Character deaths are an interesting facet of storytelling. You create someone from nothing, nurture them, grow them, then murder the crap out of them.
I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’m a literary murderer, or at least I’d like to think I have.
There’s no real middle ground with me – either killing a character doesn’t bother me at all, or I hate myself (at least for awhile) for killing them.
There are still characters that I’ve slain, to this day, that haunt me, but I know that killing them was the right thing to do. If you’re going for realism in your story, death, especially in war, is very likely to happen.
When I first started writing, I pretty much refused to kill off any main or semi-important minor characters. They were my friends, my allies, they marched on with their quest and never had to deal with any lasting consequences. Hell, I didn’t even cut off any limbs! Sure, I’d kill a mother or father here (however cliche, who doesn’t appreciate a tragic backstory?), a few minor characters there, and maybe even the villain, but never, ever would I touch my precious darlings.
But in all honesty, what’s the likelihood of all 10 heroes making it out of an ambush alive? Or a flaming maze? Or a battle? What’s the likelihood of them all being intact and unaffected?
I’m not sure what changed in me; if it was my writing that matured, or if after I had personally dealt with several deaths in my own life, I realized that death, although a horrible and tragic thing, has the potential to strengthen those around it. Suddenly your characters are being faced with a situation where the old, wise wizard is no longer around to guide them, or where the loss of their best friend is driving them forward.
Death may be hard to write, but it’s very real. Consequences are very real. Your characters dealing with lasting scars, ailments, or grief because of what they’ve been through is very real. If your characters are real, your readers will connect with them. YOU, as the writer, will connect with them.
Sometimes killing a character isn’t the right thing to do, but if it is, don’t be afraid.
I am always here to provide internet hugs.
Annnnnnddd now that I’m sitting here thinking about all my deceased characters, I’ll leave you to your killing while I go weep in the corner.