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note to self: i’ll be there for you, always

written june 6, 2021. Photo by Kristine Cinate on Unsplash I have always looked for myself in other people. I think the idea was that they would somehow hold the pieces of me that I felt were missing. That maybe, if I wrapped my identity up in theirs enough, we would somehow make a whole person. It's not healthy to live like this, but I did it anyway — burning through relationships and searching for something I couldn't quite name. It was never enough, not to be myself, but it was never enough to latch my identity to other people, either. I got close, several times — I thought I had reached the pinnacle of self discovery. I thought I had completed myself. But in the end, relying on other people to help build yourself is never a viable way to do things. It's only recently that I've started to become comfortable with the idea of being enough, as I am, on my own. Several years ago, in this same position, I would have searched for another person to attach my identity onto,

I killed a man. (IN FICTION.)

CALM DOWN. CALM DOWN. I DIDN'T ACTUALLY KILL ANYONE. Just a character. Good. Now that that's settled, let's continue.

As shocking as this may be, I haven't actually killed any characters in my past 13~ years of writing. (Don't worry, I was surprised by this too.) I've planned to, of course. I just haven't ... gotten around to it.

So yesterday on November 10th, you can imagine my shock when suddenly, BAM! A beloved character of mine was dead. (I'm not telling you who, but it's in my NaNo novel. You may now look at the faces in my Beautiful Books post and wonder who it was.) I had planned on killing this person, but planning and writing it out are two different things. I decided to just power through the scene, and I did. (And it hurt like heck, but I digress.) I know I wrote it, but I was so into the zone that when I realized what I had done, it was still jarring. Suddenly, one of my favorite characters who I had just started to fall in love with was dead. (And an OTP = broken. < / 3)

("But SKYYY! How can a post about death have such a pretty stock photo?" You may ask. Well, trust me. The other stock photos for "DEATH" were not that great. You can thank me later.)

Understandably, I am conflicted about what I have done. It's spawned a spin-off novel and added another dimension to a novel I've struggled to define all year. So that's fabulous. I got two new characters out of the death. From death is birthed life... Or something like that.

But at the same time, it's really frickin' sad. I know I'm taking a rather flippant tone in this post, but please know I don't take death lightly. In fact, it really sucks. And I especially want to be careful with my characters (since that's pretty much the only people's deaths I can control).

So here I sit, the day after killing my first character. And I'm wondering, should I have done that? I don't know. I think I'll leave it for now, at least until NaNo is over. But at what point is pain too much pain? What if I had kept him alive? What would the plot be then?

I'm mostly okay with what I have done, but my intensely loyal soul feels like I've just betrayed someone. (Ugh, I know, I know, it's not logical, but I'm not really ever logical.) And please don't misunderstand me, I do think there's a time and place for killing off characters. I just did not expect mine to be filled with these little tendrils of self-doubt.

What about you? Have you ever killed off a character? Did you regret it?
If you have never killed off a character, do you plan to? Why or why not?


  1. Interestingly, I just came to a point like this, too...I started to think that one of my characters might die later. (I just started to like him, too.) At least I have a ways to write before I have to decide for sure. :)
    I think, as writers, that we have to be careful about using pain--we can't just throw it around indiscriminately. Like you said, how much pain is too much pain? And I think the important thing to remember is that all pain should have a purpose--and more purpose than just advancing the plot. Does it teach the other characters about love and sacrifice? Does it help the reader to understand those kinds of things and re-evaluate what's truly important? God uses pain in our lives for His perfect purpose, and we should try to show that truth in our stories.
    Just some thoughts. Thanks for the post. :)

  2. I have the tendency to kill off characters...quite often. I've been trying to rein that in because I'm starting to question my sanity. This year, there's quite a lot of deaths in my novel, but that's mostly due to the somewhat-apocalyptic setting. There was a murder scene that I wrote last week, and that was interesting. I had never had a main character kill someone before.

    But like I said, I'm trying to keep the gore to a strict it-has-to-serve-the-plot standard.

  3. I killed my first characters in a historical fiction novel I'm writing set in England during the bubonic plague outbreak. In fact, there are quite a few deaths in that story. You'd think I'd have become a hardened novelist by now. Nope. I've got deaths ahead in my NaNoWriMo story that I'm kinda sorta dreading.

    Eat some chocolate. Comfort yourelf with the slightly unbelievable fact that they are fictional. In the end the death you endured will ressurect your novel to better places. It sounds terrible, justifying death for the sake of an interesting plot, but you know - we are writers.

  4. I plan to kill off characters maybe. I like writing sad books, BUT. The stories I do have planned don't generally kill of characters (they just have already-dead characters).

  5. Once...and it was a little boy...and I don't know if I will actually include the scene in my final book or just tell you that it happened.

  6. It has to matter. The deaths. They can't be taken lightly. I've killed characters. Violently. Its hurts like the place that is not heaven, I think I've hurt more for the characters left behind than for the ones I killed. It doesn't feel like I've done anything wrong to the character who is now dead. He or she had to die for the story and much as I hurt and I miss them it's the way it affects the other characters that gets me in the gut. But loss happens and we can't write real books without encountering it sometimes.


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