There comes a time in many author's manuscripts where a character death must happen. But when do you kill a character off? Why?
There are many good reasons to kill a character off, or two, or ten... yet on the other side of that coin, there are terrible reasons to kill off characters.
When not to kill off a character
1. To make readers cry. - If you want an ugly cry book or just to make readers sad, this is not the way to go. And killing off any ol' character won't do.
2. To add shock value. - If you're killing a character just for shock value, maybe reevaluate the events in your plot/storyline.
3. Because you're tired of writing them. - Or they are just an extra character you created just for the purpose of killing. At this point you should probably think about going back and writing out the character and just not having them in the book at all. Every character should have a point in being there, other than to kill off.
4. You just want to add some gore and bloodshed to your book. - While it can be entertaining to write or read, if it's just a death for the sake of writing a death, maybe think again. You want every event in your book to have a purpose. Writing a death without a reason is just fluff. If you can't tell if it's fluff or not, try taking the scene out comepletely. Does it make a difference to how the plot advances? If yes, go crazy my friend. If not... you might want to consider leaving it out.
When to kill off a character.
All these reasons are assuming that characters to kill off do not fall under any of the above categories.
1. Motivate your main character. - If losing someone is the only way to break your character in order to force them to change and grow, or to get them to take action.
2. If it advances the plot. - Much like the above, a character death can change how other characters react. It can also lead to the next thing that must happen for the story to continue. Think of Julianna in Vanilla Sky.
3. Creates realism in your world. - If you're writing high fantasy and there are wars all over the place, not having any characters getting hurt or injured will throw readers out of the world. How could people fight in a war but still have no one die?
4. Fitting fate for a character. - If the character's fate fits. Such as, a former villain becoming good, by sacrificing themselves to save the hero of the story.
Every character death should have a purpose. The characters that are killed off should be well rounded and fully fleshed out. They should have a purpose in the book/series that is other than dying.
When you kill off a character, one thing to keep in mind is - why this specific character? Is it because it's convenient? Or is it because this specific character's death will serve a greater purpose in helping things to move forward?
There are a ton of other reasons to kill and not kill off a character but I just wanted to give you the basics on it.
Can you think of other reasons to kill off a character or reasons not to? Comment below!