Killing Your Characters Reasonably


I saw the new Spiderman movie over the weekend. (Incredibly Mild Spoiler alert.  If you know anything about Spiderman in any way shape or form and have ever read a comic or seen a movie, this is not a spoiler alert at all.)  This time when Uncle Ben dies it felt a lot more realistic the way the plot unfolded and I’ll admit it, I was a bit misty eyed when it happened.  It was not just that he died, or that I felt more for the character in this incarnation (which I did) it was that it felt like something that could naturally occur in the plot.  Now I know it was also a needed thing to happen for the plot and the characters to be motivated and act as they should for the rest of the story, but it was all together believable and that helped.

Anyone writing in certain genre’s (horror, fantasy, thrillers, sci fi) is going to probably have some characters die.  Maybe even well liked or known ones.  The main two reasons a writer does it is because A) it would reasonably happen in the story.  A chain of events cause it so that a specific person would just have to perish. You could always find a way out for a character but it may not be believable or reasonable that they could and so their time is up. B)The other main reason is that it helps the story.  Maybe someone needs motivation to know that with great power comes great responsibility, or someone has to die so that there is risk in the conflict.  Possibly they have to die for plot reasons, so that someone investigates a murder or someone needs to take their place.

I have concluded that unless there is a serial killer involved it’s best if you can do both.  If you can trace either the events, or the motivations of the killer and go well yeah or course this person would die, it’s a lot better than a “freak accident.”  I know some people think things like freak accidents add “Realism” to a book.  In my mind however it can make a reader feel cheated, and can come out deux ex machina.  I honestly think the killing of Uncle Ben works better than Batman’s parents dying. I understand the lack of reason is part of the batman mythos, that the senselessness of it all in violent Gotham city is part of what shapes him, but I can’t say I have ever shed a tear for Martha and Thomas Wayne.  Uncle Ben however, especially in the new movie, yes, I did.

Also if there is no long term affect on characters or plot it also feels like something done out of malevolence.  I have had a high body count in some of what I have written, so I know that seems odd to come from me, but I do like to think every named character that dies has some sort of large effect on one of those two things.

Obviously another side of this is writing characters with enough complexity that they are missed.  All of these thoughts are in my mind of course, because I have been busy this week writing a new chapter.  I might even be about to kill your favorite character in the next day or two, who knows.  Oh who am I kidding, of course I am!

For today’s Poll I am going to ask a question having to do with my Epic Novel’s new name.  Originally it was going to be called “Nimoa” which is the island it all takes place on.  I had rethought the intelligence on that move, and when I gave a poll on naming possibilities that was the idea no one liked.  So it seems like a smart move to keep going with a new title.  “Themes” of the book was the winner, but plot related was the runner up.  This is a poll that you can choose more than one choice.  Which of the following words do you like, and might draw attention to you in a title.  Each word here is evocative of theme or plot.  If you have synonym ideas from words on this list, you can leave them in the comments.

Poll: Which words would you want in the title

1)Labyrinth

2)Labyrinthine

3)Paradise

4)Nimoa

5)Island

6)Isolation

7)Conspiracy

8)Bureaucracy

9)Massacre

10)Survival

Don’t worry, I am not just going to string together like the top three words or anything. This just helps give me a snapshot of what types of words ring with readers more.  Next poll will be several differentactual title possibilities based off of what is chosen.

World Info:

In the various Islands in the Allmother’s Fire Series there are two main drinking types of establishments.  There are Public drinking houses which can be known as “Pubs” and occasionally “Ale Bar’s.”  These serve beer and by most laws have to have a place that people can sleep it off if too drunk, so they double as cheap hotels.  Other activities in these establishments also make it lucrative for owners to rent rooms, often by the hour.  By their very nature they are often seedier with the exception of a well frequented pub by locals if they self-police enough to keep out ‘riff raff.’

The other type of drinking establishment is a Tavern, and they only serve wine there.  Like it’s source material (Renaissance Italy) wine is held in high regard, and wealthier members of guilds and even some times royal families will patronize these places.  In many cases you have to either get an invitation to enter, or drop a lot of gold coin.  This makes Taverns a much better source of information on the location of valuables as many merchants speak with a freer tongue for they feel safe there.  All a would be Pirate has to do is act convincingly, forge papers and drop lots of gold to get in. In other words this tactic is rarely successful but when it is, it’s always lucrative.

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About mdkenning

E-book clockpunk fantasy author View all posts by mdkenning

4 responses to “Killing Your Characters Reasonably

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