fresh crime scene at night

Killing Off a Character – Should I Do It & If So, How?

There comes a point in every book series where change is needed and the biggest one of all is to get rid of one of your main characters.  But when is the right time?  Is there a right time?  Should you do it? And If you do, what’s the method – murder, fatal accident, terminal illness, riding off into the sunset?

In my latest Maze Investigations book The Policeman, I have ‘offed’ two people, using two methods from the above list.

I had originally planned, when I first scoped out what I expected to be a 3-book series, to remove one of the three main characters at some point before the end of the trilogy. When the time came, however, I found I just couldn’t do it.  I had grown strangely attached to them. Which is a bit weird, seeing as they only exist in my head.  What I realised was I had invested so much time in creating them, with their families, their foibles and their developing relationships with each other, it would have felt like losing a friend on my part, never mind how I decided to write out the one I had chosen.

Killing off characters certainly provides a shock to readers, but is it justified, just for its own sake?  My opinion is ‘NO’. I know there are writers who frequently and successfully kill off their main characters, evoking strong passions, both for and against, and their readers keep coming back for more. For me, the only reason to kill off a character is because it is integral to the plot.  I’m sorry to see them go, but it was necessary.  It was not done just for the sake of the shock.

I decided in The Policeman that the best way to generate the approaching plot was to remove a character or two.  I hope I have achieved that.  I’m not going to say how – spoilers! But if I’m honest, I do hope there will be some shock.

I will await with uneasy interest how my readers react. I hope they decide I chose well!

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Mary Jones

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