Have you ever written the death of character that was supposed to be really sad and heart-breaking but just completely fell flat?
Today I’m going to be giving you 3 steps to avoiding this, and instead create a riveting death scene.
Let’s get started!
*NOTE: For quicker readability and understanding, I will refer to the ‘character who dies’ as ‘CWD’.
1. The Protagonist Must Care
This is the most essential part of any death.
The was so weird to say hehehe
- Your protagonist must care about the CWD.
This doesn’t mean they have to love the character in a romantic way, it just means that there must be something about the CWD that the protagonist personally likes about them.
- Traits: (ex: the protagonist loves his sense of humor).
- Actions: (ex: maybe they protagonist is grateful to the character who dies for saving their life time and time again (and maybe that’s what actually gets them killed in the end!) (.
..why am I so happy about that?))
- Or you can literally have the CWD be the protagonist’s best friend who has an awesome sense of humor who continually saves the protagonist’s life. THAT would make for an epic person to kill off.
Just as long as it’s a trait or action or event that’s believable for someone to like someone else for.
This trait, action, event (or whatever else you might think up of) should appear continually throughout the book all the way until the moment before he dies.
2. The Character Who Dies Must Matter
The CWD must matter.
And by ‘matter’ I mean matter to the plot.
The CWD can’t be this minor minor character who appears only twice in the whole book. If they suddenly die, then, newsflash: no one will care.
Instead, they need to be a dominant minor character, who is always on the journey with the protagonist (ex: protagonist’s best friend in school).
- If the CWD is NOT important to the plot, then his death is useless.
You can chop out characters left and right, but if they’re not important to the plot then they will have no effect on the reader.
And that’s exactly the opposite of what we want! We want readers to cry and sob and die along with that character!
well not die, exactly, then they couldn’t be there to cry over our masterful job.
To go along with that, when a character dies, something has to happen. Something has to change. Whether it be external or internal, something in the protagonist’s everyday routine, etc, something must change after a character dies.
If the CWD has no personal connection to the protagonist, then there will be no impact on him, and no impact on the readers. Which equals? A lousy death.
3. The Death is Sudden
This is something I was shocked to figure out. It kind of dawned on me after watching The Road to Terabithia, that, well, you don’t know when you’re going to die. No one really knows.
For some reason I had gotten it into my head that you needed to foreshadow the fact that a character was going to die. Anddd of course, I was wrong.
Is it ever foreshadowed in life when you’re going to die? The only thing I could come up with is a situation like, for example, cancer (or some other deathly disease/sick). That’s the ONLY time it’s ‘foreshadowed’-and even then, the person doesn’t really know what exact day they’ll die. The doctors just provide an estimate.
In reality, death is sudden. And that’s how it should be for your characters.
It’s not foreshadowed. It’s something that happens, and it happens when we’re least expecting it.
So, if the protagonist cares, the reader will care. If the CWD matters to the plot it’ll showcase how their death truly effects the story. Top it off by making that person die suddenly-maybe while doing the one thing the protagonist likes about them-readers will be sobbing in their seats.
Did you find these tips helpful?
Have you ever struggled with writing death scenes?
Have you ever seen these tips before in books?
Like these posts? Wanna have more? Subscribe to my email list to receive inside info and lots of fun!
I hope you enjoyed this post! If you have any questions or thoughts, leave a comment down below.
Thanks for reading!