Fiction is the one place you can get away with murder. The trouble begins with caring too much for your characters that you simply don't want to see them dead. You have birthed them onto the page, and you can't imagine staging their funeral. Are you really that heartless? Do you lack the very soul that your mother and father nurtured in you long ago?
Of course not. You're a writer. You create. You can also destroy. They are two opposing forces that provide balance to your story. What you need to understand is that getting rid of a character is more than murder.
I write YA, so I don't kill many characters. Well, that's not true. Characters die in my stories. Oh god, I'm a liar and a killer.
Welcome to the world of fiction, I tell myself.
Every story must have a death. Real. Metaphoric. Multiple. Single. Someone. Something. Must die. It's how you move from the world that was to the world that can and must be.
Every Shakespearean play features one or more important death scenes. Take "MacBeth", which is riddled with murders, most notably Duncan's.
In "Gone With the Wind", the old Tara must die in order for there to be any hope that Scarlet will change.
In William Golding's "Lord of the Flies", we find more than the death of childhood when Piggy goes.
Whether your story revolves around a single death of a beloved character or someone important to them, someone/something must die.
Death symbolizes the end and the beginning. Harry Potter's whole story is wrapped around the death of his parents. Until he unravels the mystery that is his early life, he cannot move on into adulthood. That's a nice seven books worth of soul-searching.
In John Green's "Looking for Alaska", our protagonist is in search of the Great Perhaps. He cannot locate this until he experiences a heart-wrenching loss of his own.
Consider what or who must die in your story. What loss will propel your hero into his or her necessary transformation? Besides people, you can kill or destroy ideas and things.
Not ready to kill a character? Here's a list of possible symbolic deaths:
Natural Disaster - burn down a home, school, landmark; destroy a memento; flood a town; crack a bridge in an earthquake
Loss - literally get lost (in the woods, on the road, at sea); lose something important (item, memory, person)
Ideals - give up on something (love, honesty, deceit, jealousy); change sides (political parties, sports team, nations, families - think Hatfield and the McCoys or Romeo and Juliet)
We could go on and on, but you get the idea. Death in your story places your character right in it. He must choose to do things differently now. What will that be for your hero?
Share your thoughts below.