Killing darlings

If you’re familiar with the two authors, you’ll understand the joke. JK Rowling, of the Harry Potter series, is quoted as having problems killing off her characters. R.R. Martin, of the Game of Thrones series, seems to enjoy the slaughter.

Joss Whedon of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the Firefly series, and Avenger movie fame, is so well known for killing characters there’s jokes at his expense.

I remember watching the series, Castle, where the author Richard Castle kills off his main character of his thriller so he can start a new series (based on a female detective, influenced by Kate Beckett whom he ‘researches’).  In the show, Castle admits “Writing Derrick used to be fun. Now it’s like work.”; the reason why he killed him off.

So this leads me to think on the reasons to kill characters;

-Their death impacts other characters, to move the story along. The revenge-of-the-death-of-friend/lover/family is a common theme. The death of parents impacts a child to become a hero or criminal, (Batman comes to mind).

-You want to tug on the reader’s emotional strings. Personally, I feel manipulated if the author does this- don’t kill a character you spent chapters upon chapters getting me to like him/her…just, don’t.

-An act of sacrifice is required for the story. What better hero sacrifices themselves to save others?

What do you think? Do you kill off your characters?Difficult? Enjoyable? Have you already done this with regrets? Or not? Write in comments.


2 Replies to “Killing darlings”

  1. Honestly, I find it almost enjoyable to kill off characters, even ones I love. I especially love it when the death of a character upsets my readers – it means they’re truly engaged in my story. But the death of characters can actually be beautiful. Look at Romeo & Juliette – that story would not be the same if they had lived.


  2. I actually found it hard killing my baddie off I had grown to rather like him – he had to die there was no option – but I did shed a little tear for him and the friends who read my manuscript felt the same


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