divided-loyalties started following you
divided-loyalties started following you
carpe diem - seize the day
carpe noctem - seize the night
carpe natibus - seize the ass
I decided someone needed to make a little primer about how to, and how not to, kill your characters. This is an incredibly tricky thing to do as an author, because you will almost certainly upset part of your audience if you do it right, and all of your audience if you do it wrong. So, I am writing a handy little guide to that potentially sticky situation—and once you pull it off correctly, there’s very little that’s more affecting to the readers!
(Also, I’m sorry if this is annoying to anyone, but I will be using gender-neutral pronouns because saying him/her and he/she and him or her and he or she and them or just one of those is obnoxious and/or incorrect to me.)
First things first: ask yourself, does this character need to die?
Reasons for saying yes:
- This character’s death moves the overarching plot forward (inspires a main character to do something ze normally would not do, makes an important sacrifice, aggravates tensions between two parties, etc.).
- This character’s death is the conclusion of hir character arc.
- This character’s death achieves something that is not possible in life. This includes finding peace, reuniting with a loved one, preventing hirself from being used against said loved ones, ascending to a higher plane of existence (mainly in supernatural fiction), etcetera.
- This character’s death illustrates something about the theme of the work. In a work about the senselessness of war and violence, senseless killing is not only permissible, but necessary—the audience should feel the same pain as the characters, at having someone they care about ripped away for no good reason.
Reasons for saying no:
- This character’s death serves no purpose.
- You want to kill this character to make the audience sad. Good emotional manipulation comes from good storytelling. If you can’t hurt people’s feelings with genuine sincere emotions, this is an extremely cheap way to be “edgy.” What’s more, people can spot this, and it isn’t usually as affecting as the author wants it to be.
- You don’t know what to do with this character, so you kill them off. That’s lazy.
Ways to fuck up a character’s death:
- Bring them back immediately for no good reason. Yes, it’s sad that Little Billy had to die—so surely, people will be thrilled he’s back! No. No, they won’t. If you’ve pulled off a death correctly, your audience is literally grieving. You know this—we’ve all been affected by the deaths of fictional characters, sometimes more profoundly than we are by the deaths of people we know. In good fiction, the characters are real to us. Having that emotional process derailed for the sake of “making everything better” is dishonest and feels very emotionally unsatisfying.
- Misuse your genre. “But the character’s death moves the plot forward!” Yes, but you’re writing a zany comedy—and trying to make this death moving. Alternatively, trying to make a death amusing in a serious work—death is the ultimate pinnacle of human experience, and it resonates very, very strongly with people. Don’t cheapen the experience. It makes the audience uncomfortable with their own emotions.
- Kill an underdeveloped character—and expect the audience to respond strongly to it. Killing a character is not a way to make an audience love hir. It’s a way to make the audience realize how much they already did love hir.
- My actual pet peeve, which I personally believe is the worst one of all: Bring hir back—and have hir contribute nothing new to the plot.
When to (and when not to) bring a character back from the dead (clarification: this includes characters who never actually died, but were only suspected dead):
Bringing a character back is a very controversial decision. However, it’s done all the time, and done well. The response you want from your readers upon the reveal is:
“Oh my god, I am so happy ze is back, now ze can do all these amazing things I always wanted hir to and—OH MY GOD THAT IS EVEN BETTER THAN I WAS EXPECTING!” You want people to have been wondering—how would X Dead Character react to the new situations in the overarching plot? How would ze have gotten along with the new characters you introduced? What would ze think about the way the characters ze knew have changed and developed?
Answer these questions! More importantly, continue the character’s story arc from before ze died. I cannot stress this enough. If the character stagnates or does nothing new, LEAVE THIS CHARACTER DEAD. If you are going to send your audience through the emotional upheaval of a death, respect their journey. Don’t make them feel like they wasted their feelings.
Rule of thumb: Unless you are doing it for comedy, absolutely limit yourself to two deaths absolute maximum per character. I don’t care if it’s a cop thriller, a fantasy novel, a science-fiction screenplay, or yes, EVEN A COMIC BOOK, you cannot continue to fake out your audience. The first one is free. After that, the audience stops trusting you. So if you’re going to kill a character twice, make sure the second time ze stays dead. And be obvious about it, showing the body or making it absolutely clear that ze could NOT have survived whatever ze went through. Preferably, show the body (or part of it ala you-know-who from Game of Thrones).
I think that’s pretty much it! Have fun, and sharpen those scythes!
you know what’s really telling
finding nemo was about a parent/child relationship just as much as brave was
and nobody saw anything wrong with that
i wonder why (◕‿◕✿)
oh yeah yesterday col and i were in christmas tree shops and saw a sign that you could purchase with real life dollars that said “summer is when a man thinks he can cook better on a grill than his wife can in the kitchen” so col and i stole a pen and paper from around the store and wrote like TRIGGER WARNING: MISOGYNY, SEXISM, and GENDER ESSENTIALISM on it and left it in front of the rack
I think I’m playing this game wrong. :C