Monday, May 12, 2014

Killing Characters?

Came upon this interesting article from David Farland recently, Thou Shalt Not Kill.

 The subject is one that I definitely have strong feelings on and I've even had discussions with writers about this element. It is not to be used lightly, and I think I am almost starting to see it as a trap that eager beggining writers seem to be especially suseptible too. Is it the thrill of the kill, the initial rush of power that comes with discovering you hold these fictional lives in your hands?

 The power to make readers feel is truly amazing, and it should be respected and held gently, and not be abused for a quick rush of  reader wreching moment.

   Be brave! Be creative!
   Stand up for the innocents in your stories.

  What do you think?


Deborah O'Carroll said...

Hmm, cool article and interesting thoughts!

And... WOW I just read that older post of yours that you linked to and can I just say how awesome it is?! Seriously, so many good things in there!!! I agree with nearly everything in there. I'm bookmarking that and may have to pull it out if the subject of killing characters comes up in conversation. :D

I'm one of those (apparently few?) people who hasn't done a whole lot of character killing from the beginning. I started writing at a young age and did it entirely from a love of reading, and character deaths not being something I enjoyed (and still don't) I didn't ever become one of those writers who likes to kill off characters. I've never even understood them... But that's so TRUE what you said about were we ever glad a good character was killed? Because... not really. Yep. Wow.

I've lately been thinking a lot about what you expressed so well in your post:
"stories take leave of "total reality" one way or another, or else who would want to read them?
We go to Story to be uplifted and made to feel better..."
YES YES YES. I agree wholeheartedly! :D If I want real life, it's all around me. I got to books for other things. Which is why the trend these days of depressing dystopian stories bothers me so much. Why would anyone WANT to read about such horrible things? Gaah. I'll stop though before I rant too much. :P

(Also, my sister has now decided from that post that you're officially awesome. ;) She's a very big fan of not killing characters.)

Great thoughts, Elizabeth! :)

Connie Jean said...

Great post!

I love killing characters. There's just something in it. More than just the rush of the kill. There's the stripping of the character. It's hard to act when you're dying. Exploring the character's last thought, last action ... I love that stuff.

I do agree that death should be used sparingly and well when it's used.

Sometimes you just can't avoid death without losing the realism of your story, though. If your characters are in mortal peril in every chapter, it wouldn't make sense that all your characters would escape unscathed.

E. Kaiser Writes said...

Hey, Deborah! Thanks, that's very flattering! I appreciate it! :-)
Glad your sister thinks I'm awesome... that is always welcome to hear! ;-) Hopefully she won't find out something to make her change her mind, right? ;-)

Also, I'm glad to hear that you were never a character-killer... ;-)

E. Kaiser Writes said...

Yes, Connie Jean, sometimes a character death is appropriate, and does add to the story. I do admit to enjoying the crafting of a good death scene, but the urge to over do it ought to be conquered! :-)
(I once wrote a death scene that had Abi in tears, but she was glad the character had died. For reasons of the plot, the character had nothing in life, and so letting him go was important, and though it was sad, the transition was smooth and highly introspective. If I do say so myself, it was one of the most-moving/least-traumatic deaths I've ever met, and it was a privilege to have crafted it. :-) )

Connie Jean said...

I want to read that death scene! (Yes. I'm insane and I know. I love getting my emotions trampled.)

Anonymous said...

Hi Elizabeth. This is a thoughtful post thanks.
It made me think of the good fiction I have read, such as the Lion, the witch and the wardrobe series.
There is death in that, characters do die. But there is a purpose to it, its not in any way for the thrill of a kill. I think this matters so much.
You see, we humans, we have all manner of traits in our spirits, (our souls) and these we may call character traits or personality traits, but that fact is, what you feed grows, what you practice, you become.
So the question I would pose is, what are we encouraging and reinforcing by what we write?
Also, not all are made of the same metal, we all have different strengths and weaknesses, and do we want to encourage any darkness in us.
I have found that many people, maybe even all people, have a degree of murder in their heart.
What I mean is, that under the right circumstances, anyone can wish someone else was dead, (only some of us act upon that wishing.) Now this 'wishing someones was dead' hmmmm, its a form of murder, or wishing to obliterate for our own purposes, whereas Christ did and taught the opposite, to give our life for others, for their raising up, even if it kills us. Now if that is the highest principle of life and love, (and I hold that it is) then
encouraging that principle would be a main impetus behind our story telling.
Maybe there is a story in that alone, in overcoming the darkness in us, in laying it down for the love of others.

What I recall or the things I recall the most in the fictional books I have read are the ones that inspired me towards something good.

best wishes BB

E. Kaiser Writes said...

Thanks for stopping by, BB! Glad you liked the post.

Hannah Scheele said...

I love this post! It's a very interesting topic to me--I HATE it when writers kill characters unnecessarily. Not that I should argue with authors too much--I know that. ;) But often it seems to me like the author is just trying to make the story more striking and memorable, and it's not admirable to use someone else's death just to get more attention, if you know what I mean.
Not that it bothers me if a book is sad in many places. That is just an artist honestly depicting real life. But there's a difference between unnecessary deaths and a story that's true to reality. Have you read The Death of Ivan Ivanovich? It's by Leo Tolstoy, and it's all about a guy dying, but very good and interesting. Different from the loads of needless deaths in stuff like The Hunger Games.
Now, I can see why an author might--just might--need to put in a death to solve an awkward plot problem. Like, if the heroine has two equally attractive guys interested in her, you might have to kill one off to get rid of him in a graceful manner--maybe...???
Sorry, I seem to be preaching a sermon. :( I'll shut up now.
DON'T KILL FIA! Just remember that, and I'll not get mad at you. :)

E. Kaiser Writes said...

Haha! Hannah, you always make me smile, and often times laugh! Okay, I won't kill Fia. ;-)
Though SOMEBODY has suggested I kill one of her brothers....

Hannah Scheele said...

I'll hold you to that promise. ;)
Oh dear....:( ( organ music rolls) At first, I was like, " That's a horrible idea" but on second thoughts..maybe it would be sweet if Illido came to sympathize with her when she was grieving ( since he lost a brother too)...
But don't do it unless necessary! ;)

E. Kaiser Writes said...

Well, just becuase someone suggested it doesn't mean it's a given... I guess we'll just have to (write and then) read the next book and see! ;-)
Yes, Ilido would definitely be very sympathetic, he's lost enough family members! Poor guy...