So You Killed a Character. Now What? by Dellani Oakes

There come times when we have to kill off a character. I know it’s hard, but swords slash, guns go off, bombs blow and a life ends.

First, you cry. At least I do. I can’t speak for those people who are callous and uncaring, but I cry like crazy. It’s like losing a friend, especially when it’s someone you like.

Second, you torture yourself with it for awhile to see how it feels. It feels awful. You’re a horrible person! How could you do such an awful thing?

Third, you remember that movie “Stranger Than Fiction” and worry if you really killed off a real person! (Come on, it’s a MOVIE of course you didn’t. You don’t have any special voodoo powers.

Fourth, you move on. You have to resolve the conflict and finish the book. The death moved the story forward. You had to do it. Someone had to die besides the bad guy. So he was a wonderful, sweet, good looking, loving character! Someone had to do the job, and he did it.

Well, the fourth one doesn’t always happen, but you try. I bring all this up, because I just killed off not one, but two very likeable characters so that the plot could advance. One of them was old, he’d lived an exemplary life, he was going to die soon anyway. The other was young, full of life, in prime physical condition, had just fallen in love and found out his fiancee was going to have a baby. He was looking forward to marriage, fatherhood, building a long and happy life together.

Then I killed him. I feel like an assassin. I feel mean and callous and uncaring. Because of me, that woman is suffering. That baby will grow up without a father and his best friend is miserable. But I know that somehow they will soldier on without him and go on with their lives.

Maybe it will make me feel better to imagine his fiancee marrying someone else and finding a happy life with him. Perhaps I’ll comfort myself knowing that, although the daughter didn’t know her father, the man who raises her loves her as if she were his own child. And possibly, I can delight in the fact that his best friend will find out who is responsible for his death, and make him pay!

Yes, there are many things I can do to mollify myself. But I hope I don’t have to kill off any more characters in this book, because I just used my last tissue.


7 thoughts on “So You Killed a Character. Now What? by Dellani Oakes

  1. I hope your characters died for a good reason. That’s my biggest pet peeve with novels — when characters die for no reason, just because, or like out of some freak accident that has no bearing on the plot. I know that kind of thing happens all the time in real life, but I guess I prefer things to make more sense in books 😀

    • Michelle, I promise, no character dies in vain. I’m not like ‘Star Trek’ where every guy in a red shirt was destined to die. Murdock, the guy I mentioned in the article, died because I needed motivation for the hero to pursue the villain and bring him down. Killing one of his best friends provided that.

  2. I’ve had to “kill” a few people during the writing of the four books that are completed. (Thank goodness my two Christmas short stories had no murders!) Sometimes it really gets to me – especially when I had no plans of getting rid of that character until suddenly – poof – my hands type and my eyes see on the screen that someone has died. Sounds weird, but it really happens that way sometimes. In the third book of my series, Grisholm Co. Chronicles, that happened to a well-loved character who played a minor but very important role in each of the three chronicles. I cried my eyes out. When I “killed” the bad guys, though…no tears. Just like in real life.

    • Eileen, I know how you feel. I had absolutely no intention of killing Murdock when I started the book. I cried the whole time, especially when he threatened his fiancee. (He was being controlled by someone else). He didn’t hurt her. In fact, the reason he dies is because he fights so hard against the mind control.

      Yeah, I don’t cry for the bad guys either. 😉

  3. Pingback: So You Killed a Character. Now What? by Dellani Oakes « Dellani Oakes

  4. It is the hardest thing to do. I agonised over it for days and then mourned along with my remaining characters. Life for them sucks sometimes. But there is purpose in doing it. Nice blogs 🙂

  5. One of my main characters in ‘A Construct of Angels’ had to die – he was pitted against a far more capable and powerful opponent so there was no way he could win – although he came close several times. In the end, he perished, having delayed the antagonist’s plans just long enough to make a difference.
    As he faded away, the woman who had come to love him wailed, pleaded and begged for him to live, but to no avail.
    I am moved to tears whenever I review that sad chapter… 😥

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