Killing Off Characters.

There’s been a lot of chatter lately about killing off popular characters on tv shows. The Walking Dead finally ended the b.s. about Glenn’s fate with a deus ex machina solution of him cowering under a dumpster to avoid being bitten by a swarm of walkers.  They made the audience wait through three episodes for the silly solution. The character is so popular many fans will forgive the show but others may bail.

Producers of Game of Thrones have faced a barrage of questions about the fate of Jon Snow. The consensus was even though he was last seen bleeding out, he would somehow survive. The speculation was supported by sightings of Kit Harrington in Belfast and on the set filming. His hair was still long, another clue  said the fans who noted Kit had promised to cut off his curls once his tenure on the show was over. The GoT staff have just released their season 6 poster confirming that Jon Snow is coming back…in some form.

This is a real problem for tv producers. They want to generate suspense but in these days of social media, it’s hard to keep a secret.

It’s also tough to kill off characters. I know, I do it in every one of my novels. Many of them are pretty major characters, the ones readers might think are untouchable. I don’t believe any character is indispensable. Authors create the universe and the characters and we get to play God. That means having the ultimate say over who lives and who dies.

Any death of a beloved character has to serve the story. That doesn’t mean authors don’t feel readers’ pain. It’s like killing your own child. I have wept many a time over beloved characters I’ve killed off.

My favourite novels and movies are the ones which do not involve a Happily Ever After but a  I find those much more realistic and besides, there’s nothing like a good cry. That’s why I smile through my tears when Rhett leaves Scarlett or Jack freezes to death after the Titanic sinks or Romeo and Juliet suffer from horrific miscommunication. I warn my readers in each book that there will be tears. If I do my job right, I will make fans cry. If I don’t, they won’t care. That would be a worse outcome than death.

2 thoughts on “Killing Off Characters.

  1. Shaun says:

    After much internal debate, I’ve determined that I’m a big fan of the “No one is safe” rule – when it’s done right.
    Marvel is the worst and not killing people. Virtually every Marvel movie made in the last 10 years has seen a major character bite the dust, and then miraculously reappear (alive!), at the opportune moment. I’m no longer sad or shocked when someone dies in a Marvel movie. They’ll be back.
    We’ve lived too long in a world where our favourite characters will always endure, will always wake up from full-on cardiac arrest after true love’s first kiss, or will reveal that their death was a fraud to throw off their enemies. The “no one is safe” rule throws us off balance and removes us from the boring old norm in a great way.
    However, like I mentioned above – they need to do it right. Every death in Game of Thrones MEANS SOMETHING. It changes the course of the story, it has an effect on everything that follows. Ned Stark’s death started the war, Robb’s changed the whole direction of the war, Oberyn’s death put Tyrion on death row which directly resulted in Tywin’s death, etc.
    The Walking Dead does nothing of the sort. Characters are nothing but chicken feed. Their death’s are meant to shock us and to keep us hooked. Maybe a few had direct impact, like Lori’s death driving Rick insane, or Shane’s death shaking things up a bit, or Dale’s death getting him to shut the hell up. But that’s it. The rest are USELESS. The Walking Dead cast has been almost entirely replaced since Season 1, episode 2. That’s insane – and not in a good way.
    So yes, kill them, but do it right. Make it count.


    1. Emme Cross says:

      Good point. I think there are two many red shirt characters on Walking Dead. But on Thrones, there are so many characters you could kill off half and not miss them! I guess that’s the upside of a crowded universe.


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