No Room for Humanitarianism: Killing Characters

“You are the weakest link. Goodbye.” -The Weakest Link

No one wants to see their children die, right? The product of love and necessity deserves a full life. But when the pressures of the world (plot development), agitation from their peers (importance of other characters), and the finite amount of space for this world to exist (word count)…well…

You gotta do what’cha gotta do.

That said, I really hate killing characters. Unless their sole existence was for them to die. There is really nothing worse than reading a series and having your favorite character die. No, a superb battle, heroic sacrifice, and Shakespearian last words do not console me. Dead is dead (unless your universe involves contacting the underworld or Frankenstein-like reanimation). Even worse are pointless deaths, where the plot really hadn’t developed enough to necessitate the death of the character. GRRRRRR!

I  reached a point in my editing stage where I discovered that a character is totally unnecessary within the story. For a long time, I wasn’t sure what to do; increase the importance of her role, or remove her completely and divvy her few important scenes to the other characters that have already proven themselves necessary? But, in the end I deemed it a waste of space to keep her in and took the knife/black sharpie pen of death to her current existence. Then I changed my mind. After all, she was in the original draft, so I owe it to her to make it to the end. But…she’s useless and unnecessary. So I scratched out the resurrection ink I’d written in around the sharpie. There, dead. For a while I felt like Dr. Death, but I made a dying promise to her that life may still be hers. If not in this world/universe, then in another. Somewhere. This isn’t the only story I’ll ever write. Reincarnation could happen.

I wonder how many serial killers have pulled out a similar line.

The story is much smoother without her. There is no awkward jolt in the story to explain her presence. It was a good decision. My advice? Make sure of the necessity in every character’s existence. If the sword must fall, let it fall. But judge wisely, and don’t hesitate once the decision is made.

“If they would  rather die, they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population!” – A Christmas Carol

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Andy Straub-Walden
    May 03, 2011 @ 22:00:06

    pretty sure that quote is from the show “the weakest link”.



  2. Jennifer Mandelas
    May 03, 2011 @ 22:15:33

    ….I’m sure you’re right.


  3. Laurie
    May 04, 2011 @ 02:36:57

    Very good advice – yes, yes, I know. No “sharp, pointy stick” either.

    Considering that some characters just show up uninvited – and really unannounced – its hard to determine if they are really necessary. Though sometimes, its better to have the Red Shirts to kill off. 🙂


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