Killing off characters

Its been a great week to be outdoors, so I have taken advantage of it as much as possible. My garden is planted and things are already starting to poke out of the ground. My tomatoes have little yellow flowers on them already. I am trying a few new things this year: garlic, habaneros, and watermelon. Oh yeah plus rue-barb and winter onions. So lots of new possibilities.

We steal lots of rue-barb every year, so its best that we grow our own. Many a night, we go creeping around the neighborhood on after-dark ninja rue-barb raids. Rue-barb muffins are amazing and we can’t live without them.

It hasn’t rained in a while now, so that’s a problem. Running up the water bill but oh well.

I am almost done editing my second novel! I am pretty pumped up about that. The title of this book is “The Rise of the Wenchiron Zombies” and I am quite pleased with how its turning out. The editing process was brutal and I would describe it more as a re-write. But that’s okay. Write drunk, edit sober- didn’t someone say that?

Tagline/Blurb: His grandfather disappeared one day a long time ago…now his brother is murdered and his nephew is missing. As Trent becomes obsessed to find the monster responsible for these crimes, he quickly finds out the guilty are beyond the law and to bring his family home he must enter a world he knows nothing about and strike an impossible deal.

My question to you is this: how sacred are central characters? Sure many characters are killed off during the course of the story. Some are bigger and more important than others. Many characters are born to die, so to speak. Others maybe should live, what do you think?

As I plow through this re-write, I have myself thinking one one of the main characters should die now. I know no one writes horror novels with happy endings in mind, most of the time.

How do you decide who lives and dies?

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7 thoughts on “Killing off characters

  1. I have killed off main characters before, with mixed responses. I think that, as long as you do it with purpose, it works … although some readers might resent you for it just the same.

  2. it’s always a tricky call… on one hand, not killing a character that should probably die will feel cheap to the reader, like watching network television handling a show that should be on HBO (imagine Game of Thrones on NBC, where Ned still has his head to keep the 38-58 male demographic watching)…

    On the other hand, that character is your baby and you want to do everything possible to protect them… you feel, after they spilled their story to you, killing them would be so cruel.

    Always a tough call, and all writers have been there. I think in the end whatever decision you make you have to know that you’ll need to live with the decision and hope it was the right one.

    Armand

  3. yep so true…I let him live in the rough draft but I don’t think he is making it through the edits 🙂

  4. After dark ninja rue-barb raids huh? Too funny! How’s it goin’, Erik?
    I’m one of those who believes the story comes from the heavens and I am merely tuned to it…or something like that. I don’t feel like I’m creating the story so much as I am writing it down for others. With that in mind, I’m not choosing for anyone to die, but simply reporting their deaths, whenever that might be.
    I swear I’m sipping water now. Really, it’s only water! Okay there was beer in the afternoon and wine with dinner, but I’m relatively sober as I type this comment. 😉
    Take it easy.

    -Jimmy

  5. Hey Erik,

    Saw this post and been meaning to stop by and read it.

    First off, for some reason, our main seed supplier won’t send rhubarb seeds to Utah. Not sure what that is all about, and I’m pretty bummed about it. May have to seek out another vendor.

    As to your bigger question, I would agree with Armand. If the story seems to dictate that a character dies, you have to kill that character, whether you want to or not. Otherwise, you will have cheated your reader. You can’t pull a Deus Ex Machina to get them out. When I wrote the first draft of The Imaginings, I had a main character surviving to the end. Then in subsequent revisions and rewrites, I realized that this particular character needed to die in order to make the story work. It was a hard decision, but I haven’t had a single reader (all three of them :)) complain. I think it’s because it was necessary to the story.

    Good luck with your edits. God speed.

    Paul D. Dail
    http://www.pauldail.com- A horror writer’s not necessarily horrific blog

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