How to write character death that really affects the reader? Making Readers Feel Emotion Over A Character Death | EelKat on Writing Believable Characters 




For me, as a reader, the death itself is not the thing that gets to me. A death on the page, is just yet another death on the page. One of many. Not the first I've seen, nor will it be the last. Fast death. Slow death. Sudden death. Grizzly death. Doesn't matter. Means nothing to me. It's just another death. Death gallops across the pages of books.

And I've seen more death in real life, so, it's hard to impress me with your fictional death that is hugely inaccurate to how real death is. 

I hate it when someone who has never witnessed a murder, writes a murder, because someone like me who has witnessed multiple murders, can pick your inaccuracies apart.

It's very difficult for you as a writer to convince me as a reader, that your characters were ever alive enough for me to care about them, to begin with. So character deaths, almost never impact me at all.

This is not to say the death is meaningless, it is just that death happens so often in the types of novels I read (Fantasy and Murder Mystery), that is become difficult for the death to strike me and have me cry over the loss of yet another character.

What affects me, as a reader, about a character death, is the people left behind. Here are some examples of things I've read over the years that affected me:

  • The mother who has said nothing for days, to in shock to respond, then finally collapses at the funeral in front of the open coffin. Her, I'll feel for. Her, I'll cry for. Her heart is breaking.
  • The lover/spouse left behind. Putting on a brave face in public, and breaking down in tears in private. Smiling in church, and while running to the bathroom cutting their wrists desperate to join their loved one.
  • The woman who can no longer eat strawberries because he brought her strawberries every day and the sight or smell of strawberries fills her with sadness now, knowing he'll never bring her strawberries again.
  • The man who plasters his wall with thousands of photos of his dead wife, and sits all night, every night, for years on end, playing her favorite song over and over again, sinking ever deeper into an inner madness he can not escape, yet to the rest of the world he seems unchanged, uncaring, almost as though unaffected by her death. The more he hides his pain from the world, the more pain you know he feels.
  • The lover/spouse left behind. Standing in the kitchen, holding a plate. Time to cook dinner, it's almost time for him to come home from work, dinner is nearly finished, she's setting the table to have it ready before he gets home... and now she's holding the plate, staring at it, unable to set it on the table.... remembering he died last week. He's not coming home for dinner. Her brief lapse back into the daily routine, forgetting his death, going back to her normal life, and the sudden snap back to the reality of her situation... is horrifying.

My personal favourite....

  • The man who goes back in time, again, and again, and again, and against, hundreds, perhaps thousands of times, trying everything he can think of to stop her death, but never able to do anything other the change the way in which she died.
  • Rescue her from being hit by a car, only to watch her fall through thin ice.
  • Rescue her from walking on the frozen lake, only to watch her die in a burning building.
  • Rescue her from the burning building, only to watch her gunned down in a drive by shooting...
  • He always saves her, every time, and just as he's about to go back to his own time, the last thing he sees, is her dying yet again. He can never save her, because it was her death that drove him to create a time machine, thus her death is now fixed in time and all he can change is how she died, because had she not died, he would never have gone back in time. He's now trapped in a time loop, driving himself mad trying to stop a death, that he can never stop, and now tortures himself watching her die not once, but hundreds of times in hundreds of ways

In each of these cases, it's not the death that strikes emotion, but rather, the emptiness the one left behind is experiencing. The reaction of the person left behind. Their lives torn apart. Their normacy shattered. Their desperate to make things right. They fight against a thing they can not change. Watching them struggle and fail to come to terms with the death. It's their failure to regain any ability to function normally that is heartbreaking. Watching them as they mentally and emotionally fall apart, is the thing that makes me feel for them. Seeing them suffer. Seeing their mind unable to go back to living a normal life. That's the thing that always gets to me. Seeing the person struggling to get through the small everyday tasks, while being reminded at every turn, the person who normally did those tasks with them, is never coming home. Watching them struggle to come to terms with the emptiness that now exists in their life. That to me, is far more powerful then the death itself.

The character death never affects me, but watching the survivor go mad in their attempts to adjust to life without someone they loved - that always affects me very strongly.


After many years, this page gets an update... it's now 2021 and I have more to say on the topic of killing off characters...


Killing off lovable characters


>>>Was thinking about Game of Thrones (Song of ice and fire) and how the author (George RR Martin) kills off important characters quickly. This is pretty powerful since it sets the tone that no-one is safe, which makes the reader more alert and curious if they can get hints as to who dies next, and gives believability to a brutal world.


I do not know Game of Thrones or George RR Martin. I assume George RR Martin is the one who wrote Game of Thrones based on your wording, but this is Reddit after all, so I'm not I can go by that. 99% of the so called writers on the writing subreddit wouldn't know grammar if it hit them in the face, so it tends to be a toss up wither they actually mean the book and the author go together. But your post sounds like you mean he is the author of the book you mentioned so I will assume that he is. 

In any case, you seem to suggest that killing of important characters is rarely done or that this book and it's author are the first to do it?

This tells me that you are not well read.

Killing off important characters is a staple, that can be found in the Bible written some 5,000 years ago and Shakespeare a few hundred years ago.

Charles Dickens and Robert Louis Stevenson did it constantly.

Edgar Allan Poe has 5 stories where the main character dies while they are telling the story in first person.

Ernest Hemingway and Herman Melville and Jack London are all known for killing on almost every character.

The Witcher series, written 30 years ago, killed off some 5,000 characters, all of them introduced as though they were important and going to be there a while.

The first novel in my series that I write was published in 1978, and in the 130+ novels in my 50 years of writing the series, I've killed off 750+ characters whom reader considered quite important. Including I killed off the main character and brought in a new main character, more than once. If I'm writing it, you can't even trust the main character to stay alive.

Killing off primary characters is nothing new. Read more and you'd have known that.

Killing off primary characters is part of the reason the world's top literature, the so-call "100 greatest classics" and no main character was safe in anything written in the 1800s, main characters got shot, beaten, horse whipped, lost limbs, and were brutalised all the time. Read any novel written in the 1880s and you'll be left to wonder how any human survived the 1800s long enough for the 1900s to even come along at all.

I think the problem is, somewhere in the 1990s, authors and publishers alike turned into politically correct tuttie fruttie snowflakes too scared to step on anyone's toes, so suddenly just about every novel from 1997 onward was nothing but goody-two-shoe happening to main characters because we got to be diverse and have someone of every color and kill no one. So books stopped being brutal and people who only read new releases forgot that literature is and always was brutal, bloody, and killed off everyone even the the main characters themselves.

Heck look at Harlequin Romance novels of the 1970s, where every story started out with the main character's family brutally murdered and she being only 14 years old, got carted off to an orphanage to be beaten and abused, before being sent as a governess to some haunted house where she was terrorized and traumatized by ghosts, until dream date rescued her. Romance in the 1970s was bloody and brutal, had more violence than war stories, had most terror than horror stories. Than in the 1990s suddenly, "Oh no, we can't kill anyone in Romance, we might some readers' feelings"

Oh boo-hoo. Fuck readers' feelings. If your reader ain't feeling something, it's either because your reader is dead or your story is dead.

The world today is a bunch of pansies, who can't get away from mommies apron strings because something might make them have feelings.

What the fuck is everyone scared of feelings for?

No author dares to write anything any more because they might hurt someone's feelings, some one might be offended.

So the hell what? The world ain't pretty. People die. Mass shootings happen every day. Murders walk free and families get no justice. Suicide, rape, bigotry, child abuse, starvation, homelessness, murder, racism ... Reality sucks. Deal with it. Grow some balls. Stop being scared to write the world as it really is.

I hate what the publishing industry has become today.

Censor this. Can't write that. Oh no no no no no, that might hurt someone's feelings, we gotta have everything coming up roses. Fuck that! Fuck it all!

Write your story your way. If you step on toes - GOOD! Maybe those toes NEEDED some stepping on to wake them up and stop then hiding their heads in their ass like some fucking ostrich.

The world ain't nice and today's publishing industry needs to step back and take a reality check.

>>>It's a meta-stake of sorts, a stake the reader gets - which character should I avoid becoming invested in or care about? What if that person dies next?

What the fuck?

You would really avoid becoming invested in someone because they might die?

Go fucking shoot yourself you fucking cunt. People like you make me sick. You don't deserve to live. Go die! So we don't have to worry about caring about you.

How's it feel, to have no one care about you, because you might die?

You bastard out of hell.

People like you is what's wrong with the world.

People like you is why so many senior cats and dogs die in kennels... 14,000 of them every single day. because people like you don't want to take the time to be invested in someone that is going to die so.

Well, yay for fucking America, no longer home of the free, too busy being home of the me.

Selfish ass bastards that don't give a shit about no one is what's wrong with America.

>>>It's a meta-stake of sorts, a stake the reader gets - which character should I avoid becoming invested in or care about? What if that person dies next?

>>>The issue here is that it's dangerous too, I feel, because this can also make the reader averse to actually becoming invested in the story. So it's a risky gamble, isn't it?


Why? Because someone's feeling might get hurt?

No one ever gave a shit about my feelings.

Shit happens. Grow the fuck up. 

If readers can't take the death of a fictional character, well, than they are some real big deep shit when death comes rolling into their real life ain't they?

Death happens.

And the world is fucked up lately.

Have you seen how young people talk about death?

"My gran passed last night."

"Had to put my dog down."

"Put my cat to sleep."

Fucking pansies.

Your gran passed? Passed what? A Kidney stone? Did she drive passed the barn? You fucking retard. Learn how to use words. Your so used to every word out of your mouth being a lie that you can't even speak the truth when your grandmother died. Yeah, I said it. Your grandmother died, grow some balls and say it.

You murdered your dog and your cat. Stop lying about what you did and speak the truth for once in your life. Your a murderer. Admit it. Stop trying to make it sown nice, They ain't down stairs and they ain't sleeping.

Learn to fucking use words accurately.

Death isn't something to hide. But that's exactly what's happening.

No even has funerals any more. They shove dead bodies in a fucking stove and put the ashes in a jar.

So scared to face death, they can't even bury their dead.

What the fuck happened to this world.

We live in a society today, that hides from death. They only want to see the roses.

You all need a fucking reality check. This whole fucking planet needs a reality check.

And we authors, it's our job to show society for the fucked up place it is.

Far too many authors today, write for the market.

Not enough authors write from the heart.

Too many authors are far too worried they won't get sales, they won't make money, they won't get fame, if they upset anyone, make someone cry, break a poor little snowflake.

Fuck the snowflakes.

People don't want to feel anything any more.

Every thing must be sweet plumpkin lovey doveies.

Well I don't write what the world wants to see, I write the world for what t is.

We live in a dark world full of pain and suffering and no cares about any ne else. So that's what I write. I write pain. I write suffering. I write people hurting while surrounded by millions of other people who don't give a shit.

I write rape.

I write suicide.

I write death.

I write murder.

Why?

Because I write what I know.

I know pain.

I know suffering.

I know rape.

I know suicide.

I know death.

I know murder.

And I wrap it up in pretty pink covers to mock the word's rose colored glasses. To mock the reader who buys a book for it's cover, and thinks they will get pretty pink rose colored lovey dovys and than they read the words inside, and find it dripping with darkness, suicide, murder, rape, and all the evils that are humanity.

>>>It's a meta-stake of sorts, a stake the reader gets - which character should I avoid becoming invested in or care about? What if that person dies next?

>>>The issue here is that it's dangerous too, I feel, because this can also make the reader averse to actually becoming invested in the story. So it's a risky gamble, isn't it?


The world ain't nice.

The world ain't pretty.

The I write the world the way it is.

I don't write happy endings.

Characters die.

Characters are murdered.

Characters, main characters even, commit suicide.

Murderers walk free.

Families see no justice.

Look at Quaraun. He overdoses himself, slices his wrists, how many times has he tried to kill himself? I'm the author and I don't even know.

Look at BoomFuzzy, his suicide was detailed out line by line, step by step, the description of his death goes on for 8 pages in bloody detail.

I don't sugar coat anything.

Don't be fooled by the pink covers. The Quaraun series has won awards for being among the darkest novels ever published. It's one of the few series so dark, so disturbing, so gory, so bloody, so focused on putting suicide in your face that the American government issued a court order declaring I was required to put M18+ book rating on the cover.

And if the reader can't stomach it, will that's their problem, not mine.






Your Character Creation
Questions Answered:

  1. When naming your characters, do you give any thought to the actual meaning?
  2. I need help Writing Mixed Race Asian Characters
  3. What would happen if an Elf adopted a Human baby?
  4. I need to write a rape scene, but I don't think I've made the character evil enough. How do you write a sleazy man?
  5. Is the main character a reflection of you, if yes, how?
  6. How to deal with writing racist characters?
  7. How can a non-Human villain who hates Humans learn to love a Human character?
  8. I'm creating my own character and does it matter what I call her, even if it sounds slightly odd?
  9. How do you write a demisexual?
  10. My main character is going to murder his children. How do I handle writing him?
  11. What inspired you to use a mentally ill person as your main character? 
  12. Creating mute characters.
  13. Is a 20 year age difference between my main couple weird?
  14. How to write a bi-sexual character?
  15. Any help with writing a cannibal chef?
  16. What is the difference between transgender, transsexual, transvestite, and intersex?
  17. My character is too much like myself, how do I change her?
  18. How do you pick what mental illness to write about? 
  19. What jobs did Medieval servants have?
  20. What can you tell me about writing a polygamous character?
  21. Should I write incest in my stories?
  22. How do you make sure you get your character accurate or true to life when dealing with mental illnesses?
  23. Any advice for writing a romantic relationship between an adult and a child?
  24. How to Develop Your Characters When Writing a Fiction Novel
  25. Why Character Development is Different for Short Stories
  26. Are In-Laws Family? (Writing Gypsy Culture Accurately)
  27. I'm writing an Autistic character. Can you tell me what it is like to live with Autism?
  28. I heard you write transvestites but it's not Erotica? How can you write a gay transvestite character and the book not be Erotica? It's not possible for transvestites to be in anything but Erotica.
  29. My characters keep being cookie cutter Mary Sues and Stevie Steus. How do you creature such highly detailed complex characters?

Even More Pages Which Talk About Character Creation:



Since people often ask which books I recommend to writers, here is a section of books I use when writing my novels.

Books I use when writing novels:

Note, some of these are writing books, but most of them are NOT. These are the references books that I use when writing almost every novel I write. These books are always on my desk and I reference them constantly, daily, over and over again.

And when you see what books I use to write The Quaraun novels with, than you can understand why they are like they are.

As you can see I rarely consult writing books when I want to figure out how to write something. Which is why I'm continually baffled by so many newbie writers who rush to ask other writers how to write.

You think of a thing, then write what you see in your head. It really is that simple. You just write down everything you see.

You do not need writing how to books or advice from authors to figure out how to write the story you want to tell.

Note too that I bought these books new and for cover price and many of them are self published short run books with only 100 to 1,000 copies printed (if you didn't know DnD books were self published and often had only 100 to 1,000 copies published than, you don't your DnD very well) and as such have been out of print for 20+ years and often sell for $500 to $3k+ now today, so, I don't expect you to be able to amass this same collection of 10,000+ DnD books I have, but, you wanted to know which books I use when I write my novels and here they are:

Wondering how authors find publishers?

Writer's Market -  it's a giant 1,000+ page book, costs around $40, is like a yellow pages style phone book directory of every publishing house, magazine, anthology, newspaper, and literary agent currently seeking submissions. There are around 20,000 publishers listed in it.

They come out with a new edition every year, so get the 2018 edition which comes out in a few weeks.

It's not easy to get listed in the Writer's Market. They do a major amount of rigorous filtering, to make sure no scams get in.

The Writer's Market has been the #1 way authors find publishers since the 1940s.

Here's their website: http://www.writersmarket.com/

They have an online directory that is the same as the print book, but it costs around $70 a year to access it.


More Pages Helpful To New Writers:

FAQs: What books do you use to look up English Grammar rules?

You probably won't like this, but I am constantly practicing English Grammar, by daily doing High School Grammar lessons. I diagram 100 sentence a day and have done so since 1996. 

Yes. While you all want the instant quick answer to writing rules, so you skip school and take the easy way out, I go through an entire High School manual in a couple of weeks, and when I get to the end I start over again.

I didn't have the luxury of going to school like you did, so I had no choice but to teach myself. I did the entire ABeka Grammar series starting from Grade 4 to Grade 12, then repeated it starting at Grade 7 to 12, and repeat it from Grade 7 to Grade 12, continually ever since. It takes me about 8 months to complete all 5 years' worth of textbooks. And when I reach the end, I start over again, and when I reach the end again, I start over again.

When I say I constantly practice English Grammar, I mean what I say and I actually practice English Grammar and I find it quiet annoying when school-skipping idiots respond to that by saying: "But I write every day and I never improve."

Did I tell you to write every day? No. I most certainly did not. I told you to practice English Grammar. There's a hell of a big difference.

Practice makes perfect. If you want to perfect your writing skills, you must first perfect your Grammar skills. If you continually write without knowing your errors, you only practice the art of writing errors and perfect the art of writing errors perfectly incorrect.

You will never be a skilled writer if you are not first skilled at Grammar.

Before you can practice writing, you must first practice Grammar.

I've not listed all the books below as there are so many. Each grade consists of a set of books:

   *   The Student Textbook

   *   The Teacher's Manual

   *   A Student WorkBook

   *    A Teacher's WorkBook Answer Key 

   *   A Student Tests and Quizzes Book

   *   A Spelling, Vocabulary, and Poetry Manual

   *   A Teacher's Answer Key For The Spelling Book

   *   A Reading/Literature Student TextBook

   *   The Reading/Literature Teacher's Manual

   *   A Student WorkBook For Reading/Literature

   *    A Teacher's WorkBook Answer Key  For Reading/Literature

   *   A Student Tests and Quizzes Book For Reading/Literature

Each book costs between $40 to $70, average that to $50 x 12 books per grade = around $600 per grade, times 5 grades (Grade 7 to Grade 12) = around $7,200 to buy the entire set of books and complete all 5 years from Grade 7 to Grade 12... so, you'll need to dish out quite a bit of money if you seek to gain the same writing skill I have using the same method I use to practice Grammar.

Do note that ABeka books are considered to be 4 grades ahead of the grade listed. For example, what ABeka book teaches in 4th Grade is what is taught in 8th Grade in Public Schools, while the12th Grade books is a college level. ABeka books are not used in standard public schools, they are used by private schools that specialize in teaching gifted/child prodigies that are too far ahead of their age group to be taught at a normal grade range.




Answering readers' FAQ:
Why is so much of the Quaraun series set in the 1970s & 1980s? Why not set it in current times?

>>>Why is so much of the Quaraun series set in the 1970s & 1980s? Why not set it in current times?

When Quaraun times travels to the future, the story IS SET IN CURRENT TIMES.

The date Quaraun arrives in is ALWAYS the same day that I wrote the scene.

Meaning, if Quaraun ends up in 1978, it's because I wrote that scene in 1978.

Meaning, if Quaraun ends up in 1982, it's because I wrote that scene in 1982.

Meaning, if Quaraun ends up in 1994, it's because I wrote that scene in 1994.

Meaning, if Quaraun ends up in 2013, it's because I wrote that scene in 2013.

MOST of the short stories in the Quaraun series were written between 1982 and 1987, and as Quaraun is ALWAYS in the current time of the date I'm writing, and because I wrote most of those scenes in 1982 to 1987, that means most of the scenes end up set between 1982 to 1987.














FAQs: When you say to read in order to learn what good writing looks like, but than you say don't read anything self published or written in the past 50 years, what than do you suggest I read to learn what good writing looks like?

I recommend 3 things.

   *   1: I recommend the Reading/Literature TextBooks of the ABeka Grammar series that I previously mentioned above. I also recommend reading EVERY PAGE IN ORDER of EVERY volume of the series starting with Grade 4 and ending with Grade 12. (Those books are listed below).

   *   2: WELL WRITTEN classic literature. (Listed in the second column below)

   *   3: American and World History TextBooks. (Listed in the third column below)

   *   4: Science TextBooks. (Listed in the 4th column below)

These are the books I personally read to see/examine how good quality writing looks on the published page and teach myself to improve my own writing by mimicking the writing style seen in the books listed below.

These books are how I taught myself to read and write. I was not allowed to go to school and spent 27 years of my life, since I was 8 years old, locked in a cage, tortured, beaten, and starved.

As an adult I used these books to teach myself as I had no other way to gain an education.

Again, not every book is listed, as there are too many to list them all, but enough are listed to get you started.


   *   1: I recommend the Reading/Literature TextBooks of the ABeka Grammar series




   *   2: WELL WRITTEN classic literature.

A note here... I make it a point to read no fewer than 100 books a year - 2 books a week. Some years I have as many as 300 books by reading a book almost every day. I own more than 300,000 books and have read more then 10,000 of them with a goal to attempt to read them all. As such, I can't even begin to list anything close to all of the books I read. Though I will point out 90% of them were written before 1950 and all of them are hardcover or paperback, not one of my 300k books is an ebook or an audio book. I don't read ebooks nor do I listen to audio books.




   *   3: American and World History TextBooks.

Yes, I DO classify reading History and Geography books as good, quality recommended daily light  reading that should be done in between regular novel and short story reading.

It is my belief that when one ONLY reads fiction, ones view of what is goof writing becomes warped. Thus I recommend reading historical documents, including to go to your local museums to read important documents about your town/state/region. This is especially important if you, like me, write local tales, stories set in your home town/state/region.

This is also why I have such a strong grasp on describing the places Quaraun travels to in the novels I write, without my ever having set foot outside of Maine.




    *   4: Science TextBooks.

Yes. Once again, like with History and Geography, I DO classify reading Science books as good, quality recommended daily light  reading that should be done in between regular novel and short story reading.

I firmly believe that if one does not have a working knowledge of the world around you, not just it's history and geography, but also it's plants, animals, rocks, functions, ad place in the universe, that one will not be able to successfully write descriptions of the world character in your novels live in, because without knowing how your own world exists, how can you even begin to know how to create a fictional world?

As such, I put reading science books as highly important for anyone seeking to write novels.

And again, as I was not allowed to go to school and was locked in a cage from the time I was 8 until I was 31, I did not start studying science until I was an adult, and as such, I started with Grade K5 and went all the way through to Grade 12, doing so in 3 years, so that I could apply for a GED which I got when I was 37. The Science books listed below are the ones I used to do that with, and again mostly by ABeka as I absolutely refuse to use books with frutie tuttie Evolution or Big Bang hocus pocus mumbo jumbo. 

Also, I quickly discovered that as young as 4th grade, vile degradations of sex perversion and utterly disgusting lessons about sex are in Science books published by perverse public school textbook publishers, so I burned them all in the wood stove I will NOT recommend any of the horrifically horrendous, disgustedly perverted sex fill Science books published by non-Christian companies.

It's no wonder the American population has children so perverse and degraded, when they stoop so low as to spend more than 75% of their science textbooks being devoted to the vile disgusting top of sex education. It's utterly deplorable. Sex has no business being in schools. With that kind of filth being taught to children it's no wonder American's gone to shit.




Writing Disabled Characters











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