Wednesday, November 6, 2013


What do you think about killing the characters in your stories? Should an author do so? Are there certain times it's best? Or is that a no-no, most times?

Recently, in my WIP, I killed one of my characters. He wasn't the main character, but he was one of the major characters and important to the story. One of my critique partners, however, was not thrilled with what I had done. In fact, she hated the story after that. Whoa! Had I made a bad mistake?

Not long after that, a book in a series that I was reading did the same thing. The author did away with one of the major characters, and I felt the same way my crit partner had. I thought he should have survived. His death really disturbed me. So the ending of the series was ruined, in my opinion.

After these startling revelations,I revised my story and brought the character back to life. And you know what? The ending is much better, I believe. The reason for his survival is stronger than his death was. Recently I read a neat article entitled "Don't Kill the Dog." I loved it. The author says that in her book, the dog dies. She thought it would help her character grow and change when mourning the loss of her dog. The author's beta readers questioned if the dog had to die, as did her agent, and one editor told her a pet peeve of the editor was reading a story where the dog died. Yikes! Finally, the loss of her own dog recently made the author wonder about her story. To read the whole article go Query Tracker. It's great.

So how about you? Have you ever killed one of you main characters? If so, how did you feel about it?


Other news: My short story "Music in My Heart" is included in the anthology CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL, MIRACULOUS MESSAGES FROM HEAVEN.



  1. As you said, the death has to outweigh the life. Gratuitous deaths turn me off completely in a book. I will, and have, stopped reading. But one thing I have noticed a lot lately (in editing books) is the killing of a POV character. To my way of thinking, it can't be done. Most books are written in third person past tense. The character is telling the story of what happened to them - so how can they die? Too many authors write as if they are writing a TV or movie manuscript. In those, characters die - sometimes important characters. What they are failing to realize is that the POV character in all movies and TV shows is the camera. So, yeah, deaths in books can really make or break the book, IMHO.

  2. Great points. I hadn't thought of that. Thanks.

  3. The opening scene of my WIP has a teenage girl committing suicide. She's obviously not a main character, but she is part of a group of teenage girls that take up the rest of the story.

  4. What a great topic! And a dicey one, too. I also have been turned off by characters dying. I never read Agatha Christie's final Poirot book for that reason: it would have ruined the entire series for me. I haven't, as yet, killed off anyone in my books during the chronicle itself, (in flashback, maybe, but the reader knows in advance) but your post will make me weigh that decision very carefully should I ever come across that plot twist in my writing.

    On a related note, Gordon Korman wrote a hilarious book called No More Dead Dogs that starts with the main character refusing to write an essay about Old Yeller because he is tired of books that pertain to the death of a dog. Very funny book, but point well taken.

  5. In a case like yours, Geoff, where the reader hasn't yet become attached to the character, it might work okay. And if her suicide affects the lives of the other girls, their choices, etc., it could be important to the plot. Each story is different.

  6. I guess the key, Ophelia, is whether killing the character is really necessary to the story or not. Your mention of Old Yeller reminded me of when I was still teaching. My fifth grade class had watched Where the Red Fern Grows and a few days later Old Yeller. One boy came up to me, tears in his eyes, and asked why we had to watch movies where the dog died. An eye opener there.