he doesn’t mind killing off fairly important people.

I think that the multiple POV approach to writing provides the backup necessary to be able to kill off main characters because new ones can slide right into place and the other POV characters can continue the story.

When I initially killed off this secondary character, I went back through and read all of the chapters that he/she were involved in and realized that there wasn’t much to attach the read to him/her. So I went back through and beefed up this characters involvement in the story and the interactions with MC(s).

I haven’t received any feedback yet, but I’m hoping that my re-work of the character provided enough substance to make their death felt.

So what’s your opinion on killing off primary or important secondary characters?

About Joshua K Johnson

Josh is the author of The Cerberus Rebellion and The Hydra Offensive, Gunpowder Fantasy novels set in the Griffins & Gunpowder universe. He is currently working on a new novel set in the same world as well as The Centaur Incursion, Book 3 in the Ansgari Rebellion Series and Loyalty Betrayed, Book 1 in the Liberty Forged Series. He currently works full-time and has an 8-year old and a 4-year old to keep him busy.

Posted on May 21, 2012, in Uncategorized, writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. In the real world, fairly important people die and the people left behind have to carry on. In the literary world, it depends on the story and purpose. In television, a series dependent on a character can’t do that. If the actor dies in real life, they either write him out of the series somehow or replace with another actor, which is hard to do if the actor/character is fairly iconic. The genre where you are writing isn’t something with which I am particularly familiar. I would only say proceed with care. You may kill someone off who might prove very useful down the road, and bringing him/her/it back might require suspension of belief. 😉

    • My planned deaths are much later in the series, unlike certain above-mentioned author’s work, so by the time I have them set to die, the majority of the story is already in motion.

  2. Death is what it is, and I feel like it should be treated as such. If a character dies, it is because that’s how the story happens. Every death, as in real life, serves a purpose, even if it is only to cause grief and pain. I was in tears when one of my characters died; I desperately did not want them to, but there was nothing I could do about it. Life – and the story – goes on.

  3. I’m a writer myself, and I don’t have a problem with death in stories.. as long as it serves a purpose other than to make a reader gasp. In my own work, I’m happy to kill off a character if a character needs to die.

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