Edgar Allen Poe once said, “The death of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world.” When writers map out stories that will involve death, two main questions are, who is to get killed and why? I just finished a book by an author that my husband really enjoys and I had read one of his books to see what I thought. I enjoyed that one okay, so I thought, I’ll try a second one. I liked most of it, but sure as the world, a really nice character was killed off that I felt was completely unnecessary. Actually, I wasn’t too happy with another one he killed off, but I understood the selection. But both of them? That was a bit over the top for me. Anyway, that brings me to the point of how I decide which characters to kill and why.
In one of my mysteries, there have to be a certain number of people that die – can’t have much of a mystery without that. Then the issue becomes, is the individual to be tragic in nature, someone who is “getting what they deserve”, or created for the express purpose of being killed off in the first place? How much I want the reader to connect to the character, or how that character’s death affects the protagonist is also important. In some cases, it’s easy, and at other times, it can be a struggle as to which way to go.
In one of my non-mystery novels, I had a character that I intended to have die, but the problem became that I realized I needed to increase the tragic aspect. I hated to do that but, quite frankly, I’d made the character more likeable than I orginally planned to and so by definition, the death would be more tragic. On the other hand, it was the only logical way to move the plot in the direction that I wanted to. And that is how it happens sometimes.