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!
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’ve met a few Philippas in England, where it’s unusual but not rare (if that makes sense?). Philippas here often go by Pippa though.
Oh I’ve been called Pippa too (but in Swedish it’s slang for having sex so NOOOOOPE) and my uncle calls me Lippa but mostly I’ve been Filippa my whole life. It wasn’t until I went to Romania and studied medicine in the international section that I started getting nice nicks like Fil and Fili, and then I have an old friend who always calls me Filippus Optimus (and I call her Hannus Optiums back (her name’s Hanna) because I’m ridiculous) XD
And it’s really not that common in Sweden either, it’s just me noticing my own name more than usual so I feel it’s pretty common, so it’s basically like in England. :)
They’re both up and about :3 And I think the little bby has had their first drinks as well. :D We think it’s a little girl but we haven’t approached them yet since the bby is so new still, we’re letting them have some privacy first.
ANIMALS, I tell you. I don’t understand how their faces work. THE THINGS THEY MAKE YOU THINK THEY’VE SEEN. Few things get me into a giggling fit quicker than a picture of an absurdly wide-eyed creature. XD
I think I laugh every time I see a derp-faced animal I just can’t ijolij one of my favourites are:
(which is an accurate depiction of all my feels for Emily)
“TW: RAPE The experience of being raped has touched every aspect of my life. People like Ron Rosenberg, the PR head for Tomb Raider, tend to talk about rape like it’s some character-building challenge to overcome, a wound that heals into scar tissue, making you tougher. That’s a fundamental misunderstanding. Rape isn’t a scar, it’s a limp — you carry it with you as long as you’re alive, and it makes life harder, not easier. Being raped does change you: it’s more than non-consensual sex, it’s psychic murder. The person you were beforehand ceases to exist and you can never, ever be them again.”—
THERE WAS NEVER A TIME WHEN THINGS WERE “SIMPLER” AND “MADE MORE SENSE” AND THERE NEVER WILL BE
THE ENTIRETY OF HUMAN HISTORY IS A BIZARRE SERIOUS OF EMOTIONAL SOCIAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL CONFLICTS ON AN INDIVIDUAL AND GLOBAL SCALE
THE ONLY REASON YOU THINK THINGS WERE BETTER 10 YEARS AGO IS BECAUSE YOU HAD FEWER BRAIN CELLS WORKING
Actually for me things WERE simpler. There were fifteen channels, candy was literally a penny with no tax, video games were no more advanced than NES and the biggest problem in the general world at the time wasn’t the ‘global climate’ or who was threatening who in the world…..it was the price of gas. All we knew pre-internet and sensationalization of the general media was that ‘things’ happened out in ‘oil country’ and paying for gas was ‘too much’. If I wanted to walk to the park, I walked to the park. No cell phone or worry about anything other than that. If I wanted to eat something I ate something, no one cared beyond what was IN it and only because we LEGALLY had to know. Calories and nutrition? We had Mr. T and PacMan cereal….pure fucking sugar. No one cared and we were STILL thinner as a whole than children now. Terrorism was in movies and we watched what was on those fifteen channels because no one could afford a VCR yet.
BY/IN THE 90S ALONE NUCLEAR BOMBS HAD BEEN DROPPED EMPIRES HAD RISEN AND FALLEN WORLD WAR II HAD HAPPENED GENOCIDES HAD OCCURRED THE COLD WAR HAPPENED CAPITALISM TOOK ROOT COMMUNISM BECAME DOCTRINE ACROSS NEARLY HALF THE WORLD’S POPULATION THE IRON CURTAIN FELL THE AMERICAS WERE COLONIZED EUROPE CONTROLLED AND THEN LOST CONTROL OF THE MAJORITY OF THE WORLD CHINA HAD GONE THROUGH MORE THAN A DOZEN DYNASTY CHANGES HAD EXPERIENCED THE TAIPING REBELLION A 40 YEAR CIVIL WAR AND A COMMUNIST REVOLUTION YUGOSLAVIA BROKE UP THE UN WAS FOUNDED NATO DROPPED BOMBS ON SERBIA THE RWANDAN GENOCIDE HAPPENED ALBERT EINSTEIN PUT FORTH A GENERAL THEORY OF RELATIVITY MAHTAHMA GANDHI LED INDIA TO INDEPENDENCE THROUGH NONVIOLENCE MARTIN LUTHER KING JR MALCOLM X AND COUNTLESS OTHERS LED A CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT ACROSS THE UNITED STATES TWO WAVES OF FEMINISM HAPPENED THE STONEWALL RIOTS HAPPENED MATTHEW SHEPHERD WAS MURDERED BILL CLINTON GOT A BLOWJOB AFRICA EXPERIENCED MORE THAN 50 COUPS CIVIL WARS AND REVOLUTIONS ROMANTICISM REALISM MODERNISM AND POSTMODERNISM EMERGED NEON GENESIS EVANGELION CAME OUT
i love how i tag these as plot bunnies when they’re outlines for fics. what the fuck yall.
how about an au where the three survivors of the hale fire band together to recover and peter was never in a coma and laura remains the alpha and derek learns how to werewolf good from his uncle, who is a good beta okay.
and anyway, it’s summer and laura and derek and peter are in new york most of the year with extended family, going to school and working and stuff like that, but in the summer, they always come back home with all the money they’ve saved up. they order stuff in bulk — planks of wood, pipes to redo the plumbing, paneling and insulation, wires — and spend their summer doing work on their house, rebuilding it to its former glory.