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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Not-So Happy Ending: Killing Off Main Characters

I'm working on a novel for Camp NaNoWriMo. It is an idea I've had for a long time. It's about a Princess who gets tired of waiting for her Prince to rescue her. It's about how her story is all wrong and is not going the way it's supposed to. It's about her journey to try and figure out what is wrong with her. It's about her running from a terrible choice she made. She is a Princess and is not sure exactly what that means anymore.

Woe is me! I know not what being a Princess means!

Now, some of you may be aware: I kill characters.


There are few stories where I don't kill off someone. In fact, I want to write a story where I keep killing off the narrator. But generally I don't have terrible endings. I believe in hope. I believe in happy endings. Maybe bittersweet endings. But I don't believe in Romeo and Juliet endings.

I'm sorry... But I find their story so pathetic :(

This story I'm working on could have two possible endings. There is the bittersweet ending or there is the Romeo and Juliet ending. And you know what? I really, really want to go with the terrible, terrible, kill off the main character ending.

I told my mom this and she said, "That would be a bold choice." I know that bold can just be a synonym for suicidal, so I was curious.

What do you think of terribly sad endings? How do you feel about writers killing off the main character at the end? I mean, it's not an easy choice. This is the character you've made your reader character about. This is the person they've cheered for, cried for, cared for. Killing them off? Such an action can kill writer's and their careers.

Thus I came here, curious about what you guys think about killing characters. Should only minor characters die, or would you be okay with a main character being killed off at the end??


Rebecca Wells said...

Welll... Let's go with this:

1. I'm doing Camp NaNo too! Yay!

2. I am a COMPLETE SUCKER for happy endings. Therefore, I would always vote for the bittersweet ending over the Romeo & Juliet one.

3. On the other hand, YOU are the writer. If you feel that's the way the story has to end, well... that's the way the story has to end.

4. But speaking from the heart -- it's very hard for me to read books where the main character/s die/s. Leaves me with a sour taste in my mouth. This is not to say your book can't be brilliant and also terribly tragic -- just that I have a really hard time with books like that.

5. Re: killing off minor characters: in my WIP one character is presumed dead at the end of the book, but comes back in a later book. Several supporting characters are killed, and a main character ends up blinded/crippled. Is this horrifying enough? Can I join the club now? (Although see, I still can't quite do the death-of-the-main-character thing...)

PurpleMist. said...

It's so awesome that you're doing camp nanowrimo, I don't have the time for it right now :/ So, good luck!

I think death in a novel actually makes the readers FEEL the story. But don't just kill off a character for the sake of it. There has to be a reason (specially if it's the main character that dies). Like there was NO other alternative and the character simply had to die. If there WAS an alternative and yet you killed him/her any ways, then the readers would be unsatisfied.

Just do what feels right for your story :)

PurpleMist. said...

Oops, forgot to add:
I think the Romeo and Juliet ending was pretty pathetic too. Two 'lovers' dying for each other. It's like we followed their story and in the end they both kill themselves. It's frustrating. But I guess that's what made this play so famous.
I like bitter-sweet endings more. Don't make it like a 'and then they lived happily ever after', it has to be real, their life can't be perfect. Just make it believable, I guess.
Once again, it's YOUR novel, you can do whatever you want with it, that's what I love about writing :D

Good luck and keep us updated!

Rebecca T. said...

Bwa haha! I was reading in Google Reader and not paying attention to titles or blogs and I was thinking, huh - I should tell Naomi to read this blog. It sounds just like her problem. And then I scrolled back up and saw it was you and facepalmed myself.


And, um, what about Jewel?