I remember my horror when I heard that JK had considered killing Harry Potter in the Deathly Hallows. It felt like she was threatening to kill her son… more than that, it felt like she was threatening to kill mine. There was a public outcry when Conan Doyle killed Sherlock Holmes, so big that he had to bring him back to life. As writers, how much do we owe our readers? They’re our stories to tell, but when we’ve crafted a character and made everyone fall in love with them, are we allowed to kill them? Doesn’t it seem like some gross act of betrayal?
As a writer, I tend to get emotionally attached to my characters and the thought of killing them fills me with dread. Yet I know that a story full of danger and darkness will have its casualties. I can’t write a story like that in which nobody is killed, because in a story like that, someone is bound to get killed. When I was writing Runners, my editor friend said straight away: ‘Right, which character is going to die?’ To her, it’s a given that you need to kill someone, and that it should be someone significant. If I was writing crime, of course, it would be much easier. I’d just get the murder out of the way on the first page. But I don’t write crime, I write stories for young adults, and emotional ones at that (at least I think they are when I cry at the laptop). As much as I love my characters, though, I know that I have to subject them, in some part, to the risks that people in the real world face. Unless I make them immortal, then they can be hurt and killed, just like the rest of us. They feel like my kids, though, and I want to protect them like I do my own kids.
So, did I kill anyone in Runners? Maybe…
I’m not sure I can kill a character either. Maybe if he was a bad person? I just don’t know. 🙂
I think I can kill characters, but not the ones I love. That’s terribly biased, isn’t it?
No more than killing off the ones you dislike. 🙂
To be honest, I was a bit devastated when JK killed off Sirius Black!! :O But I think if you kill your main character, what can you really do next? They are the heart and soul of the book, and you’ve followed them all the way through, believing them to be a real person, and then they’re suddenly gone. It is the ultimate shocker though isn’t it!
I actually cried most at Dobby! But yes, the main character is a real shocker. It almost feels like you’ve lost family if they’re that well written.
I have certain characters that I treat like ‘children’, but I know some have to die and hence I don’t get attached to them.
That’s probably a sensible attitude. I wish I could adopt it instead of crying at my laptop!
It’s a balancing act, for sure. Kill the wrong character, and your audience will toss the book across the room angrily and never trust you again. Don’t kill anyone, but try to make your audience believe the characters are in mortal danger… that can have the same effect.