Killing Off Characters (It’s just about inevitable)

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Ah yes.  If you have read any of George R. R. Martin’s works you know the risk of loving anyone, and I mean anyone in his books.  Over the course of George R. R. Martin’s literary career, readers have flipped desks, yelled angrily at the sky and viciously spat their emotional venom across Twitter.  Is his character killing extreme? Maybe for some.  Possibly.  Probably.  But that’s not up to me.

Killing characters is probably my favorite plot device to use for several reasons, but most of all for character development.  I personally haven’t planned many deaths in my work, but I have planned a few.  They are precious characters, but the world must continue without them.  What, you say? Yes, killing characters are probably inevitable.  Of course, there are books that don’t have any character deaths.  Sometimes that was a purposeful move on the writer’s part, sometimes I think that the story needed deaths in order for the story to change in a direction more suitable for the purpose of the end goal.

The main character of my fantasy series is very attached to her older brother/guardian, who is in turn very protective of his little sister.  In order for my main character to be who she is destined to be she must release her attachment from her brother, which is difficult without…well, death.  As you probably guessed, her brother dies (Don’t worry, it’s a major spoiler from a story that no one knows about yet) in order to form a catalytic development that is necessary for the plot.  Of course this may be harsh, and yes readers will become attached to the  mc’s older brother, but do I care? No, I do not.  This death will cause my mc to shift her worldview and in turn shift her thought process.  That grief and her experiences through the process of recovery will allow her to grow.  Character growth is a very good thing.  Believe me.

Not only does this death cause my character to grow, but it also allows the reader to understand the different sides of the protagonist.  The reader can watch what will happen to this character after the death of dearly beloved one, how she will respond to other things, whether she will become cold or sympathetic to others, or whether she will avenge her brother in a way that will seem rational to her, but irrational to others.  The possibilities are ENDLESS.

Is death the only way to initiate character development? No. Nononononononononononononono.  No.  Absolutely not. It just happens to be my favorite.  It is the only way to shake up the story? No, but it’s a very good way to shake things up.  At least when the deaths make sense.

Happy character killing!

Character Building

maxresdefault When I write stories, I love to start with the characters.  I tend to have a working character factory in my head, coming up with new traits, backstories, and the like.  Some of them move on to the usable stage, and others stay on the shelf until I want to use them or…until I never use them.   Characters can be difficult to create.  When I started writing I had no idea what I was doing and I was just replicating archetypes, creating stereotypes that are exceedingly overused throughout today’s media.  It was awful.  My character came out like canned cheese and I wanted to do something about it.  I don’t remember when, but I started reading articles about character creation and creating memorable characters.  Actually I probably just typed in “How to create memorable characters” into Google… Anyway, the main point is that I picked up was that I needed to create characters that I wouldn’t forget.  So that got me thinking….why do I like my favorite characters? What is it about Ezio Auditore do I like? What is it about Max Guerva, Ender Wiggin, and Korra that makes me so protective of them?

What are some elements of your favorite characters that you admire?

I like complicated characters.  Characters who are one-sided aren’t very memorable.  For the most part I appreciate when characters are written like actual people, where I am able to connect with them and call them my friends.  Whether I have taken my relationship with those characters too far or not is up to you, but I have subconsciously considered my characters my friends several times throughout my writing life. Now that I have officially confessed that, I will move on without any regrets.

Character building isn’t all about physical appearances.  Characters are essentially people.  They are supposed to have likes and dislikes, dreams, goals, fears, people they hate, traits that they hate.  Some of them may hate themselves.  When I’m writing, I usually tend to have a character sheet for all of my characters.  It looks somewhat like this:

Full Name: Occupation:

Physical Characteristics:

Background:

Habits/Traits:

Likes/Dislikes:

Notes:

Now, as you see I do include physical characteristics, but it’s not the main part of my character building process.  A large part of this character building outline is the “Habits/Traits” category.  That is the section that gets to heart of my character, the part which allows me to delve into the innermost part of my character.  These things are probably not going to be included into your story unless they are a large part of your character, but they are good things to know. The reader doesn’t necessarily need to know that your enemy is lactose-intolerant unless knowing that fact gives the reader an idea of how your hero is going to kill the enemy.  Writing down little bits of information gives you an idea of who your character is.

Here’s some random habit/trait question to spur your character creation:

Favorite color?

Vegetarian?

Favorite tv show?

Favorite quote?

How does s/he stretch in the morning?

Fashionable?

Favorite drink?

Favorite place to hang out?

How many friends does s/he have?

Favorite meal?

Any obsessions?

What would your character do for their dreams?

How important are their dreams?

Right or left handed?

Both?

Does your character like the read?

Does s/he fold the pages?

How organized is s/he?

Does s/he wear their hair a certain way?

Do they have an unconscious habit?

What do they do when they lie?

Do they like gum?

What is something they love to do?

Do they have a secret pastime?

How do they feel about love?

Do they like romance?

Do they like children?

These are just a few questions that I ask my characters.  I ask a lot more and I’ll possibly make a separate post with more questions but for now I will leave you with these.

Happy character-building!