WARNING: This post contains spoilers from every decent YA novel you probably should have read by now. Do not send me hate mail.
You probably think writers sit at their computers all day, thinking up ways to make you throw their books out windows and cry (and then cry even harder because you just threw your new book out the window, all in that order). Look at it from our perspective. Do you really think we enjoy this part of the job description? Literary murder is not at the top of our Bucket Lists.
And don’t sit there and try to tell me you’ve never cried at the end of a good book. You are a LIAR.
Aaaaand here come the spoilers. Scroll down to the next bolded line if you’ve never read and eventually plan on reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Mockingjay, Sisterhood Everlasting, Allegiant, A Walk to Remember or Before I Fall.
Did you cry when Snape died? Because I did. A lot. Dobby, too.
If you didn’t, I’m not judging. And if you were okay with Prim, Tibby and Tris’s fates, too, still not judging. Characters like Jamie Sullivan and Samantha Kingston are SUPPOSED to die. That’s the POINT.
But PRIM? TIBBY? REALLY?!
The thing is, these characters, just like Jamie and Samantha, had to die. The reasons just aren’t quite as obvious.
You’re safe. Or should I say, I’M safe.
One thing writers DO enjoy doing is crafting stories that make their readers (and okay, maybe even themselves) feel, think and act. And they like to tell the truth (and yes, fiction CAN still do that). One true, difficult thing about life is this: people we love pass away. It’s probably the hardest thing you’ll ever have to deal with throughout your entire life. It happens; there’s no way to avoid it. In fact, writing this book has helped me come to terms with losing a lot of people I love over the past few years.
Not that it makes grieving any easier. Like writing a book, grieving is a process. You start slow and work your way through at your own pace. It’s emotional. It’s terrifying. And it’s actually REALLY hard.
So writing a book is … difficult?
Trust me, every author who figuratively birthed every fictional character you’ve ever loved and lost cried right along with you when it came to that part of the story. Refer back to the spoiler section, if you’re qualified. Each of those authors (and many more than I had room to include, but I love you just the same, Jodi Picoult) purposely made that imaginary person inside their head into a real human being, so when their time came to say goodbye, it MEANT something.
I’m not going to lie, I’ve already killed off or plan to kill off a lot of characters in my book. It’s not for nothing. Dealing with death is one of the most difficult circumstances to overcome, and when a character has to try and do that while simultaneously trying to figure out how to still graduate on time (long story), it makes you realize WHY the reason they died is so horrible.
And it makes you hate President Snow. And Voldemort. And cancer.
What happens then? You feel sad and probably a little angry. EVEN THOUGH IT’S ALL PRETEND. But you connect those fictional events, in your mind, to real-life events. You think about what you can do to make cancer stop being so horrible for so many people, for example. Then you act on those feelings and thoughts. You buy a Stupidcancer T-shirt. You raise money and run a marathon. And you keep donating more and more pieces of your life so other people can enjoy theirs.
Unfortunately, one of my favorite characters in my current project (think Hagrid sans the dragon) has to die. Because he has to sacrifice his life to protect the people he loves. I need to show my yet-to-be readers that [a character that must not be named, and no, it’s not who you’re thinking] is not to be trusted, and it’s a smoother transition into the next book. Relationships are tested and strengthened by this death. It did actually almost make me cry when I realized I had to do it. But there comes a point when you just know it has to end that way.
Don’t worry, though. I’m not killing off the dog. Or the house elf.
So. Which character are you mourning? Do you feel better, knowing they died for a good cause?
6 thoughts on “Why Authors Kill Off Characters You Love (and Why I’m Following Suit)”
I’m still recovering from Thane’s passing in Mass Effect 3 (a video game is a legit medium!). Granted he had a short life span anyway due to his terminal illness he left me weeping like an abandoned varren. But he left my life just as he came – like a boss. Rest in peace, siha.
Also, Wolfwood from Trigun. Need I say more?