Character Death

(I really like this photo. I will cry if you steal it. ‘Nuff said.)

Let’s get uncomfortable.

You love your characters. They’re your babies. Even if they’re vile and you’d never want to meet them in real life, you love them anyway. Because they’re your creations.

Only you can decide what happens to them. Sometimes, there’s the temptation to coddle them and give them everything they could ever want.

If they were real, they probably wouldn’t want to have everything handed to them on a silver platter. But guess what? They’re characters. They can’t tell you what they want.

And it’s your job not to care. Your job is to get the story told. If that requires a massive slaughter of everyone, then so be it. It has to happen. You can’t pout and say, “But I don’t want Character A to kill Character B. They’re in love.” Tough crap if they’re in love. If Character A needs to be a certain person for your story to be told correctly, then you need to do whatever it takes to make him or her that person. Sometimes, that involves having them do things you don’t want them to.

Yes, they’re your characters, and you control what they do. But you have to remain true to characterization and plot.

You have to suck it up and kill them sometimes.

It happens. Get over it.

Push your characters to their limits–see what they’re made of. Show yourself what they can do. Don’t stop until you get exactly what you need.

That may take tons of rewrites. They’re worth it if you want to do your characters justice.

Personally, I kill someone off in just about every short story I write. It’s almost a compulsion. It’s something that has to happen. I don’t know why. But it’s better than me killing real people, isn’t it?

Your assignment: Write a short story (3-20 pages) in which a character dies. Sounds simple, right? Make it unpredictable. Write a character so deep into chaos that (s)he does not know what he or she will do from moment to moment. (You don’t have to do that last one, but it will be rewarding if you do. Just don’t delve into insanity the way your character has.) I know you don’t like killing your creations, but it has to happen sometime.

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