Sunday, February 11, 2018

Have You Ever Wanted to Kill Someone...?

Of course I'm talking about Characters in your stories...
I did a presentation for Young Willamette Writers in Portland, Oregon and  thought I'd share my class notes with any other writers out there who might be interested.
Killing Your Characters

Workshop project:

Here are two options for you to choose between:

Think about Harry Potter, Katniss Everdeen, or any Disney Princess.

1)      Now, take a few minutes to write what might have happened in the story if your favorite/main character had been killed off early in the book.


2)      Give three plot examples of how you could change the story with compelling narrative options for killing off your favorite character without ruining the story.

Writers have lots of different reasons for killing off their characters. But before we decide to kill anyone, we want to have a good reason to do it otherwise all we’re going to do is put your readers in a rage.

1)    Resurrections. Of course we want to create tension but not to the point of killing off characters and then having to bring them back to life – say with a dream sequence.

2)    ShockNADO or not another Shock Attack. Don’t simply kill off a character to create shock value. This will turn readers off and we want to keep them reading to the last page.

3)    Emotional Hostage. Don’t be a sociopath and kill for no reason. Any character’s death needs to be worth the cost. Readers are attached to the main character…or should be. So remember, no writer should kill off characters like a serial killer…for no reason. Make sure every death packs a punch that’s worth the price.

4)    Stop, Look and Listen. And make sure your other characters are in tune with the emotional timing. These characters are now not simply backup singers to your story. They are going to have to carry your show so make sure they take a moment to Stop…and process what has happened. Your minor characters are now the ones who will display the heartfelt reactions we are feeling from our loss.

5)    Make sure you have a Backup. I mean another character who can step into our Hero’s shoes. If there’s no other character for us to love, worry about or at least care for, we’re going to close the book and that’s the end of the story. Not a good way to end a story. We want our readers to want to read to the very last page. So, we have to give them a reason.  

There Are Good Reasons to Kill…Off  Characters.

1)    Remember the Alamo or at least the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. There would have been no story or plot without killing off a lot of wonderful main characters in this trilogy.

2)    No Guilt Over the Bad Guy No one cares if we kill off the bad guys but remember good guys die too and for our stories to ring true to our readers we have to have authenticity and sometimes our loved ones have to die.

3)    The Disney Delusion. We can’t always have a prince (or princess) ride to the rescue. Not every story has to have a happy ending. Sometimes the most heartfelt stories are the ones that stick with us long after we close the book. (The Lovely Bones, The Fault in Our Stars, and even the classic of The Diary of Anne Frank).

4)    James or even Jane Bond. Unless you want to tell an unrealistic story just for the pure fantasy or the excitement of the ride, we have to be honest with our characters and the way they live and/or die.

5)    Die with Dignity. If you do decide to kill off your character, the death needs to be a crucial part of the plot. Let your character have death with dignity. Whenever we lose a loved one, we want to make sure we understand what happened, how and why. Don’t let an emotional moment be lost by rushing through it. If it must be done, do it “write.”

 If you have any questions, let me know. And If you want to see what else I have to say about writing, check out my website or connect with me on Facebook.
If we were all the same, life would be boring.
Visit me on Facebook: Kimbra Kasch

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