Discovering That a Character’s Death is Necessary


“Write the story you want to read…”

That’s really good advice and something I’ve always had in mind when I work.

My favorite fiction and fantasy stories all involve characters that have died and the most gripping authors and screenwriters know that death teaches us that life is fleeting.

I love George R. R. Martin’s books and I’ve enjoyed watching “A Game of Thrones” for the past few years. Yes, when I read the first book, I was horrified that a major character had been killed off in the middle of that story, but beyond that feeling and the sadness I felt because I’d gotten to really care about him, it let me know that this was a harsh, scary world and that no one was safe. It also prepared me, sort of, for the realization that any character could conceivably be written off if that would progress the story.

Four nights ago, I plotted out how I wanted a certain scene in my novel to go so that it would fit the way I wanted and achieve what I was after. That’s usually how I write: I have a story in mind, then I map it through an outline that highlights key plot points. I set it up as a sequence of events and I use the outline while I’m writing so that I kind of just ‘fill in the blanks’ to the story. I map out or add to my outline in the morning and in the afternoon or evening, I write the story. Usually not in the same day. I am always a few events behind my outline when I write.

I’ve learned that for myself, this is the best way for me to keep things straight. I don’t trust myself to not mix stuff up if I have to keep it all in my head. I want to have a guideline so that when I write, I can focus on the writing and descriptions and not have to worry about figuring out where the story is going, because I already know, or at least I already have a good idea. It’s not a strict thing, and if I end up writing something other than what I’ve planned, I’ll go with it. Sometimes going ‘off script’ works out and sometimes it doesn’t.

Two nights ago, I realized that in order to get the most impact and drive my point home, as well as to really provide a challenge for my characters to overcome, one of them had to die. It wasn’t an easy decision. The idea of creating a character, putting your work into them, bringing them to life, and then ending that is hard. So, I scripted that part into my outline, how I wanted to write it, snippets of dialog and action surrounding it, and ideas for what I wanted to follow.

Last night I sat at my computer and wrote that part of the story.

Then I left it alone and started working on rewriting my beginning. I’m going change what I’ve put in as prologue and merge it with my first chapter, adding an entirely different prologue to the story. I decided to do this because I wasn’t satisfied with just ending that character’s life as it was. I wanted it to be more.

Other characters will have to die. I’m pretty certain that they won’t all make it through this book and not through future books either. But, I will work my hardest at making sure that others feel what I felt for those characters when I wrote that scene.

Then, I think I can keep going with it.


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