Aug 19, 2010

Killing Off Lovable Characters

In my YA Paranormal Romance, Blood Bound, I have a white tiger named Toran. He's a special tiger with special powers, one of which is a loyal and loving personality. The main character, Kira, forms a relationship with Toran that is destined to last a lifetime, but in the final scenes of the book, I kill him off. I've struggled with this and actually  written an alternate ending where he lives.

Recently, I sent Blood Bound out to several readers to get their opinion on the storyline and what they thought would make the book better. So far, the ones that have finished it have hated me for killing off Toran. This has made me reconsider the ending, but I'm still not sure which version would better serve the next book in the series.

In The Hidden Sun, by J. Lloyd Morgan, he kills off one of the main characters without warning and it really made me mad. I'd just learned to love her and wanted her to live a happy life. But as I kept reading, I realized it was necessary for the story.

So, how do you decide who dies and who lives? Do you risk making your readers and hopefully your fans angry with you? And if you do make them mad, will they buy the next book to find out if you kill anyone else they love?


  1. I like killing off big characters because it is true to life and it is honest. Characters die=People die, it happens and if we are emotionally involved enough it will make the story have that much greater of an impact and we will remember the book because we cared enough.
    So yes, it has to be done right because no one will care about a book where EVERYONE lives happily ever after-the conflict would have no drive.

    Just my two bits.

  2. Um, I haven't killed any main characters off, but I think that's about to change. I'll let you know what I think of the process or whatever when I actually bring myself to do it! It's gonna hurt!

  3. It is a dilemma. As I was writing one of my novels I was determined to kill off a main character, but he just wouldn't die. I tried several times. And then I realized, he had to live. It's a tough decision. Good luck. :)

  4. You might have to risk people getting mad and hope that, like you, they will see the necessity of your actions.
    You cannot be afraid to kill of characters, even memorable ones. For several reasons... One being that it is a cycle of life and a natural thing. It just happens. Another being that if the story works with keeping the character alive, great. If not, you have to stick with your flow.
    I've got lots of people waiting in the wings to hate me soon. I kill off characters, mostly minor ones, occasionally. I'm about to hit the big time by rubbing out a main character soon.
    It is a tough choice, but one you will have to make and be happy with no matter what. Some people might not like that this character ends up living, because for whatever reason, it just should not have happened.
    I wish you luck. This is a tough struggle to deal with.

  5. I'm glad you brought this up. *smiles* I've had people accuse me of killing off a major character for the shock value, but they are missing the point.
    I did it for very specific reasons. Number one, it evokes an emotional response from the reader. If the character is developed well, and they likeable, I know that I get angry when something "bad" happens to them. Anytime as a writer where you can evoke an emotional response, either happy or sad, it means you have the reader invested in the story.
    Number two, I "borrowed" the concept from Joss Whedon's movie "Serenity". One of the more likeable characters dies in a stunning moment--and it ticked me off. But it did something else, it planted a seed of doubt in my mind that if it could happen to him, nothing was off limits. I wanted the good guys to win, but had doubts they would. It made the story that much more intense.
    Granted, if you did that in everything you wrote, it would lose its impact.
    I guess the point is, there needs to be a reason for it--even if it isn't clear at that moment to the reader.
    Heaven forbid they may actually have to *think* about why it happened.
    As for killing Toran off, what is the reason? Is it to make the book sad for the sake of being sad? Is it a heroic deed where it serves the greater good? Is there seemingly no reason to it, and that IS the reason?
    Last comment: When I was shopping around The Hidden Sun, one of the agents asked, "Is there language and / or sex scenes?" I responded, "No." Their reply, "Can you add some? It would sell better."
    In the end, I wrote the story I wanted to tell, not what others thought I should, and aside from some technical issues, I'm very pleased with the result. And in the end, that's what matters.

  6. Man! I wish I had waited to read this post! ;)

    Stephen King says to kill your darlings, so we'll see...