#OpenBookBlogHop – Killing off a main character

This week’s blog hop topic is How do you feel about killing off one of your major characters?

I have only written one novel and ninety two percent of one (based on my current word count estimation) so I don’t have vast experience of killing off a main character in a novel. My adult writing is mainly in the paranormal, supernatural fantasy and horror genres so death is likely and expected in my books and stories. You can’t have a ghost unless there is a death, can you?

In Through the Nethergate, the main character, sixteen year old Margaret, does not die, but many of the supporting characters are already dead as they are reincarnated ghosts. This book provides details about a number of their deaths, which are unpleasant or they wouldn’t be ghosts. People who die naturally in their beds one night don’t usually take to haunting an inn, mansion or castle.

I didn’t mind writing about their deaths at all; I have always enjoyed paranormal, supernatural and horror so I am used to reading about deaths so it isn’t that difficult for me to write it. I don’t believe my death scenes are overly gory as I am not a fan of deaths by ax murderers and the like, I am more into deaths by starvation or drowning.

TTNG 15My WIP, A ghost and his gold, also includes ghosts and their deaths, but my main character in this book is also probably going to survive, although I’m not finished writing yet so I can’t say for sure. I think readers prefer a book to end on a positive note so I doubt Michelle will die.

I have written a number of short stories and these have all included deaths. Dark Visions, a horror anthology edited by Dan Alatorre, includes my stories, The Haunting of William and The Willow Tree. Both of these stories have murders in them and The Haunting of William also has a suicide.

My three stories in Death Among Us all include deaths of various types and are all based on real historical events and people. Amelia Dyer is a well know British baby murderer from the 19th century and my story, Justice is never served, is a fictionalised account of her arrest, trial and death by hanging. The murder of the monk is a fictionalised account of the last attempt by the Abbot of Glastonbury to stave off the destruction of Glastonbury Monastery in the 16th century. My final story, an eye for an eye is about the murder of a female master chimney sweep who abuses her indentured climbing boys (child chimney sweeps). I really enjoyed writing these stories and doing the necessary historical research. The deaths in the stories were necessary and did not bother me.

My two fictional stories in my latest anthology, Whispers of the Past, include murder and death from unusual medical conditions. I enjoyed research bee allergies and rabies in humans for these two stories, The Last of the Lavender and Missed Signs.

How do you feel about killing off your main characters? Find out what other authors think about this here:

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42 thoughts on “#OpenBookBlogHop – Killing off a main character

  1. I killed off two main characters in my first novel; one of them had to die, but I wasn’t sure how until a good way into the story. It was very traumatic, but we can all imagine what it is like for characters to lose loved ones.

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    1. I have never experienced the death of someone close to me, Janet. I have to make everything I write up, not being a murderer either. Not yet anyway, ask me at the end of this lock down and I’ll tell you if it’s changed – giggle.

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  2. It’s a great question. After investing so much time in a character, it’s difficult to have them gone. I just finished the latest in a long series of detective novels, and this one involved the killing of a major character. Can’t say it sat well with me, as I will miss them after so much time spent going along with their role in the storytelling! If the story demands it, and give me as a reader someone else to latch on to, then perhaps – but it’s a tough one!

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    1. I suppose it depends on the story. With mine, they are ghost stories and the reader knows certain characters are already dead right up front. I have not decided whether to kill my MC’s husband off but I am heading towards sparing him as I prefer positive endings, as mentioned above.

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    1. I seem to be able to keep my emotions very contained when I write, Priscilla, although there have been parts of my current story when I have become quite wrapped up in the fear and anguish of the soldiers and the women and children in the concentration camps. I have never cried though, just felt as if I was standing next to them, watching their reactions.

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  3. You did it a very clever way, by bringing the main characters back dead. I forget which movie did that but we didn’t know until almost the end that the MC was dead.

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  4. I was interested to read your reply, Robbie. Of course paranormal novels do tend to have dead people in them, but normally I suppose with hauntings maybe it’s not the author who has killed them off in the first place? I must say that these days I tend to keep my characters alive.

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    1. HI Stevie, yes, that is a good point. I am not the murderer because they were already murdered by someone else. I like that, it absolves me from feeling a bit bad because I don’t mind about writing about my ghosts deaths.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I don’t mind killing off a main character. I whacked a couple in JAZZ BABY. If a death moves the plot along and contributes to the emotional fabric of the story, I’m all in.

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  6. Interesting. I’d never thought of the complications involved with dead characters, I have one who is (possibly) the figment of someone’s imagination, it’s hard to tell what the result of killing him might be.

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  7. I’m always bummed when I have to kill a major character. I want the reader to feel each death, and that means I have to first. Even killing off Janet’s pet lizard was tough. I usually cry, even though I know they’re make believe.

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  8. I don’t like to do it, but sometimes the story calls for it. I haven’t killed the main character in a published book, yet.

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  9. Love the question. It isn’t always easy, but sometimes you have to kill of a character you really like. Now, I have never killed off a main character. Not yet at least. lol
    But we writers are a rare breed. We create these characters we love and then spend out time finding ways to torment them.

    Great post.

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    1. I agree, when you write you have to go where the story takes you and you don’t always know exactly where that will be at the beginning. I am a plotter so I always have an outline of my stories but I do fill in a lot of details as I go along and sometimes changes get made.

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      1. I have to have the end of the story first. During my first draft process, I have written last chapter first. So, I know where I want the protagonist to end up.
        Then, I mull over it, to find the opposite place to start. Of course I am talking about the character arc. I find it gives me a better first draft since I have a make shift road map.

        I am kooky anyway.

        Great talking writing with you.

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