forum research about killing off characters in a novel part 3
Started by @tomat brightness_7

people_alt 70 followers

@tomat brightness_7

hello again!
I'm back with some more questions and, as always, I'd appreciate if you spend some time answering them.

  1. What do you think about killing a major character off-screen?
  2. What character arcs can (or should) end with death?
  3. Would a death that results from the character's clumsiness (e.g. they trip on something and the killer catches them) or a random factor (e.g. a car accident) annoy you?
  4. What are some death scene cliches? What novel or uncommon ideas would you like to see in their place?

thank you in advance :3


  1. Personally this is a big “no” for me, the character is major for a reason, they’re important and actively affect the plot, if you kill them off-screen it can leave readers unsatisfied and a character arc inconclusive. I’ve seen some media that kills major characters off-screen but they at least set-up a scene that alludes to their death, or create an scenario where they’re death can be assumed or predicted by readers. I think it can be pulled off but personally I wouldn’t do it.
  2. I feel like you can do this with every character arc, but I think it really depends on what character your writing and what message you want to give. What do you want to tell your audience with this character arc? Do you want to tell them revenge is a dark path that drives everyone away? Maybe you shouldn’t kill them off, have them be lonely by the end of the story. A bad guy that did something so awful it can’t be redeemed? Should irredimible people be killed off? Think about those things, characters can be so diverse and so different there’s no way I can’t tell you a concrete piece of advice if I don’t know what you’re writing. But yeah that’s my grain of sand, try to think what the death of a certain character would cause in the narrative and what would it say to your audience.
  3. Personally the “Dies randomly because a car hit them” and other variables are annoying to me, I have seen some people argue that that’s life and random shocking events happen, sure yeah, but I’m reading a narrative and if you’re not going to touch on the topic of “life is unpredictable” then why include something like that? Why not give the character some sort of agency in their death? Like idk, they’ve been doing shady bussines and they get shot because they messed with the wrong people. For the whole tripping and being clumsy thing, honestly I think it depends on the tone of your story, but generally try to describe the thing they’re going to trip with before-hand, for example: a character going into some dark woods and you mention there are a lot of roots and rocks on the ground that make it hard to walk through it, let’s say they get deeper into the woods find the serial killer they were searching for and start running, because your readers knows the ground is covered by roots and rocks it doesn’t seem out of the blue that the character ends up tripping and being caught. Basically set up what you’re characters are going to be killed with and that way it won’t seem like a random event.
  4. There’s the traditional character gets killed to set off the plot or the arc of someone else. I honestly would rather see characters get killed because of someone’s character arc. Like a descent into madness that causes the death of someone else, a hero who leaves their hometown looking for adventure and leaves it unprotected causing for it to be destroyed. I’m probably not making a lot of sense, but I’m tired of seeing main characters that start their journey because something bad happened to them.
    I’m sorry if my answers aren’t satisfactory, I’m not very good at expressing myself through text, and English is also not my first language. Hope this helped bye

@HighPockets group

  1. I think that it can work, but as the writer I feel like you'd have to be ready for people to insist that the character isn't alive. An off-page death can be super impactful if done right (for example, a war story having a character not come back after a mission or be unable to be located after a battle, characters narrowly escaping something and then not realizing that someone didn't make it out until it's too late, or a character being wounded and passing out only to wake up and realize one of the people with them didn't make it) but sometimes it can be kind of anticlimactic–I think it really depends on if the off-page death feels like it was just to get someone out of the way easily and never be mentioned again or if it feels like it was done off-page for a thematic reason and has an impact on the rest of the story.
  2. I don't think there's any arcs that should end in death in every case. I know this one is more contentious, but sometimes I like a redemption arc ending in death, especially if it's a character who has committed a lot of awful acts (for example, Darth Vader dying is a lot more climatically satisfying than his story ending with being tried for galactic war crimes and dying in prison–although that arc can also work for some characters! it really depends!). The specific motif of a character who was initially opposed to the MCs deciding to take one for the team and make a heroic sacrifice for them really gets me in the heart.
  3. I think it really depends on the context. For example, Dean Winchester dying from tetanus after fifteen seasons of fighting monsters was an incredibly unsatisfying death even as someone who's never seen a single episode of Supernatural, but I could see a flaw-related death working in a story without such intensely high day-to-day stakes or in a story that's more of a horror-comedy or less…serious, for lack of a better word–or, alternately, in a more grimdark-leaning story where the realistic experiences of war and stuff are explored and a casual misstep onto a trapped area or a rusty nail could be fatal. As for random incidents, I think it can work if it's something that ties into the themes of a story. For example, in one of my stories the MC's younger sister is killed in a hit-and-run no one saw coming, and it ties into the wider themes of the story. However I think a sudden random car crash in an otherwise unrelated story to create tension or drama is a pretty bad move.
  4. Hmm…the closest I can think of is the stereotypical horror movie critique of "wow, that was a stupid decision that will surely get them killed" in regards to the MCs doing dumb shit that is clearly going to have negative repercussions later. Like come on dude, at least grab a flashlight and a knife before you go down the steps in the haunted house that has weird noises coming from it. I think this is different from Question #2 in the sense that a lot of times it feels kind of out of character, whereas a clumsy character tripping and being caught by the killer is more in-character since it's an established trait.