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.
I just did some Myers Briggs tests for some of my characters and boy don’t they make sense. I’ve been wanting to do this for a while but I was always afraid that I didn’t know my characters as well as I thought I did and because I didn’t know them as well as I did I wouldn’t get the right results.
I’m happy to say that I received results that were not surprising, but rather satisfactory. Doing these tests also helped me distinguish different behaviors among my characters which is a great relief. Sometimes it’s difficult to say tell what a character will do in a specific situation and that confusion is likely due to a misunderstanding of your character’s personality.
Sometimes when I read stories of beginning writers they tend to be a bit shaky on the character personality part. Their character may do one thing, but later in the story the writer forgets about their past actions and…well, the character does something that seems “out of character.” Not only is this confusing to the reader, but it also prevents readers from understanding the character’s motives or understanding who they really are as a character. Now, having a character who is naturally unpredictable is a different story (but would probably still be frustrating as a protagonist).
There are 16 personality types according to Myers-Briggs, and each one has 4 letters. Yes, each letter means something. For example, my personality type is INTJ. This means that I am an introvert (I), I rely on my intuition(N), when making decisions I am more likely to make them based on logic rather than emotion(T), and I love control and decision in my life (J). Many villains are INTJs but that’s beside the point. As you can probably guess, ESFP’s are the complete opposite of INTJs. They are extroverted (E), they are less intuitive and rely more on sensing (S), they rely on their emotions when making decisions (F) and they tend to be more spontaneous and don’t need anything decided before hand (P). Want to learn more? Look here.
An important to mention is that this is a theory. But they tend to work as a method for learning about your fictional characters (real people are a bit different). The other thing that’s nifty about this test and creating characters is the fact that you can create non one-sided characters in a flash. It’s also helpful if you are writing about characters who are twins (because they are very different despite what people say) and it could test your knowledge on how well you actually know your characters. At least it helps me. Want to try it? Take the test here.
Also as a side note if you get really into the test you can look up other fictional characters and what their personality type is like. I heard Black Widow could be an ISTP. Interesting, yeah?