Friday, September 21, 2012

When to KILL A Character!

When to Kill ... A Character

During my current WIP, I've come to the conclusion that I may have to kill off one of my characters. This truth is something I have struggled with. I've poured hours into building him, researching his qualities, and now it could be that the next chapter is his last. 

Maybe you too are in the same predicament. Are you struggling with whether a character should perish? Before you hit the delete button, there are several things to consider. Here are my 5 tips:

1. Kill off a character to advance the plot. Sometimes for a story to increase in depth and complexity, someone has to die. Death requires an emotional reaction. By inputting  a "kill" or "death" scene into your story, it provides the reader with a better understanding of your surviving characters, especially your hero and heroine.
2. Kill off a character to increase elements of suspense and mystery. No mystery is complete without a dead body appearing. If your character has been well-developed, then your reader can't help but ask "who did it?" This will potentially keep the reader engaged and turning the pages in hopes of solving the mystery.
3. Kill off a character due to writing yourself in a corner. Sometimes when we write and allow the story to naturally develop, it could end up with a character going no where. Instead of trashing those 200 pages, you could kill the character off and still continue your story. This is good when it comes to a major battle scene. Let him play the hero...and go out with a bang.
4. Kill off your character because he is too unlikeable or too bland. If your character is unsalvageable, whereby editing him is still not making him 3- dimensional, and he has no purpose, then kill him off.  There is nothing worse than reading  a story with uninteresting characters. This could potentially make a reader stop reading your book. Don't give your reader a chance to become bored; instead, kill the character and bring new life to your story.
5. Merge the problem character with another character. Often, during rewrites, we notice how some characters are very alike- too much alike. In this case, take the stronger of the two and combine them into one character. Not only will it lower your character count, but it will prove less confusing for your reader.

However, disregard all of the tips above if your story needs for that character, i.e it can't progress without him in story, plot or complexity. If this is the case, then it is a good time to "almost" kill him. What would Harry Potter be if he'd died? And how great of a moment was it, when he lived?

Writing is about bringing imaginary people to life; sharing their stories and conflict. Sometimes that conflict can be all reaching and other times it circles a particular character like flies. By knowing when to rid your manuscript of characters that are weighing it down, you gain a more enjoyable read and a story that keeps the reader wanting more.

What would you add to the list? 

Tina Glasneck is the author of the suspense novel, THOU SHALL NOT, the first book in the /EKS/series. A criminal paralegal by day, she enjoys creating three-dimensional characters and coming up with new ways to kill people. She resides in central Virginia and is always looking for fodder in her everyday life.

If you would like to connect with Tina Glasneck, you can find her all over the web:
Twitter:  (username @TinaGlasneck)


I also wanted to give a quick shout-out to Digital Book Today for featuring A CHARMING CRIME! I had not idea and I'm so honored!!! Thank you!!


  1. Hi Tina - I like your tips. I might add that you may need to kill off someone also to make your story believable. I write fantasy and in book 2 of my trilogy decided that someone needed to die to make the story more "real". They can't have battles on always escape with just injuries. Now in my current WIP, I have killed off a few others. Guess I am getting use to it now. :) Still hard to see some of them go.

    1. Susan,
      Thanks for commenting! You're correct about the realism, but I do hate it when a character has to perish. After trying so hard to make him into a believable person, it can hurt when you type that last line. :(

  2. This is very helpful. I end up in corners where my story instinct is to kill those pesky characters all of the time. And I never know if it's the right thing to do.

    1. Katrina,
      I've learned that the pesky voice that tells me to kill my character usually knows what she is talking about. I've doubted her voice before, and after struggling with a story part for over six months, and then I end up doing what she'd been prodding me to do the entire time... well, let's just say, sometimes the best advice is to listen to ourselves. (It's sort of funny to refer to myself in the third person - LOL)