Killing a character is a big deal. Many authors find it hard to write. Many readers grow so attached to the unfortunate victim that they even cry and complain. Death is a serious topic. Check out these reasons why a character death can be a good author decision. Or when the decision is not needed. And do not forget to share your views! Do you find it hard to read or write about this? Did some character death break your heart or did you see it as a ridiculous solution? Do you know a character who deserves death but they are still alive?
Advance the plot and influence the characters
This might be a major reason for such a serious decision. The death swirls the plot and sends it forward in a fresh leap. With one death, you can wreak havoc in the whole family and so energize your mystery or psychological drama. Death of a certain character can cause peace or war. Or you can make certain vital information or documents disappear with the character and so send the plot onward in an unexpected direction. Death can also spark completely new events in your story.
Death is very hard to take in the real life. It should not be different in your fictional world as well. Character death can motivate others. Or, on the other hand, cause their temporal numbness and frustration that stops them from acting for a short time.
Even the character destined to die can show the effects of death if it is not sudden. An ill person can fight with all their might to make their life meaningful during the last days. The dying character can change their life views, help others, provide a deep psychological insight into the dying mind. Or spend their time executing revenge. Killing the character allows you to comment on some real life issues as well.
Remove an extra character
Yes, it happens. Sometimes, one needs to say goodbye after a certain time and stop occupying the space. But be careful here. Death is not the only option when you need to get your character out of sight once the novel is going to focus on something else.
First, make sure the character is truly needed in the whole story. What is the role of this character in terms of the plot or in relation to the others? Does this character carry some special meaning that is vital to the message of your novel? Is this character’s death going to heavily influence something two books later in your series? If not, you can also erase the whole character as such without the need to waste the limited word count.
If the character did their important job and their active role is finished, evaluate the negative and positive balance in your plot. A good death that drives the readers to tears and makes an emotional impact that will sear this book into their hearts is great. Especially if death is a scarce and major event in your writing. But if your novel already contains enough heartache, tragedy, or violence, you can consider other, less negative options. People travel. Or argue and stop contacting each other. They get new appointments or just gradually disappear from one’s life. You don’t have to cut the character’s throat, just send them to another city and make their correspondence never appear.
Death is realistic or even deserved
People die every single day. We cannot avoid our final journey beyond, whatever lies there. You have to consider this when writing about certain time periods or places. People often make decisions and mistakes that ultimately lead to their end. Your readers will surely appreciate the vivid and tragically realistic effects of plague, serious car accident, or acute radiation sickness. Breaking their hearts or making their stomachs turn is, in these cases, often much better than keeping the characters alive despite the common sense and losing credibility as an author who does not do their research, drags the events, or is a coward when it comes to radical changes. Keep in mind that you need to write the death scene well. Do not brush it off too quickly but also do not go wild with the length and descriptions.
Characters’ mistakes often call for a kind of realistic consequences. Again, you have to evaluate all the above and decide whether your blackmailing tyrant, careless detective, or too inquisitive and gossipy bartender should just disappear from the pages or their character arc should reach the final end without any doubt it is the end. Or a ghost transformation.