I was going to be serious and some of these suggestions will be in that category. Yet I find myself in a silly mood, which means we’ll see what happens. So what are some things to consider when killing off a main character?
- Make sure the readers will care. If a central character dies and there’s no reaction then something went wrong. Maybe you forgot to include them in the previous parts of the book? Perhaps you forgot to explain what the character’s purpose was besides getting shanked in the giblets. Either way, you might want some beta readers to make sure this doesn’t happen.
- Have it be memorable. Nobody likes a forgettable death scene.
- Have it be simple. Only so many ‘life story’ speeches a character can do with a gaping chest wound. Unless they’re in a Metal Gear game and then they seem to have all the time in the damn world.
- Irony can be fun when killing a villain. Though I might be thinking of blatant foreshadowing too. I can’t quite remember what irony is exactly because I’m part of the generation who listened to a popular song that muddied the term.
- Sacrificial deaths are great, but don’t overdo them. Also make sure the sacrifice is real and important. For example, don’t have a character run the bomb into the enemy forces that are invading a space station when the others are standing near a button that decouples the parts that the enemy has taken. Just hit the damn button.
- You don’t have to kill a character to make them suffer. Villains seem to enjoy torturing and it can be more interesting to see a character rise from the ashes. After all, dead characters don’t evolve.
- Be careful resurrecting characters and establish the possibility beforehand. Don’t do it if the only reason is because readers are mad at you.
- Please make sure people know a character is dead, especially villains during the climactic fight scene. If the reader has to ask you if that was a death blow or wonder where the bad guy went, you slipped up somewhere. Of course, this can be ignored if your intention is to leave the character’s fate a mystery.