Thursday, April 02, 2009

Killing Off Characters

I ran into a dilemma today that crops up from time to time in my writing. There’s a character in the book I’m working on who needs to die. I didn’t really make a conscious decision to kill him off. I never even thought much about it. I just knew instinctively that he was one of the characters who wouldn’t survive the book. Now that I’m farther into the manuscript, I even know how he ought to meet his end, right down to some of the dialogue.

But here’s the problem: I like him. He’s fun to write. And unlike some of the other characters, he hasn’t really done anything to deserve the gruesome death I have planned for him. I don’t want to keep him around for other books, mind you. He’s just a supporting character in this one particular plot and has no place in future books in the series. There’s still a part of me that would like to see him make it through alive.

Luckily, I still have seventy or eighty pages to go in this manuscript, and if he does die, it’ll be fairly late, so I don’t have to decide right away. It’s a hard decision, because killing him off would make for a pretty effective moment in the story, I think.

And they say doctors have God complexes.


James Bojaciuk said...

I went/going through the same thing in my novel. Its hard sometimes. I chose to kill the guy, but I still wonder if he should have lived.
anyway, good luck in choosing life or death.
James B.

Scott D. Parker said...

I also went through the same thing. I needed the lead of my first book, Harry Truman, to have a partner. So I invented one. He took on a life of his own and I thoroughly enjoyed writing him. When it came time for me to write the scene I had originally intended to have, it was quite difficult.

Charles Gramlich said...

I've faced that dilemma, and it was probably hardest to deal with in Cold in the Light where I really lavished some care on some characters who died. I tend to think of it as a challenge but I can talk myself into enjoying it. Maybe that says nasty things about me.

Nik Morton said...

And of course that excellent underrated film STRANGER THAN FICTION addresses this very issue. As did Stephen King's DARK HALF, if I recall. You can give life, and you can take it away - a bit godlike, isn't it?