Professional book editor in the UK discusses whether aspiring authors should consider killing one of the main characters in their novel!
So, you’re considering pulling the trigger on one of your beloved characters.
Your decision could be for a number of reasons: maybe you’ve written yourself into a corner and feel that someone has to die to get your story free of a plot hole. Perhaps the story is starting to drag a bit and so you’re looking for an easy way to spice it up. Or it could be that you don’t really want anyone to die, but all signs within the novel are pointing towards their demise.
Regardless of the reason, you now have to ask: Should I actually kill this character? And how should I go about it?
My answer might not surprise you, but it depends on how you’ve constructed your characters, how you allow the story to emerge within your writing, and what kind of novel you’re writing for what type of audience.
But leaving it at “it depends on what you’re trying to create” isn’t an especially helpful answer, so let’s break it down a bit.
Generally, the benefit of killing a character comes from two things: emotional effect and plot impact.
Death hurts, so if done well, death wreaks emotional havoc on the characters and the reader. Death also complicates things, so much so that it should never simplify your story. Stakes are raised, trust is broken, and paranoia is instilled.
However, there are already numerous posts around the internet that break down these basic pros and cons, so, for this post, let’s delve a bit deeper into some nuances of character death and some additional things to consider.