forum research about killing off characters in a novel
Started by @tomat brightness_7
tune

people_alt 63 followers

@tomat brightness_7

hi, I'm doing a small research as the title says and I would appreciate it if you could answer these four questions:

  1. How would you feel if your favorite character was killed?

  2. How would you feel if the main character (not necessarily your favorite) was killed?

  3. How would you feel if a character just disappeared without any evidence of their death, but would be considered dead anyway?

  4. After reading a book, how do you know that there were "not enough deaths"?

I'd be glad if you answered those questions honestly. You don't have to write whole paragraphs but I would like your answers to be clear and understandable.

Deleted user

  1. Freakin' heartbroken. I hurts when your favorite character dies and you have to pick a new one for the rest of the book/series. But I love character deaths cause I know it will bring development to other characters and move the plot forward. So after I mope a little I get excited for what is gonna come.
  2. A little confused, but overall interested on how that is going to change things.
  3. Very intrigued. I love murder mysteries or mysterious deaths so I would be on the edge of my seat just waiting for some evidence so I can start theorizing.
  4. If only like 2 characters died and they weren't even important or they didn't effect anything. When someone kills off a character just for the heck of it, it's very unsatisfying. I always feel like every story needs at least one good, life-changing death. (But that also depends on the genre too)

@IonizationEnergy

How would you feel if your favorite character was killed?
It would sting but it wouldn't hurt me too much if there was adequate reasoning behind their death and it wasn't meaningless.
How would you feel if the main character (not necessarily your favorite) was killed?
I would be shocked then get immensely mere interested in how the story goes
How would you feel if a character just disappeared without any evidence of their death, but would be considered dead anyway?
I would be very confused and want to know what the hell happened to the character.
After reading a book, how do you know that there were "not enough deaths"?
if the deaths in the book were meaningless or if it was brought up that people would die and only unimportant characters died without making an impact.

@GoodThingGoing group

1. How would you feel if your favorite character was killed?
It really depends on the how and why. If my favorite character died in a way that furthers the story or makes sense for the plot, then I'm fine with it. A bit sad, but otherwise fine. Same if it's in a story like Hamlet or Rogue One where everyone dies. I'm much more annoyed if my favorite character is killed off in a way that was easily preventable, completely pointless, or out of character. For example, if they left something in an area they knew wasn't safe to return to and then went back and got killed, especially if they were otherwise established as smart, or if they die and then are completely forgotten about by the characters and the story. Then I'm less cool with it. Bonus points if they're the only character I like in the story, or what's keeping me reading or watching.

2. How would you feel if the main character (not necessarily your favorite) was killed?
Depends on the execution. I've read this done really well and I've read it done horribly. I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with it. Spoilers for Allegiant by Veronica Roth, Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab, and The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis.

3. How would you feel if a character just disappeared without any evidence of their death, but would be considered dead anyway?
I think there'd need to be a reason to consider them dead as opposed to a random disappearance. Maybe there's no body, but if they find a suicide note or signs of foul play or know that someone dangerous had it out for the character, then I might buy it more than if they just vanished and everyone went "well I guess they're dead?" On a whole, I'm not really a "no body no death!!!" person since I feel like that's mostly just wishful thinking on the part of fans, and I'm in fandoms where characters have literally been chopped in half on-screen and still survived. Even if there's no body, I generally assume that the character is dead until proven otherwise if the story treats them as such.

4. After reading a book, how do you know that there were "not enough deaths"?
It depends on the genre, tone, etc. For example, I'm not going to read a YA contemporary and go "that was unrealistic, no deaths :/". Same with a more lighthearted sci-fi or fantasy story. I'll cut stories with war or rebellion plotlines slack even if no leads die as long as people are badly injured and/or permanently changed (physically, mentally, etc.) by it. But if your book is pitched as a dark, intense story and no one is as much as badly injured in the climactic fight, I'm not a fan of that. Same with if the fight has been hyped up all book. Spoilers for A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas, but

@GoodThingGoing group

Oh, another point related to the last! I think it's important to note that the quality of deaths is more important than the quantity. I don't care if a dozen characters die if they're all minor characters who we barely know, and if they're the only casualties in a war story with a huge, sprawling cast, then I'm gonna be disappointed. I'd rather have there be a meaningful and impactful death of just one character in the main cast as opposed to a bunch of unimportant minor character deaths being the sole casualties.

@threesacult group

1. How would you feel if your favorite character died?
I would be upset, of course, but whether I'm mad at the writer just depends on how it's done. If it furthers the plot in a way that makes sense, I don't mind as much. I also think how the characters in-story react to the death. Sometimes a character will die in a story and the surrounding characters will go "damn that sucks" and move on, which just isn't realistic and leaves me kind of lost. This is why death for shock value doesn't work out, because much of the time the characters don't stay shocked or sad for very long.
For example, in the Harry Potter series (Order of the Phoenix and Deathly Hallows spoilers ahead),

My favorite characters are often villains, too, which can be a whole other thing. Sometimes the only way that makes sense to resolve an arc is to kill the villain, so I'm usually a lot more okay with death if the character in question is an antagonist.

2. How would you feel if the main character (not necessarily your favorite) was killed?
This one really depends on whether it makes sense for the plot, and whether it'd be a satisfying conclusion to that character's arc. Sometimes the only way to resolve something in a story is for the main character to die, usually by willingly sacrificing themself, and it wouldn't feel right if they magically survived. It's a lot more likely to be disappointing if, say, the character actually makes it out of whatever impossible thing alive only to be killed right after. The book Allegiant, like @Mockingjyn mentioned, is a good example. It feels like you got invested in the character's story for nothing.

3. How would you feel if a character just disappeared without any evidence of their death, but would be considered dead anyway?
It's fine if the reason for their disappearance/death isn't revealed immediately, but I'd want to get confirmation on what actually happened at some point.

4. After reading a book, how do you know that there were "not enough deaths"?
Really depends on the genre. I've been shocked by the amount of deaths in some seemingly lighthearted stories, but if I'm reading, say, a dystopian novel like The Hunger Games, it would be really strange if hardly anyone died. How much suspension of belief you can rely on is dependent on the genre. If no one died in a more lighthearted fantasy story, even if the stakes were pretty high, I'd be willing to wave it off, because that's not really the genre. But if it's a really violent story and everyone just miraculously survives, it becomes a little too unbelievable, and takes out some of the immersion because it just doesn't feel right. That being said, again, it's up to the genre. Not every story needs a high body count, or even any deaths at all. I have a hard time killing off characters myself, so the plots of my stories are generally light, and the heaviness comes more from emotional conflict, not violence in the plot. This one is completely up to the story in question.

All in all, I'd say it really just depends on the execution. I also don't think there's much of a point in killing off characters just for shock value; there really needs to be more of a reason behind it. A character death doesn't always have to directly further the plot–there's a lot of stories that wouldn't be as believable without a higher body count–but there needs to be some sort of justification. I'm kind of a wimp when it comes to character deaths, so maybe I'm not the best person to be getting an opinion from- but I really just get disappointed with the author if character deaths are done poorly and come from completely out of nowhere, seemingly just for the hell of it.

@threesacult group

Oh, another point related to the last! I think it's important to note that the quality of deaths is more important than the quantity. I don't care if a dozen characters die if they're all minor characters who we barely know, and if they're the only casualties in a war story with a huge, sprawling cast, then I'm gonna be disappointed. I'd rather have there be a meaningful and impactful death of just one character in the main cast as opposed to a bunch of unimportant minor character deaths being the sole casualties.

This is a really good point! If an entire army of characters that are hardly mentioned dies, it doesn't mean much. I think the general rule is if the death isn't very impactful to the main cast, it's not going to be impactful to the reader, because you're seeing it through their eyes. You're going to be more upset if one of the main character's friends dies than if a dozen barely talked about background characters do. I'm going a bit off into another direction here, but the way a character reacts to death in the story is super important too–death has to be meaningful to the characters in the story, not just the reader. I've read books where the main character's friend dies and they're upset for maybe a chapter before moving on. One of the most interesting things about a character death is all the emotional effects it has on the cast, and a lot of authors completely skip it, which has never made much sense to me.

@tomat brightness_7

thank you all for helping me! deaths in books are something that really comes hard to me but now that I've read your answers it's much more clear. thank you once again (because I have no idea how to finish this post)!

@Starfast groupDance & Cry

Idk if you're still looking for answers, but here are my thoughts:

How would you feel if your favorite character was killed?
Sad, but typically I can get over it. But I'd definitely be a lot more mad if the character was only seemingly killed for shock value.

How would you feel if the main character (not necessarily your favorite) was killed?
Cheated. If I'm following a character then I want to see them succeed, even if they're the last one standing. When the main character is killed, it makes me feel like I invested all this time rooting for the character for pretty much no reason. Regardless of how I feel about the character, this is always a big let down for me.

How would you feel if a character just disappeared without any evidence of their death, but would be considered dead anyway?
I don't really have any strong feelings about this, but I guess I would want some kind of indicator as to what happened to them. Like, you don't have to outright say that they died, but I'd prefer to have a couple of hints sprinkled around so that I can maybe piece together if they're dead or alive.

After reading a book, how do you know that there were "not enough deaths"?
I don't like character deaths, so I honestly don't ever feel like a book needed more of them.