Authors and the fate of their characters

I discovered something the other day which I’m not sure whether to find weirdly amusing or concerning. As an experiment, next time you’re with a group of authors, ask for a show of hands as to how many are currently writing scenes that involve characters being killed, killing, or enacting general mayhem in some way. I think it was Steven King that said "kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.” I just didn’t realise so many authors had taken it to heart.

In fact, lets have a poll here for “fun” just because I’m kind of interested.

Question: Are you currently writing something as described in the paragraph above? e.g. Involving the death of characters in any way shape or form

  • Raise hand slowly and back away.
  • No… I mean not right at the moment anyway.
  • Of course I’d never write things like that!
  • I’m just here for the popcorn.

0 voters

Can you be a bit more specific with your poll?

(also “kill your darlings” refers to removing a beautifully written sentence to make the whole paragraph better, etc, not literally killing characters)


Just pointing out that “kill your darlings” isn’t just about characters…


Not once it has votes. It was meant to be general and light hearted, but if you want one with more info, feel free to add another one yourself :slight_smile:

Umm…? :open_mouth:


Ok, my sense of humour has officially been missed :stuck_out_tongue:


I think they mean make a concise question just over the poll, as it’s a bit confusing at the moment…

I know I was a little confused about what exactly I was answering.

feel free to add another one yourself


Are you currently writing a scene that features the death of a major character?

  • Yes.
  • No.

0 voters

The “darlings” in question are all your favorite little bits of prose and dialogue, those little plot points and themes you love.

they can be really hard to let go of, but they need to die if they don’t fit the story.


I mean… I’ve got to raise the stakes and tension.
*meekly raises hand

*eyes around
Though, I suppose not everyone agree with me.

*slowly puts hand away

1 Like

I know, I think my sense of humour has completely failed to translate. Basically I was insinuating that a large proportion of authors seemed to be taking that quote quite literally.

Anyway, that’s all from me… backs out of the room

1 Like

At a cast of over 40 I believe only 2 have died.

1 Like

I am frankly of the opinion that I am too reluctant to kill characters. It makes danger feel a bit hollow if everyone always gets through fine. There needs to be the occasional irrecoverable loss if the reader is to feel like an action carries any risk. It can be a character loses an eye and so they wear an eyepatch for a significant length of time and they can’t do something they’d do if they had depth perception. And death only counts if the character stays dead until someone goes and mugs Charon to steal his boat and rescues them from Hades. Though it still counts as dead even if Charon will carry letters back and forth.

If, on the other hand, your character has phoenix powers so they’re dead for two minutes and then are reborn in fire the readers aren’t going to take their deaths seriously no matter how hard you try to make them. I use this example because it is an actual character in Touhou named Moku. She dies a lot because she just goes around and eats strange mushrooms that look tasty because if it turns out to be the Destroying Angel she’s sick for a few hours and then she dies and then ten seconds later she is all better. People going to meet Moku are strongly warned to not eat her cooking.

1 Like

In Crème de la Crème the current dangerous consequences are injuries and social ostracism, but in Blood Money you can kill a lot of the major characters if you so desire. It’s fun to make characters’ lives drama-filled!


I’ll try not to murder anyone in my WIP, especially an RO or someone close to the MC.


No deaths until book 3…


Well, my current story involves you raising a child. It would get pretty dark pretty fast if I did this.

1 Like

Currently have no plans to kill a character for my writing, but I did plan to chop one hand off of a character with big role.

I thought it was pretty funny so you got to at least one person. :smile:

I’m not killing off characters… At the moment. I’ll admit it’s definitely something I’ve done in the past and might do again in the future though. :sweat_smile:

1 Like

I’m reluctant to kill off my characters, but that’s because I create stories with such small casts.

Admittedly, I could just create a new character, but in an IF that seems rather abrupt and awkward.

1 Like

No one is safe. I start thinking about how my characters are going to die about the time I’m trying to name them.

All those deaths don’t make it into the story, of course, but in just about every story I’ve ever written somebody important dies. For the CS story I’m working on I’m trying to make it so that the player will have some influence over who dies, but I don’t think it will be possible to save everyone.

That picture in the top post reminded me of something else George Martin said. I’m paraphrasing, but it was something like, “Everytime some one asks me when the next book will be out, I kill another Stark.”


I personally enjoy stories where a lot of main character’s die (makes the story more unpredictable) so I have a tendency to kill off at least one MC in most of my stories.

That said, I usually either get too attached to an MC to kill them off, or the character’s essential to the plot later on, so I can’t kill them off until the end. To counter this, I find myself “pulling a George R.R. Martin” and creating main characters for the sole purpose of killing them off… Anybody else do this? :yum: