Characters, Scenes

How to Shatter Readers’ Hearts With a Riveting Death Scene

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!Screen Shot 2019-02-10 at 2.39.03 PM

*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.

For example:

  • 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.Screen Shot 2019-02-10 at 2.39.03 PM

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?

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I hope you enjoyed this post! If you have any questions or thoughts, leave a comment down below.

Thanks for reading!


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10 thoughts on “How to Shatter Readers’ Hearts With a Riveting Death Scene”

  1. ANOTHER REALLY AWESOME POST!!!!!!! I’ve never thought about any of these tips (except #1 – that one I knew) but they make a lot of sense. I’m getting ready to finally write this death scene in my WIP, but I mean, is it strange that I wasn’t really targeting for my readers to come in emotionally. Like, it was just supposed to happen, but I wasn’t really expecting it to come out as something big. Just kind of to raise the stakes a lot.

    ACTUALLY WAIT!!! I just remembered, I had also heard #2 before, but kind of forgot it. (????) *hiding fact in shame* XD But I had definitely NEVER thought about #3 before, so that’s cool!! Great post, Mary! 👍

    Liked by 1 person

    1. THANK YOU MAGGIE!! Ooh that’s cool! YES, I understand that! That’s exactly how I used to write death scenes! It’s so much more epic, though, when it crushes readers hearts and has an impact on the story.

      Hahahah that’s okay, at least I was able to remind you! Yeah, #3 is actually a new concept to me still, it’s definitely interesting! Thanks again, Maggie!!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Amazing post! This, this is my forte. My most proud instance of slaughtering the beloved character is in a book where there isn’t an MC there’s more of the main group (so MG). Well, the character doomed to die is the glue of this group and the most innocent, and youngest, of the characters. (they’re even MY favorite) and another part of what makes it so sad is that it’s the MG’s fault that they died. The MG pushed this character away because they were “too annoying” and when the character (Emmy) goes off by themselves to be less annoying, meets the villain face to face and ends up feeling more welcome with him than their friends. So not only is it sudden, but it is also the entire MG’s fault. Yeahhhhh, and then another death soon follows because they take Emmy’s death too hard and basically commits suicide while taking the villain down with them. Yeah, my friends have already told me that I am the evilest writer they know. (for killing a 15-year-old. In the worst way possible.) *cries* but! I haven’t written anyone dying yet so they are all alive. For now.

    Liked by 1 person

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