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Killing Off My Main Character.

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by JacobMGibney, Aug 17, 2012.

  1. JacobMGibney

    JacobMGibney Dreamer

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    I plan to write a series of three books (I know, ground-breaking right?) set in a world called Varsune. My main character is Khyra Sylevar but obviously the story switches between the points of view of a few other important characters. In the second 'book' Khyra is tricked and betrayed by a prisoner the Gods been holding captive for millennia, he is a God himself. He lies to her about the religion she follows and convinces her that her Gods are false, so she finds a way to release him (at this point in the story the Gods of Varsune are missing). Upon his release the trickster god vanishes and the real gods return, understandably furious. This is where Khyra has to die, the Gods no longer trust her, she has betrayed them so they execute her.

    Do you think the reader will react well to the main character being killed off before the final book? I also plan to have Khyra's death scene as a way to introduce one of the Gods as a point of view character, so from then on the reader will be following them as well as the other main characters. What do you think? Good, bad? Feedback appreciated! :D
     
  2. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

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    That sounds like a fascinating plot. I can't recall any stories I've read where the main character dies mid-series, but I think it could be done well as long as it's vital to the plot in some way (which your idea seems to be). It might be disappointing to some readers since we're obviously meant to cheer for and empathize with Khyra, and killing off a well-liked character will always produce some backlash. I'd be interested to see where the God's point of view picks up after Khyra's ends, and why this is significant.

    On a tangentially-related note, I love your character's first name. My own name is Kyra. XDDD
     
  3. JacobMGibney

    JacobMGibney Dreamer

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    @Ireth - Thanks! I hope people find it interesting, it should be a twist they didn't expect. I don't plan for her to be gone completely, the reader will hear from her every now and then, but she will become more of a symbol for other characters, she'll never feature in the story again fully. Once the Gods return we will see Khyra's death through their eyes. In a weird way, I suppose the reader will hate the God whose point of view the story adopts, but my plan is to make them grow to love them again.

    And funny coincidence! :p
     
  4. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    I've read stories where the MC dies mid-series, including one in which a first-person POV MC dies mid-series. It can work just fine if you handle well, and if you have a good character to pick up the POV afterward, so that the reader doesn't feel too disconnected with the new viewpoint.
     
  5. shangrila

    shangrila Inkling

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    It sounds good, I definitely think it'll work. Sanderson did something similar in the Mistborn series, killing off one of the two main characters in the first book IN the first book. A little different to what you're suggesting I'll admit, but still, if you're looking for examples of it done before that's the first one I could think of.
     
  6. JacobMGibney

    JacobMGibney Dreamer

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    @Steerpike - Thanks, I agree, if I handle it well there shouldn't be too much of an issue. But we'll see :p

    @shangrila I can see the similarities with Sanderson, I'm a massive fan and I was so shocked when he killed off that particular character. It was a very powerful plot device though, in a way I guess I want to emulate that effect.
     
  7. Claire

    Claire Scribe

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    I think the key is to make sure there are other characters the reader can root for. You don't want to lose the emotional connection you have with the readers by killing off their link to your story. But if you already have the story being told from different POVs and you weave in the new POV to replace hers, I think it can work.
     
  8. Shockley

    Shockley Maester

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    Spoiler: This isn't unheard of, and is an awesome thing if you can do it right. Just look at George R. R. Martin, who nailed it perfectly. Granted, it was near the end of the book - but in the first fifth of his saga.

    One of my favorite video-games growing up was SaGa Frontier 2. It's a beautiful, interlocking storyline that covers several people. The main character, the individual who sets all the events in motion, dies halfway through the game.
     
  9. Kit

    Kit Maester

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    Yes. I know Mira Grant
    (spoilers upcoming)





















    has taken flak from some readers for killing the narrator of her series halfway through the first book. Another character picked up the narration, and I think she did okay with it, although I personally didn't connect quite as well with that character. Some readers really thought the series went downhill from there, though.
     
  10. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

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    Personally, I love killing characters and I love it when authors do it well. The main reason being I'm unsure of my attachments to the surviving characters. I don't know what coming with the characters that I care for. In the vast majority of cases, as a reader, I know that the characters will survive and triumph.

    If you, as an author, can keep me guessing... If you can keep me uneasy concerning the characters I want to succeed... Then you've hooked me.
     
  11. johnsonjoshuak

    johnsonjoshuak Troubadour

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    I think the reason that it worked so well in AGoT is because Martin doesn't really have a singular Main Character. You could argue that each book seems to have a Focus Character (which would cover the person who dies at the end of Book 1) (small aside, it's actually 1/7th of his sage; he just hasn't written Parts 6 and 7 yet), but his stable of High Visibility POV characters is sizeable.

    I think the secret to killing off a major character is establishing other characters that you can turn to but before you kill off the MC. Overlapping the characters let's you continue with the MC while preventing a POV shock when the MC is dead and all of a sudden there is a new MC.

    I have a similar plan for my series; several of my POV characters come up against death. We'll see who survives at the end ;)
     
  12. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    In the story I mentioned above there was no overlap. Just a single first person POV character until the axe fell .
     
  13. shangrila

    shangrila Inkling

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    I almost threw the damn book across the room. That guy was the only reason I'd stuck with the story up until that point and even after finishing the entire series, he was still easily my favourite.

    It was a nice twist though, I'll give Sanderson that.
     
    JacobMGibney likes this.
  14. Graylorne

    Graylorne Archmage

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    Terrible subject, this :)

    I usually create characters I need to act, not to die. My editor is a ghoul and regularly asks me if I can't kill this one or that one. No, I can't. I'm nursing the bleepin' fellow through two books to have him play a major role in the books after that. Kill him? You're out of your mind.

    So I have to wait till an MC has become redundant, or else I've got to create one for the death alone. It's definitely not my style. Not because I don't want them to die at all, these things happen and if it's necessary, he will. But to kill off a perfectly good character just of a shock effect? I'm probably too old school for that. Funny, but this really troubles me.
     
  15. FireBird

    FireBird Troubadour

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    This idea, like many others, can work perfectly if you do it right. I think the most important part is having other characters in your story that the readers care about or are interested in just as much as the MC. If the next main POV is a character that I absolutely hate (in the sense that they are not interesting at all) then I will stop reading.
     
  16. gavintonks

    gavintonks Maester

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    always a well written story is a well written story - however Tolkein kills off Gandalf but brings him back
    the question is who takes the place in the vacuum and if your readers been rooting for the person and they have died, it is like waiting for someone to run the Olympics and they die before they win in front of the world and other people win

    You have to ensure it is very well written
     
  17. JonSnow

    JonSnow Troubadour

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    SPOILER If you haven't read Game of Thrones, and don't want the first book spoiled, don't read this post :)

    There is a trick to killing the main character. You MUST have other interesting characters to "pass the torch" to, so to speak. And there must be a greater purpose to it happening. Otherwise, why make them a main character in the first place if their death doesn't cause huge ripples? Bottom line, you will lose a few readers. After George R.R. Martin killed off Ned Stark in the FIRST BOOK of the series, I was so mad I didn't read book two for 6 years afterward. I couldn't believe what happened. I had never read a fantasy story that killed THE main character off so early, and so coldly.

    Even though it pissed me off, when I did bring myself to reading the rest of the series, I realized why he did it... he had many other fantastic characters (Arya, Jon, Tyrion, Jaime, Danaerys) to build the plot around... and the death of Eddard actually set the table for the majority of major plot lines from then on. IT WORKED in that case, but it was risky.
     
  18. Ivan

    Ivan Minstrel

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    I think this is an important point. If you have a group of people struggling for the same thing Khyra was, the transition will be much easier; you have a chapter or two of disorder where these people are trying to figure out what to do next, and in that time one or more of them can begin to stand out as new MCs to carry the rest of the story.

    As far as the whole gods thingy, it would be interesting... on the one hand, Khyra betrayed them, but would she have done so if they weren't gallivanting off somewhere else? Maybe not something you want to get into, but it's always an interesting and relevant question to explore...
     
  19. Graylorne

    Graylorne Archmage

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    It worked, because it was planned that way. So if you decide to kill off your MC you must write the whole story around that fact. That also means that you must have other characters to take over the killed MC's duties.

    You can't, as an example, take the proverbial farmboy-becomes-king and kill him before he's gotten an heir. That would defeat the whole purpose of your story.
     
  20. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

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    I think a good thing to do would be that if you have another character that's going to "take up the mantle" that Kyra leaves behind, introduce them before she dies. Let the two get to know each other and become friends maybe. That can serve as a bridge from one POV to the other. You might even have your former main character give a short speech endorsing your new lead.
     
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