Writing Death in Fiction

Sometimes characters die. Whether the author planned the death, or whether it happened through natural narrative development, it shouldn’t make a difference in the believability, the necessity, and the impact of the death.

Believability:

If you are going to kill a character off, make sure you do it right. Research is key. Your internet search history may become a place of nightmares, but if it means your death scene is accurate, then who cares?

Keep the death in keeping with the world you created. For example, if there is a antidote to death in your world, why has your character not been administered the antidote? If there is a machine to cure all diseases, why did your character die from infection?

Necessity:

Don’t kill a character for shock value, or in a vain attempt to make the reader cry. It will leave the reader dissatisfied, and crying tears of anger. Here are some valid reasons to kill a character:

  • To drive the narrative forward.
  • To motivate another character/ drive their story arc.
  • To bring conclusion to conflict.
  • To create realism in your world.

The reader will be more willing to accept a death that has reason. Whether it be the death of your protagonist’s beloved friend to motivate the protagonist to go the extra mile for revenge, or whether it is an antagonist’s death that brings an end to a major conflict.

 Impact:

If there is necessity, then the impact on the reader should be a natural progression. Do not skirt over the emotions of the remaining characters. Their reaction to the loss of the character can be powerful in moving the reader. Emphasis on what has been lost, what the character added to the story, will instil that same loss in the reader.

If its a comeuppance death (usually in regards to an antagonist), you want the death to be satisfying. This doesn’t mean gory or brutal, it can be, but it needs to offer closure to the conflict. Again, the remaining character’s reactions add depth to the death.


 Check out similar blog posts by: K.J. Chapman

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