Killing a character is easy for some, but more difficult for others. It may be necessary to advance your plot and take your protagonist to the next level in their development. It can also be used as a device for keeping your readers on their toes with good reason. We’ve all experienced some level of devastation with our favourite character is killed (I still can’t get over the death of Mufasa in The Lion King).
Why you should kill a character:
- Their death adds to the plot.
- It fulfills the character’s end goal.
- Their death motivates another character to reach their full potential.
- Death is an appropriate punishment for a character’s prior behavior.
- Killing a character adds a sense of reality to your story.
Why you shouldn’t kill a character:
- You want to get rid of a meaningless character.
- You want to shock or upset your reader for no reason.
Who do you want to kill?
This decision may be as simple as an antagonist, protagonist or secondary character. You may want to kill off a group of characters, but this death has to be someone that your reader cares about.
How do you want the death to affect your reader?
Do you want them to feel like the character got what they deserved? Do you want your reader to feel grief, heartbreak, surprise, fear or relief?
What effect does this death have on the characters that remain?
Do they seek vengeance? Do they want to avenge the death of the character? Does a character slip into a state of depression or have mental health issues due to the character’s death? Does the death trigger psychological issues? Do they become addicts or pick up bad habits to mask or forget about the death? Are they motivated to live a more fulfilling life? Is their circumstances improved due to the death of the character?
Why does the character die?
Do they serve as a sacrifice for someone else or their community? Do they try to save the protagonist’s life? Is it suicide? Is their death a mistake? Do they die in an accident or are they murdered? Are they suffering from a terminal illness? Are they infected with a virus or disease?
How do they die?
Does their death take a long time or is it sudden? Do they die trying to find an antidote or cure to a disease? Do they succumb to their death or fight it? Do they suffer or pass away peacefully? Are they in control of the circumstances around their death? Do they die alone or are their witnesses? Do they die in a public space? Are they resurrected? Is someone able to communicate with them from beyond the grave? Do they haunt the remaining characters or visit them in visions and dreams?
100 Ways to kill your character:
- Acid bath
- Acquired disease
- Airplane/train/car crash
- Alien abduction
- Amusement park ride malfunction
- Anaphylactic shock
- Animal attack
- Asteroid or meteor shower
- Boiling to death
- Buried alive
- Cannon ball
- Carbon Monoxide poisoning
- Child birth
- Disease due to lack of sanitation
- Disease spread by animals
- Electric chair
- Excessive blood loss
- Failed science experiment
- Falling while riding an animal
- Fatal sting
- Firing squad
- Food poisoning
- Genetic disease
- Heart attack
- Hit by a vehicle
- Infectious disease
- Inhaling deadly gas by accident
- Insect spread disease
- Lethal injection
- Medical malpractice
- Mythical creature
- Natural disaster
- Nuclear weapon
- Organ failure
- Ranged weapon
- Roller coaster
- Serial killer
- Solar flare
- Sports injury
- Surgical complications
- Taking incorrect medication
- Terminal illness
- Venomous bite
As always, here’s a PDF copy of this post with questions that you can answer before Killing A Character.
Have you killed a character before? How did it make you feel to kill a character? Do you have any tips to share on how to kill a character? Do you have any ways to kill a character to add to the list? Which character’s death affects you to this day? Let me know by commenting below!
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