Have you ever killed a character in your novel?
Divergent trilogy author Veronica Roth wrote a blog post explaining her policy on killing characters in her books. Roth (pictured, via) noted that she rejected the video game philosophy “where people get killed all the time but no one really cares or thinks about it.” Editor’s note: The rest of this post contains Divergent, Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings spoilers.
Here’s an excerpt from Roth’s blog post: “It would be far too convenient for Tris to retain all her friends and family while all these other people are losing theirs…I try to be just as unfair as the world is; I take away characters when I have to, and I don’t really think about whether it’s balanced. Tris loses both parents; Tobias and Christina lose neither. Tris gets to keep her boyfriend; Christina’s is taken from her. It’s not fair either way, and that feels honest to me.”
During a 2006 charity reading event, Harry Potter series author J.K. Rowling was approached by numerous child fans with pleas for the reincarnation of Hogwarts Headmaster Albus Dumbledore. The Guardian reports her thoughts on the subject matter: “I don’t always enjoy killing my characters. I really didn’t enjoy killing the character who died at the end of book six – but I had been planning that for years so it wasn’t quite as poignant as you might imagine. I’d already done my grieving when I actually came to write it.”
In an interview on Maximum Fun, A Song of Ice and Fire series author George R.R. Martin talked about this subject and commented on J.R.R. Tolkein‘s treatment of the great wizard character Gandalf the Grey in The Lord of the Rings series. Martin felt that it would have been a “stronger story” had Gandalf not come back as Gandalf the White. What do you think? When is it appropriate for a writer to kill off a character that the readers really care about?