I know it’s an odd question coming from someone who writes thrillers, but recently, I had to give it a lot of thought.
I was about halfway through my latest novel, when I suddenly realized that one of my characters needed to die. It made perfect sense, and most importantly, was a crucial element in driving my plot.
Admittedly, I’ve killed off plenty of characters in my books, and figuring out the method was never a problem, but with this one, I actually hadn’t planned on it, so the surprise caught me a little off-guard.
I really had to think about this.
While killing off a character has to work well with the plot, just as important, is how they are killed. It has to connect with the suspect’s frame of mind and their motivation, fit perfectly within the story, and it has to make emotional as well as logical sense.
I’ve often read books where the method of murder made me scratch my head. It didn’t fit, seemed illogical, and as a result, bumped me out of the story. I remember one in particular where fancy explosives were used, and yet there was no mention prior to this that the killer had any knowledge on the subject. As a result, I lost confidence and interest in the story and in the author. I stopped reading.
In this instance, in my book, the killer was sending out a message, so it not only needed to be powerful, but it also needed to be specific and had to resonate strongly with my protagonist. I wanted it to shake him up in a very personal way. In other words, I couldn’t just shoot the victim dead because it wouldn’t have meant anything to the reader and would feel like a copout.
After a lot of struggling, a lot of thought, I did finally figure it out. I don’t want to give away the story before the book comes out, but I will tell you this: the message was that my protagonist was playing with fire.
I think you can figure out the rest.
But how about you? Authors, what goes into your thought process when you decide to kill off a character? Do you ever struggle with it?
Readers, what’s your experience been?