How to Kill a Fictional Character

Killing a fictional character sounds easy, but it’s not. You develop this cast of characters in your head, spend hours, days, months, years daydreaming about them and then you decide one day, this person has to die.

How do you do it? Well, the ideas on how are pretty easy. Is it a gunshot? A stabbing? A terrible accident? A drowning. A poisoning? Cancer? A jump off a bridge? There are so many ways. It’s easy to figure that out. And every story needs an ending, but the writing about it, that’s the hard thing.

You sit down and force yourself to write it, even though it hurts. You try not to cry. I know, that’s silly, right, but the emotions have to be there for you to write about them. You feel that terrible feeling in the pit of your stomach, the fear the character feels is right there with you. You feel sad afterward, drained. You wonder if you’ve done the right thing. But strangely enough, even if you did, even if you know they had to die for the sake of the story, because that was their reality, you still feel like a murderer. You feel guilty.

So how do you live with that? Knowing that you’ve killed off an imaginary person you created? Well, you remind yourself that it’s just make believe. But the fact is all your characters are little pieces of you. In some ways it’s like sculpting a beautiful piece of art and then smashing it to bits. You do what you have to do even if it’s painful. You feel the fear, the anger, the grief, the pain and you write about them. You have to. Because if you can’t do that, if you feel nothing, it will ring hollow.

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