I’m not going to ramble on about this. I’m certainly no expert, far from it. I’m not writing this to tell you how to make likable characters, or to explain how I write mine. I’m here to explain to you that sometimes you have to do what’s right, and that decision may not come easily, but it is necessary.
Sometimes you need to kill them.
Killing characters is a plot device, pure and simple. It’s often used to shock the reader (or viewer – The Walking Dead anyone?) and generally moves the story ahead, sometimes changing the entire atmosphere of the tale. It may make your other characters take control, or it can just as easily push them apart. Now and again, characters die for one simple reason: because you just don’t like them!
You might ask “why.” You might wonder why a writer would want to kill one of his or her creations? Maybe they suffered terribly in the process. These writers must be sadists!! In my case, more than once, I looked at the growing personality of one of my own characters and realized that I didn’t like them. They were despicable people! They often did things that I found deplorable, and as their creator I felt that I had to take charge of the situation. I had to kill the rat bastards!!
You might think that the development of a character is all in the hands of the writer, and that is true most of the time, but now and again your characters take on a life of their own. You can’t control what they say and do! Your fingers type on auto-pilot and before you know it, you’re faced with an asshole character who you can no longer tolerate! Bring in the big guns! Something needs to be done!
In “The Darkening”, some of my characters made it and others didn’t. I never once planned on what happened to my cast, it just went the way it did. The story wrote itself at times and I just had to sit back and watch. The first draft had a very nasty character named Michael. Michael was not a very nice person, a product of his abusive father, he took his anger out on anyone and anything within reach of his crooked little fingers. By the second and third draft, Michael had gotten nastier, turning into a force nearly as mean as the main antagonist. So I killed the miserable jerk! End of story. Only now I had him interwoven throughout the book, only to kill him quickly and be done with his bullshit.
In the end, Michael served no purpose, and in removing him completely, I had to cut about fifteen pages of the manuscript. I think the story was better off without him. Rest assured, Michael will show up again.
So what do you think? Will you allow a character to grow and take over even if you hate who they’ve become, or do you trap them in a well-placed plot twist and extinguish them?
Finally, something in your life you can control. Be sure to make the right decision.