forum research about killing off characters in a novel part 2
Started by @tomat brightness_7
tune

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@tomat brightness_7

I've asked almost a year ago some questions about deaths, and I really appreciated all the answers some of you gave me. I hope that you'll be able to help me with more problems that bother me. so, here goes:

  1. What do you think about eliminating a character from a book without killing them (e.g. they fall into a coma or run away)?

  2. What do you think about a character who was seen dying, given a funeral (even if no body was retrieved), and then coming back a few chapters later?

  3. Do you pay attention to deaths of male and female characters being even?

  4. What do you think about characters dying an unexpectable death (e.g. in the middle of their redemption arc)?

  5. How much should a death affect other characters to be called "good"? Can a death be good if it doesn't affect others at all?

I think that's all. who knows, maybe I'll come back soon with more questions. I'm looking forward to reading your responses.

@The-Tower group

1, 2 and 4) I think if it fits the story or adds to the plot then it’s cool, however don’t overuse it or place it in a situation where it just doesn’t make sense/isn’t necessary.

3) No I don’t. A character death is a character death to me, it shouldn’t matter if the numbers are even.

And I don’t know how to answer 5.
These are just my personal takes, obviously others may have differing opinions.

@Katastrophic group

(personal opinions, based on books and media)

  1. Seems good, there are great ways to add angst without death, and they can add some hope/helplessness to a plot nicely

  2. as long as it's not overused (marvel) or has a very good explanation and all the reactions to character coming back are done right then sure! If a character dies, everyone mourns, and they come back and all the other characters just move on as normal, then it feels like its just taxing on the reader and isn't worth much to the story.

  3. No, but I do notice/catch on to numbers if i see only one gender dying, or even one specific race/ethnicity or sexuality. Killing off characters is great, but if all the cis white males live when everyone else dies smth is fishy.

  4. As long as it advances the plot regardless, sure! It seems very cut off to have a random death, esp when that character's story isnt "finished", but if the story makes it a big deal or something (not just killing off an extra for angst points) then it can be very good.

  5. Death and mourning affects everyone differently. If the main characters that the reader connects with don't care about a death, the reader likely won't either. Death can happen for any reason, but typically in writing there is some sort of reasoning for it, like as a motivation or consequence for the protagonists or to progress the plot. Just killing off random characters for no reason won't make a death "good," the reader has to care about the character or why/for what reason they died.

Hopefully those make sense and help a bit, those q's were fun to think through!

@Starfast groupDance & Cry

What do you think about eliminating a character from a book without killing them (e.g. they fall into a coma or run away)?
I don't really mind this, so long as things aren't super open ended. If they're in a coma I want to know if there's a chance that they'll wake up (even if it doesn't happen in the story) or not. If they run away, I'd like to know where they might have gone. Tbh though, this doesn't really hurt as much as a death and I typically don't mind it.

What do you think about a character who was seen dying, given a funeral (even if no body was retrieved), and then coming back a few chapters later?
I have mixed feelings about this. If a body was never found, then I'm usually a little more ok with that. But when someone literally dies, is confirmed to be dead, and still comes back I don't really love it. Especially since like 99% of the time it's never established that resurrection is a thing until someone important dies. In a situation where resurrection is already an established thing though, I guess I'd be more ok with that.

Do you pay attention to deaths of male and female characters being even?
Honestly, no.

What do you think about characters dying an unexpectable death (e.g. in the middle of their redemption arc)?
This really depends. If there's some kind of reasoning behind it other than shock value then I'd probably be disappointed, but otherwise ok with it.
Spoilers for Eragon below

That's the kind of thing I can be ok with.

How much should a death affect other characters to be called "good"? Can a death be good if it doesn't affect others at all?
I think this really depends on the individual character and what the deceased person meant to them. I don't necessarily expect a character who is really stoic and serious to be bawling their eyes out over someone they didn't know well, but I think that some kind of affect should at least be there. I'm so tired of books where someone dies and everyone is sad about it for like 2 seconds and then it's never brought up again. I'd just like to see the characters grieving, whatever that looks like for them. Even if it's just someone going "I wish that X was here, they'd know what to do."

Can a death be good if it doesn't affect others at all?
If by good you mean emotional or leaving an impact on the reader, then I would say yes, absolutely.
If the reader has enough information about a character, or even just a justifiable reason for rooting for them, then it can still be kinda sad when they die. Granted, I don't think this will ever have the same impact as killing off a character that the other characters are majorly affected by, but that it can still be good.
Spoilers(?) for Scythe below (I'm gonna use the term spoiler very loosely though).

But I was still more sad about it than some major character deaths in other books and I don't really know why that is, but TL;DR yes

@knightinadream group

What do you think about eliminating a character from a book without killing them (e.g. they fall into a coma or run away)?

I think that removing a character without killing them can make things more interesting. Even if a character runs away or simply just slips away into nothingness, it can still leave an effect on characters/the reader in a somewhat similar way like a death. Now this may not really deal with the question, but I believe there are ways to "kill" a character without necessarily killing them; I really do like when it happens in books and shows.

What do you think about a character who was seen dying, given a funeral (even if no body was retrieved), and then coming back a few chapters later?

Thinking about it at first, I do not really like it because it has been done so much and is very predictable. Now there are some cases where a character does die but then they come back later on and it is pretty interesting. Sometimes it is confusing, other times it is interesting. It really just depends on the who, what, when, and why if that makes sense.

Do you pay attention to deaths of male and female characters being even?

Yes I do, but not necessarily in numbers. I tend to look out for who it is that dies, the matter of deaths, responses to them, and such; especially if it is characters who are female, POC, part of the LGBTQ+ community, and disabled. I really only catch on numbers if it is a certain group of people dying disproportionately.

What do you think about characters dying an unexpectable death (e.g. in the middle of their redemption arc)?

Unexpectable deaths make stories more exciting and shocking, or at least in my opinion. They evoke more emotion in the story and the reader. When it comes to a character dying in the middle of their redemption arc, it makes it even more sad because they were so close to redeeming themselves and achieving their arc, but then they are not able to do those things because they end up dying. I like them despite them making me upset most of the time.

How much should a death affect other characters to be called "good"? Can a death be good if it doesn't affect others at all?

The degree of how much it should affect other characters depends on the situation and what the other characters are like. It can take a mental toll on others, it can affect a mission that the rest of the characters are on, and it still raise tension in the story. There are ways that it can affect everyone else without anyone (in the story) knowing. A character's death can affect others at a big scale or it doesn't have to at all. Sometimes it is good that a character's death has no affect on anybody at all, but it really depends on the character that died and the others who are alive. It can show what that character meant to the others and the story's plot.

@balladeer language

What do you think about eliminating a character from a book without killing them (e.g. they fall into a coma or run away)?

  • I'm fine with it as long as they give some kind of closure, I'd rather know exactly what happened to the character rather than them just disappearing with no explanation or relevance to the plot.

What do you think about a character who was seen dying, given a funeral (even if no body was retrieved), and then coming back a few chapters later?

  • I think it can be interesting as long as it is approached creatively, I feel like this is used a lot in media so you have to be pretty creative with how you go about it and how the characters react.

Do you pay attention to deaths of male and female characters being even?

  • Not really, I don't think it really matters.

What do you think about characters dying an unexpectable death (e.g. in the middle of their redemption arc)?

  • Unexpected deaths can be pretty interesting and add a bit of a twist to any story. I don't like when the death is COMPLETELY random and unnecessary though, I'd rather it be somewhat important to the plot (for example the death could further develop some of the other characters)

How much should a death affect other characters to be called "good"? Can a death be good if it doesn't affect others at all?

  • I think the death should definitely affect other characters, even if it is only a little, otherwise it feels as if the death was unnecessary and went to waste. The only other way I can think a death could be good is if it's unique. Unique deaths might be more memorable. Personally I would rather have a thought out death that impact the characters though.

@GoodThingGoing group

  1. What do you think about eliminating a character from a book without killing them (e.g. they fall into a coma or run away)?
    It depends…I think that if you end the story, for example, with a prominent character still in a coma or having run away, it'll feel a bit like an unfired Chekov's gun. Personally I would find that anticlimactic in most cases unless it was handled really well. In a lot of cases it would read like a cop-out, like the author couldn't figure out anything to do with the character but didn't want to kill them or cut them, although it could work if you wanna do a sequel or spinoff centered on them.
  2. What do you think about a character who was seen dying, given a funeral (even if no body was retrieved), and then coming back a few chapters later?
    Hmm…it depends on how well it's built up. If we see the body at the funeral, then I don't like that much but if there's no body and they're just assumed dead but return, I think it's fine.
  3. Do you pay attention to deaths of male and female characters being even?
    Usually not unless it's a glaring difference or it's pointed out to me. For example, if the cast has a pretty even gender ratio but only women die, I might raise an eyebrow at that, or if there's only one or two prominent women and one or both of them die, but very few of the men do. Same goes for queer characters and characters of color: I don't have an inherent issue with queer or nonwhite characters dying, but if only queer or nonwhite characters die (or they die in higher proportions than the straight and white characters) that's when I have an issue with it.
  4. What do you think about characters dying an unexpectable death (e.g. in the middle of their redemption arc)?
    It really depends on the execution. Sometimes it can work really well, but other times the shock of the death doesn't feel as impactful as the full arc would've been.
  5. How much should a death affect other characters to be called "good"? Can a death be good if it doesn't affect others at all?
    I think it's important to show how deaths impact characters because even if the surviving characters didn't know much about the dead one, it'd still have some impact I think. Like if someone in your class died, you'd still feel their absence even if you didn't know them well. I'm not sure if I've ever read/seen a death that didn't impact any characters though, so I'm not sure.

@tomat brightness_7

thank you all for your answers! I can see my book's path more clearly now. who knows, maybe I'll come back with part 3 someday? for now I'll keep in mind everything you've said!