How to kill your darlings?

Decisions, decisions.

We all know they have to die. I mean, yeah, we love them, but the show must go on. You should never shy away from killing off a character. Sometimes, things have to happen, and here’s why?

Who do you love?night-dark-halloween-horror.jpg

The first thing I always consider is who is loved in my cast. Who is hated? Who wouldn’t be missed? THIS is why it’s necessary to kill darlings, and not the guy next door. If there isn’t a big enough pay off emotionally, they will have died in vain. It will have meant nothing.

Who serves the story? Who doesn’t? 

Some characters can only be developed so far, and we all know them when we see them. In Redemption Burning, Beezer is a very killable character because he creates a conflicted emotion in his death. He leaves behind grief that serves my story better than his life did. It was a valiant end.

Loss hurts sometimes. 

But, you can’t destroy your readers. You just want to damage them a little. For this reason, I don’t recommend going all LL Martin on everyone. Loss of characters can lead to emotional fatigue in readers. The primary character who is much beloved might be a dangerous choice.

How they die matters.

One of the things I’ve told my writer son, again and again. Don’t waste lives on nothing, and how someone dies says as much about their contribution to a story as their role did in life. Most of my books involve war, so there’s no shortage of ways to kill a man.

However, the way you pull that trigger can be pivotal. What kind of death do they have? Valiant, senseless, romantic, dramatic, gory, betrayed. All of these emotions can dominate that last moment of your characters existence and make them a pivot point for someone else. Their death can mark one or many.

Death is not the end.

Oh, no, it’s not.

A dead character becomes canon in a series. They become, dare I say it, a fixed point in space and time. That moment defines how other characters react, how plot points are devised, and it forever changes your story somehow. (Because we don’t kill darlings for no reason, right?) That’s how you give your reader the closure they need on a character death; you take that death and spin it into the tapestry.

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