Killing Characters Off

Photo of gravestones underneath big trees.
Photo by Fotolia.

From time to time nearly every novel writer has to kill off a character. However, I’ll only do it is when it’s absolutely necessary to enhance the plot.

The first time I killed someone off was in my debut contemporary romance novel, The Reunion. Gillian’s ex husband, Jason Matthews, was one of the villains in the story. He meets an untimely end, but it happens “off camera.” Gillian hears of his demise from a police detective. They say show, don’t tell, but sometimes telling can be more compelling.

I killed off another villain in The Deception. It happens near the end of the story. Most of the plot had revolved around this character’s conflict with leading lady Carrie, who’s finally won battle. However, this particular antagonist soon figured out a way to get even. I could have saved it for a possible sequel, however in this case the second conflict was directly related to the first, making a sequel redundant. Therefore, rather than have the story repeat itself, I killed the character off, thus ending the conflict once and for all.

In my soon-to-be released novel, The Journey, I killed a supporting character from The Reunion. This time the character was one I honestly liked. I tried to come up with a way for her to survive, but when I did the story simply wasn’t as strong. Her death was an intrical part of the plot. It happens early in the novel, but she still maintains a presence in the rest of the story.

I’ve heard the joke amongst my author friends that there are two kinds of people who know how to kill other people–psychopaths and novel writers. This first one definitely, although I’m not so sure about novel writers. Most of my characters die in accidents, and they’re usually their own undoing.

Marina Martindale