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Deaths in Books

I would guess most of us have a love/hate relationship when it comes to the deaths of our beloved characters, be it as a reader or writer. Personally, I find my favorite stories all have tragic deaths in them, whether a liked main character, or a massacre of background characters. Both have their place.

Authors can use mass slaughter in war/battle scenes to give the reader a sense of seriousness to a scene. The pure number can leave me feeling like the MC’s purpose is doomed. It raises the stakes.

Antagonist deaths are probably the most common and satisfying. Nothing better than that long-awaited scene where justice finally takes out the evil. I’m all for this type of death. It’s gratifying because it leaves the story fulfilled.

And then there’s the gut-wrenching death. The kind where the author kills off one of your favorite characters. The kind that makes you toss the book at your wall, cry, scream and vow never to read the ending or any other book beyond it if it’s a series (looking at you Half-blood Prince). And then ten minutes later you begrudgingly pick it back up and continue, still seething. Maybe that’s just me? Anyway, these deaths suck, and I hate reading them.


They invoke emotion—one stronger than any of the other deaths I’ve touched on. So, maybe, they aren’t so bad after all. Maybe, these are necessary, as much as it pains me to say. Don’t go throwing main character deaths around willy-nilly, no that won’t do. There must be a purpose and consequence.

Every death is a tool to engage the reader. I think they should be used as needed to strengthen the story and the connection between reader and characters.

So, what do you think? Have any of your favorite characters been killed off? How did you react? Any authors you haven't forgiven?

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