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Character deaths

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Mon Nov 21, 2011 5:57 pm
Napier says...

What is the point in novels where the death count becomes too high?
Is one death enough?
Or do you feel a bloodbath is more satisfying?
“It is the tale, not he who tells it.”
― Stephen King

“If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
― Stephen King

Formerly BadlyDrawnLightning

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Fri Nov 25, 2011 12:22 am
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Kale says...

Depends on the story. Does your story call for a bloodbath, or is it one of those light-hearted ones where the worst thing to happen to a character is they're stuck with a pair of mismatched socks? And does the death(s) come out of left field, or is it possible to read back through the story and see why the death(s) is a natural result of the earlier actions?

So long as why a character dies is believable, and so long as the other characters' reactions to the death are believable as well, then I see no body count limit.
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Fri Nov 25, 2011 1:28 am
Leahweird says...

I find that after a certain number of people die, I just stop caring. The death itself looses impact, and it becomes difficult to become attached to characters when you know they're probably just going to bite it soon anyway. Certain situations call for a lot of bloodshed, but I definetly say that less is more.

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Fri Nov 25, 2011 7:33 pm
Rosendorn says...

Depends on the story.

Sometimes deaths are pointless, and those should vanish from the roster of fiction. But others, as Kyll said, are handled well. They happen in a believable way and make readers care for the characters.

You also have to consider the period the story is set in. Some time periods and cultural situations are prone to bloodbaths, while others aren't so much. While you can justify nearly everything, you do have to be aware of people's expectations on the setting. (Like, a war story in the trenches or other such equivalent has a death expectation in my books.)
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Sat Dec 03, 2011 7:23 am
Talulahbelle says...

Totally depends on the story! Sometimes you can fit multiple deaths in there and only after the end is the reader like "Oh! A ton of people died there!" Harry Potter is a good example of that. Seriously? J.K.? Could you not leave someone alive? Just go with what feels natural, I think.
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Thu Dec 08, 2011 7:05 pm
polinkacreations says...

Death should be handled very carefully. I believe that no one in a book should die with no reason. If it's someone not even introduced (war etc), then it's okay, but any other death should have significance, should mean something to the reader. Totally agree with Talulahbelle above me - J.K Rowling disappointed me a bit when she killed off all those characters - it seemed like they only survived to be killed in the end. It's sad.
And, deaths should be meaningful, and not boring. I hate boring deaths, it just seems once again that the character was simply not important.
Examples of good deaths: (this is going to be an actual spoiler :P )

Spoiler! :
Jet (from avatar the last airbender),
Fox (from Wanted),
Tyler Hawkins (from Remember Me),
King Leonidas (from 300 - one of the most epic deaths ever)

Honourable mention:
Spoiler! :
Dastan from Prince of Persia (yes, he didn't really die, but to stab yourself in the stomach is a pretty damn hard thing to do, as far as I'm concerned.) Oh, and Gandalf. You knew that was coming.

Bad deaths (boring, or not the ones the characters deserved) :
Spoiler! :
L from Death Note
Vitaly Orlov from Lord Of War
Cyclops from X-Men (they could have done a much better job with his death)

There are many more, but I can't think of any :P
"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." - Dr. Seuss

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Sat Dec 10, 2011 4:17 pm
Dynamo says...

In any story you want deaths to be meaningful. Even if it's the death of a person the main character just met and barely knows you need to make it have some sort of impact on the MC. In my story, near the beginning the main character gets conscripted into the army. At first he's terrified at the thought of going to war, but he starts to make friends with one of the soldiers who helps him ease into the squad. The next chapter their squad gets ambushed and results in everyone dying except the main character, who finds his friend in the midst of bodies and watches him draw his last breath before his own eyes.

This leads to the main character feeling obligated to go to his friend's home village to break the news of his death to his parents, which also leads to him worrying about how his own mother is handling things and wondering if she thought he was dead, too.

With the right build-up and reaction from the main character you can make even the death of an ancillary character you've only known for one chapter a memorable one, as well as one of the driving forces for the MC to achieve his goals.
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Wed Dec 14, 2011 4:54 am
Ad1la3tt3n says...

It really depends on you and your story. I think you should have as many deaths as you are comfortable with.
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Sun Jan 01, 2012 1:35 pm
Wolfdancer95 says...

Depends on the character. Death is a device in fiction to create an impact on the viewer. In a light-hearted scene which suddenly ends with a character dying can go both ways, first way, a cheap way to get a reaction from the audience. The second way if done well tugs on heart strings.

If characters start dropping like flies in a short amount of time, it can be redemed by the way it's written, played for cheap drama, not so much.

The character also has to mean something more to the character then the story, a character dying before relaying a message is a plot point, a character dying because of a connect to another character may be better, still it depends on how you do it, be original with the cause of death and/or reason.
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Sun Jan 01, 2012 2:18 pm
kasimkaey says...

It depends on the story you've written? Obviously, if it's some blood and guts story where a character dies in each scene (like the film Immortals), then there's really no limit is there. But, if it's an emotional story (struggles to think of any but Twishite), then the deaths will have to mean something so there might be a limit? You can't just kill off all your characters at the start, nor can you make them all survive to the end to kill them. That's just boring and the reader will not even care as much.

Light griefs are loquacious, but the great are dumb.
— Seneca