When blood-soaked hands are a good thing…


This made me laugh entirely too much! Source: www.quickmeme.com

This made me laugh entirely too much!
Source: http://www.quickmeme.com

No, I haven’t been on a killing spree (although my trainer asked me this morning if I’d been to Melbourne recently as he nodded to the news coverage of the recent double murder down that way) I don’t think I look like a killer!

I am of course!

But only when referring to that time when a writer must kill off a character in their work.

One of my favourite authors (Michael J. Sullivan) wrote an article on this subject almost a year ago now and it made me laugh, it made me remember the characters he’s talking about and also made me think about how I plan on doing this with my own characters. I know I fully intend to kill off a character or characters in my novel/s and I have a fairly good idea of how I want to do that, but Michael is correct. The death of the character can’t shouldn’t just be for theatrics, it needs to have a bigger purpose, or you might end up having a book that reads like the story line in one of those daytime TV soap operas.

So, how is it done?

I’m still learning that, but I do know of a few authors who have done it well.  **Potential book spoilers below!**

Michael is one of them, his Riyria Revelations series encompasses what I believe to be one of the best character deaths I’ve read. Of course it was sad, but good writing can effect a reader just as much as the bigger meaning behind the death. In tandem with the sadness was other emotions. I felt shared anger with some of the other characters (pretty normal for the death of a good protagonist or main character), I felt relief that is wasn’t my favourite character that died (Michael likes to tease his readers!), also a relatively common feeling when reading a well written book. But, I also felt/understood the bigger meaning behind the death, it might not have been immediately clear, but it soon came to light why that character had to die.

Hugh Howey’s Wool is another book that showcases an epic character death. He too likes to tease his readers into believing they know who might die, when they might die and then whisking them on a rollercoaster ride in another direction entirely. In Wool you could see how a certain death has a ripple effect on the rest of the characters. How one action is the catalyst for the whole unravelling of the story.

Other epic deaths have been found in books written by Ben S. Dobson, Tony Talbot, Jessica Park (albeit in a round about way) and Suzanne Collins. Each are different, have different causes, different emotions attached to them, but their differences make them no less epic, gut-wrenching or soul-crushing. I know I can only hope to emulate the same successes these authors have had in their murders.

Have you murdered a character? Did it gut you as much as you hope it guts your readers when you kill a favourite character? Do you have your own examples of epic character deaths? Share them below.

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6 thoughts on “When blood-soaked hands are a good thing…

  1. Pingback: Killing Characters | Writer Block

  2. I hate killing off a character and will avoid it at all costs (but it can happen). I feel like I’ve murdered a best friend 😦

    • Interesting isn’t it 🙂

      I have plans to kill characters, I am actually looking forward to it. That of course may change once we’ve been on the journey of the story.

      I know from my reading, that it feels like my best friend died when some of the characters die. I can only hope to emulate that writing when it comes time to kill my characters so my readers will feel as gutted as I have before. 🙂

  3. The most emotionally wrenching death I ever read was at the end of the children’s book “Where the Red Fern Grows”. My wife warned me, but I still ended up crying. Another is the brutal and clinical process of “unwinding” in the Neil Shusterman book of the same name; it still haunts me when I think about it.

    • I also think the book thief is a good example. I was bawling my eyes out!

      When you write characters Tony, do you know that they need to die before you get to their death in the story?

      • I knew that Chelsea was going to die in “Taken”; she always was, right from the start – it was important, I thought, that Amon stand on his own two feet at some point, and it was another way of ramping up the stakes. And Jenna and Scott from “Over the Mountain” as well, obviously.

        Sometimes characters do escape though; Mary’s father in American Girl was going to commit suicide by throwing himself at the prison camp wire, but he got a reprieve. 🙂

        In my WIP, I deliberated between a character living or dying for a while, but – in the first draft anyway – he’s made it so far! Mostly because I need him for some exposition. 🙂

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