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Killing off a character

richardshagrin

One of our Australian writers has killed off one of his major female characters. The story is just starting, only the prologue has been posted. I am less than thrilled about it. This is one of those times when its hard to come up with a number between one and ten to encapsulate my reaction. "Weird" would probably work better.

I'd like to solicit the reaction of other readers or editors or reviewers to this plot twist, starting a story by killing off a character that lived through more than 20 other stories. I thought fiction was supposed to end "and they lived happily ever after".

Ernest Bywater

@richardshagrin

I'd like to solicit the reaction of other readers or editors or reviewers to this plot twist,


I'm waiting to see if he finishes it before starting it. I do prefer he finishes the previous story first - because he's done nothing on it over a year.

BTW: Although he writes about Australia he's from Europe, lives in Canada, and I can only find one period when he was in Australia for some time while working computer software at or near the ANU in Canberra. Thus I find some of the political comments he makes in some stories hard to understand. However, some are on target, and some are so devoid of fact it's not funny.

Crumbly Writer

I've killed off plenty of characters (major and minor) in my time, and often end with 'positive unhappy endings', but you've got to be extremely careful.

It would be OK to kill off a beloved character initially if the story revolved around her death (like an investigation into how she died, or the mc's reaction to her death) it would be a fitting start, as the reader is as shocked as the character himself is, and thus could feel his grief/shock.

However, if the story doesn't revolve around her disappearance, then there'd be little point in her death (storywise). The idea is, if you kill off a main character, something damn good had better come out of it. Even then, you're risking losing readers over it, so tread lightly. I lost several readers when I ended my first series by killing off the character (a couple reviews started with 'don't read this book because ...').

Replies:   pangor
Ernest Bywater

The series starts with character A then they meet Character B and marry them, then it moves on to Character C their child for a some stories. This later story is back to Character A in the wake of the death of Character B.

It's yet to be seen how central to the story it is.

garymrssn
Updated:

Characters A and B had already begun their ride into the sunset. A traumatic natural event interrupts their ride and not only frees character A for another adventure, it also gives him the push to go on that adventure.

I see it as a simple and effective plot device.

Character B may be gone forever or could reappear as an influential memory or embodied spirit as long as it doesn't break the established story boundaries.

sejintenej

@garymrssn

Character B may be gone forever or could reappear as an influential memory or embodied spirit as long as it doesn't break the established story boundaries.

This was my immediate reaction. In life we are to some extent or other, influenced by those we meet.

Michael Loucks

@garymrssn

Character B may be gone forever or could reappear as an influential memory or embodied spirit as long as it doesn't break the established story boundaries.


I did this with the main love interest for my MC in AWLL. The main love interest died at the end of the first book in the series, but her effect on the next fourteen books is profound.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@Michael Loucks

But you won't kill off toxic Stephanie :(

AJ

Replies:   Michael Loucks
Dominions Son

@richardshagrin

One of our Australian writers has killed off one of his major female characters.


There is a US TV series that starts with the main character's death. She gets recruited to work as a reaper.

Then there is the movie RIPD, The main character (a cop) is killed by his partner at the beginning of the movie and they gets forced to work for an agency that tracks down and captures dead people who have escaped from the after-life.

Capt. Zapp

@Dominions Son

There is a US TV series that starts with the main character's death. She gets recruited to work as a reaper.


Dead Like Me - killed by a toilet seat. What a way to go.

Michael Loucks

@awnlee jawking

But you won't kill off toxic Stephanie :(


Keep reading. This will be addressed. :-)

Replies:   PotomacBob
StarFleetCarl

@Dominions Son

Then there is the movie RIPD, The main character (a cop) is killed by his partner at the beginning of the movie and they gets forced to work for an agency that tracks down and captures dead people who have escaped from the after-life.


Right, but that was the whole point of the story in RIPD. Hey, you're dead, now let's get into what happens next.

It's when you have a character, flesh them out, get attached to them, and then watch them get killed ... that's what rips out a little of your heart.

A perfect example (SPOILER ALERT HERE) is in the Legacy of the Aldenata Series by John Ringo. You get very much attached to one of the characters in 'A Hymn Before Battle', then get to see that character killed in 'Gust Front'. First time through, just tore me up.

pangor

@Crumbly Writer

The idea is, if you kill off a main character, something damn good had better come out of it.


Exactly. Killing a core character is something that should have a purpose, and should never just be something on the sideline.

I read a story with two main characters (with a maybe 60:40 balance of importance), and in the next story, only the first one appeared again, and the second one had died somewhere between those stories, without further explanation. And even this information was only mentioned in passing, somewhere in the middle of the second story.

helmut_meukel

In a TV series not killing one of the main characters but replacing the actor is probably worse.

HM.

Geek of Ages

@pangor

Someone should alert George R. R. Martin to this

sejintenej

There is a story on SOL about a paramedic who collects an old Chinese man from a care home to take him to hospital to die. Given the next paragraphs the soon-to-be dead Chinese becomes the joint MC (or perhaps the MC - I won't give the story twist away.

PotomacBob

@Michael Loucks

NO! Don't kill off loving Stephanie!

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@PotomacBob

NO! Don't kill off loving Stephanie!


There's always her non-evil doppelganger, Josie ;)

AJ

Crumbly Writer

@pangor

The idea is, if you kill off a main character, something damn good had better come out of it.

Exactly. Killing a core character is something that should have a purpose, and should never just be something on the sideline.

In my case, the character deaths are central to the stories (i.e. the story ends with their deaths, as there's nothing further to be added, other than an epilogue about what happens after their deaths). In one case, the entire story was about those in the middle of a world-wide pandemic coping with the deaths they watch unfolding around them, so the deaths (even the apparent deaths of the main characters at the end) is central to the entire plot. However, that doesn't matter to the disappointed readers, who feel crushed to see a favorite character disappear, for whatever reason. For those readers, the deaths feel like a personal lose, rather than a plot point!

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