Writing Tips: To kill or not to kill

There is one thing that can either be daunting or addictive to writers, and that is murder.Jlw

Albeit fictional, you’ve brought this person into the world, named them, given them a history, a personality and perhaps love. Happy is boring – we all know that. So to kill or not to kill?

How easy is it to kill a character that trusted you to bring them into the world, from the safe cocoon of your mind?

CharacterdeathFor some, it is not only easy, it is enjoyable! A murdered character is a sure way to cause an emotional response from the reader, and that, at the end of the day, is what makes the cookie crumble.

Of course it could depend on what you had intended for the character from the start. If you had created them for the sole purpose of being a victim, it might not bother you.

As much as it pains me to say, killing an important character definitely does have its merits.

Reasons to kill your beloved brain-child


cryingLets face it, the main reason to kill off a well liked character is to create an emotional impact. It draws the reader in with feelings of anger, sadness and the injustice of it all, making them want to carry on to the end to see the character avenged.

Though there are other reasons that are not solely focussed on the affect it will have on the reader.


Killing those characters gives other important players motivation to continue with their quest. Your character lacking the will to go ahead with killing the evil magician? Kill his best friend/lover/mother, that might just drive him to overcome his adversity to murder.

True Character

Leading on from it being a motivation for a character, it can also be used as a way to show their true colours. How far are they willing to go to avenge a loved one? How will they react? Will it drive them into a murderous frenzy? Or will they break down and cry for their mummy and daddy.

Doing it the right way



Cliché refers to an expression that has been overused to the extent that it loses its original meaning or novelty. A cliché may also refer to actions and events which are predictable because of some previous events.

There’s nothing worse than a wasted death, and by wasted, I mean a death that was so obvious the reader saw it coming a mile off.

goonThe Sacrifice

Or the go on with out me  proclamation with the outstretched arm. Not only is it a cliché, it is so unrealistic it’s just plain stupid. If I had my leg stuck with a ton of zombies coming towards me, would I hell tell the only person with me to go on without me, I’d tell them to get me the hell out!

The Forced Sympathy

By forced sympathy I mean the over the top attempt trying to generate a connection with the character about to die – so as to make the death more meaningful to the reader. This is far too obvious and everyone is wise to this trick, which can be detrimental to your desired effect.

The Convenient Demise

The convenient demise is often used when your main character’s true love has already fallen for someone else, and you don’t want them to seem like a bad person for leaving their wife/husband, so you just kill them off. If it is not employed in the right way, it can come across as tacky, predictable and quite frankly, lazy.

All that being said, at the end of the day, you’re in charge. A friend of mine said this to me:
I’d write a fluff characters death scene, just because it was cathartic – Belle
Which is as a good a reason as any, if you want to kill a character for your own reasons, there’s no shame in that!
Hell, it wouldn’t surprise me if some authors have a lot of issues to work through, the amount of death they throw into their novels, and we still love them regardless!
George R.R.Martin, Joss Whedon, and Steven Moffat walk into a bar, and everyone you’ve ever loved dies.

Thanks to my lovely friends in the Camp NaNo thread for their inspirational thoughts on writing death, and their constant support! Also thanks to Belle for the awesome joke above!

Opinions expressed in this blog are mainly my own, and are in no way rules by which you should live by when writing, they are merely tips.
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