Wednesday, 5 June 2013

6 Reasons to Kill Off a Series Character

Yes regular readers or those following me know, I am currently editing my first book in a new series called – “The PIT Series”. It is a cross between the X-files and Supernatural with a little twist of Warehouse 13 thrown in there for good measure. But while I may be editing the first books, book two and three have already been outlined and I have plans for books four to nine which haven’t been outlined yet. I also have the cover art for books two and three – which is awesome to say the least.

However it was with a conversation with a fellow writer that I got onto the subject about killing off characters. And I don’t mean just any characters. For instance in the first book the body count is pretty high and rises again for book two. I am talking about killing off one of the main cast of the series. This is something which I am always hesitant about. Some of my characters are like family and can sometimes be at the dinner table with me. However if done right, a character’s death can be important and these are six reasons as to why.

1.       It Shakes up the Balance

Sometimes series characters can get a little too comfortable together. This makes some of their interactions seem rather tame and not very entertaining. By removing one of the characters such as the father figure or the comical relief can shake the team up enough that they each have to find a new balance creating great entertainment for the reader.

2.       The Character Has Run their Course

Let’s face it some characters do have a use by date on them. They’ve run through their own story lines, fought and beaten their demons and are now only around because it would feel odd if they weren’t in the next book. Sometimes this character has no real plot for them to progress in the next book and they’re development has flat lined. If this the case then perhaps bring about their demise might give them something to do in the next book and additionally give them a graceful exit bow.

3.       Readers Don’t Expect It

Readers tend to think that the main cast of any book and film are safe. If there is one thing I remember about the film "Serenity" was the death of Wash. It was fantastic, not only because one of the main characters had died (although if a second film or a series revival had occurred I would have mourned him dearly) but because I didn’t expect it – especially since Bishop had been unceremoniously killed just a few scenes ago. It caused shock within the audience and deeply within me.

4.       It Can Create Reader Interaction

Any Stargate fans here? Well remember when MGM killed off / ascended Daniel? Or even Carson from Atlantis? Admit now my friends, who joined the online campaigns for them to come back? Sometimes killing of a well loved character can create such a strong reaction that your fans will come forward and interact with you more. This in turn can create a lot of exposure for work when people want to know what all the fuss is about.

5.       It Allows Other Characters to Come into their Own

This may not seem like a wise reason; but say you have a character who all the others go to for advice. He is essentially like a walking stick. Several characters won’t even get up in the morning if it weren’t for the golden words from the father figure. Now what if he was removed? Suddenly everyone now has to fend for themselves and not only are numerous other storylines created, but characters are forced to step further into the limelight and show what they are made of.

6.       It Can Create Realism

The honest truth is that life is not as simple as the good guys always win. Sometimes there are loses in our trials. Killing off a character can be an easy way to show that your world is just as real as the one we all live in. This is especially important if you are writing a horror, military or adventure series. Sometimes we put our lives in peril and sometimes people don’t survive. The same should go for our characters, sometimes their luck just runs out.

I’m still not decided on when / if / who I should kill off in my series. I know I have a lot of ideas running around in my head. But I will be honest, when I sit down to write the outlines for books four, five, etc I will be considering whether each character is earning their keep and whether a sacrifice or two could be made.

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