Character Death

Most people reading popular modern fantasy are used to seeing characters die, maybe even popular characters. On the other side of the text it can be hard to pull the trigger even if the plot demands it. You grow attached to those characters.

Sometimes, though, it’s harder than usual. Yesterday as I was writing some of the final scene of my newest book I suddenly realized the scene would be heightened if one of the characters died.

I was already running out of interesting scenes that featured a particular character, and I’m balancing a rather large cast, so it seemed as though it would be one of those spontaneous decisions that would improve the book. The death didn’t even change the outline because the character didn’t get a mention in the final sections.

And yet once I wrote the scene and its aftermath, I myself felt as though I was going into mourning. It didn’t take me long to realize why.

Back when I regularly collected rejection letters for short stories I was working with a pretty generic couple of characters. I didn’t keep much from those old stories, but I did keep some of their names, and some of the descriptions, and this particular character was one of those guys — one of the lead ones, in fact, a fellow I once liked enough to try featuring in multiple tales. I’ve recycled a number of them as supporting characters into various projects. This guy had a similar name and a similar description to that original character — but like me he was at least twenty years older.

I’d known the guy since I was a teenager, and I’d just written a death scene for him. I didn’t burst into tears, but all the sudden I felt pretty somber. And older. But then a lot of stuff I do these days reminds me that I’m getting older…

So any of you out there have character death stories you want to share? You think there’s anything fellow writers can learn from this sort of thing?