Killing off characters in books

That’s what I’ve been thinking about lately, it seems like most of the books I read have at least one of the main characters being killed off before the end. Trilogies are even worse as most authors seem to believe that the best way to write a series is to start with, oh say ten key characters and slowly kill them off during the trilogy, by the last chapter of the last book there maybe two of the original characters remaining. With luck one of the remaining characters will comment on how its a shame that so and so didn’t live, but that’s it.

I  really think that the reason so many authors kill off so many characters is that they are lazy. It’s too easy to kill off a character without regard to the characters own story, they just cut it out and ignore that person. Perhaps it’s because the authors just can’t remember what their characters are doing and decide to simplify the story. I can understand that, I really can, but if that’s what they are doing, I think that they should just rewrite the parts of their story with the soon to be killed character and assign those key pieces to another character that won’t be killed off.

Oh, I realize that there are certain times where killing of a character is necessary, some author do a good job only killing off a character when and where it’s necessary without using it as a crutch. Plus some stories revolve around a key character dying in the book, such as Mark Twain’s Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc In that book you know what’s going to happen, but you also feel drawn into it and keep hoping that history will be changed. In my opinion, Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc is a master piece that should be required reading for any author. There are a few other, more recent, authors that have managed to kill off characters without infuriating me, but not many.

One area where I accept a character being killed off is during an end of book battle between good and evil, but only when they are struck down as they save the world and kill the villain, I don’t enjoy such an ending, but I can see where, mostly in trilogies and series, where it is necessary to kill a character is such a way.

In conclusion, I ask that authors take a second look at the characters that they kill off, see if a serious wound wouldn’t work just as well, incapacitate the character and write them off that way if you must, but don’t ask me to believe that a character that can take a broken sword and hold off a horde of barbarians wielding battle axes for hours from his horse one day and two weeks later he falls off his horse and drown in two inches of water when the horse is spooked by the wind.

 Thanks for listening to my rant… what’s your opinion?


One thought on “Killing off characters in books

  1. Alice Noel-Johnson

    Very insightful. I suspect that it boils down to either laziness as you surmise or that after writing so much authors just get so tired of a character that they use his/her death as a sigh of relief that the book is finished.


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