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!