JUST A NOTE! The header image contains spoilers to several movies.
Have you ever fallen in love with a character only to have them killed off later? Oh, the sting-the agony!
But let me just tell you–you haven’t experienced true downfall until you become a writer and kill off your own characters. I was depressed for a week after killing off a character I had come to love. Killing off a character affected my mood that entire week. No kidding.
All this to say…what? I am going to be the evil villain who gives you some tips I picked off from the web–on effectively depressing other people. That’s right. I killed my beloved character- now I want YOU to kill one of yours. You pick. But first I’m going to give you tips on how to make you character likeable (yep, so you can twist the knife as you insert it- otherwise people will rejoice at the death of an average/or unlikable character.).
- Create SYMPATHY for the character. Make your readers identify with them- put in links.
- Get your character in trouble! Throw some mud on your character (false accusations), make them the victim of something, put them into some kind of jeopardy.
- Make the character likeable. Don’t go ‘duh’ just yet. Here are examples of making the character more likeable:
i. Make him/her good or nice.
ii. Make him/her funny.
iii. Make the character talented at what he/she does.
4. Introduce the character as soon as possible. That’s right- make sure that you make them the center of interest quickly. If it’s not really a main character- then don’t worry too much about this. Instead, just introduce them as fast as possible.
5. Show the character in touch with his/her own power.
i. Power over other people. (manipulative?)
ii. Power to do what needs to be done, without hesitation.
iii. Power to express his/her feelings regardless of what others think.
6. Place the character in a familiar-ish setting. Yeah, I know. Some of us write fantasy and you create your own world. In my novel I created my own world but gave it modern tendencies. You may want to experiment with your world to make the character more identifiable.
7. Give the character flaws, sins, and defects that we all know. If she’s perfect it’s hard for us to identify. Because, if we’re truly being honest we sin all the time/ make mistakes.
“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”
~ 1 John 1:8
8. But if this is a story about a superhero…you may find it more attractive to give your character perfection or special powers. Another story I’m writing, The Brown Recluse, is a superhero-ish story. But I’m making her an ex-criminal. I’m also adding Biblical themes to the story to add a redemption flavor. So my superhero has flaws. Marvel superheros have flaws (well all except Cap, haha!). Just play by ear.
9. The eyes of the audience. Try to only give the readers information when the main character gets the info. It will make them need to know the truth. They will BE the main character–and experience the main character’s frustrations. The character will be more likeable if they feel strongly about what they don’t know yet.
NOW WE’RE READY TO TALK ABOUT COMMITTING A CHARACTER’S MURDER…
(I’m mostly going off of another blogger, I’ll include the link to that post at the bottom of the post.)
How should you kill off the character effectively? How shouldn’t you kill off a character?
You Should if it:
- Advances the plot
- Fulfills the doomed character’s goal
- Motivates other characters
- A fitting recompense for the character’s actions up to this point
- Emphasizes the theme
- Creates realism in the story
- Removes an extraneous character
You Shouldn’t if it:
- Shocks readers just for the sake of shocking them.
- Makes readers sad just for the sake of making them sad. If you don’t have a good reason to murder a character–don’t do it! Readers will get a bad kind of frustration which will just make them mad.
- Cuts an extraneous character. Yes, I know. I just said that was a good reason. But you better make sure the extraneous character really belonged in the story in the first place.
And now I’m going to quote the blog:
How to Kill a Character: A Checklist
Lucky for our sadistic little souls, roles and archetypes can shift from character to character or be shared by several characters. In short: when a character dies off, his death doesn’t have to mean his role will be left vacant for the rest of the story.
With all this knowledge in mind, here’s a quickie checklist for figuring out if you can get away with murder:
- You have scrutinized the list of good reasons to kill off a character.
- You have identified one of the reasons as being present in your plot (or come up with a new good reason).
- You have identified what role and archetype your character fills in your story.
- You have created and positioned another character(s) to fill the hole left in your story by the doomed character’s death.
- Your story ends in a thematically satisfying way that doesn’t require the character’s role to be perpetuated.
Sometimes the death of a character can raise an ordinary story into something special. If you can justify a character’s death, then go for it! Special may be just around the corner.
So there you go! Off to your desk to commit the murder of YOUR character.
How many characters have YOU killed off?
What’s the worst you’ve done to a character to bring about their death?
Who’s a character in a movie or a book that was killed of that you loved?