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My reaction to being told I should kill characters to “break reader’s hearts.”

I do not go for fluff. If I went for fluff, I wouldn’t be into Greek mythology, Game of Thrones, Mistborn, Tyrants and Kings, or most my other fandoms. I find it hard to get into a story without difficult situations and high stakes and, lucky for me, that stuff has become popular. Quite a few authors have even begun relying on break-ups and character deaths to drive their plots instead of more traditional methods—like actual character development.

I see a lot of posts floating around the author blogs and social media about laughing over character deaths and making readers cry. Seriously? Is that what storytelling is supposed to be about? Because you wouldn’t know different by looking at the chatter that’s been popular lately. Stephen King says to “kill your darlings,” but many have taken that to mean “write lots of random red shirts to be killed off willy-nilly when you don’t want to come up with an actual storyline.”

tumblr_mxzvzd2nZK1t4ese3o1_500As a reader, little else drives me as crazy as when I feel the author did something on purpose solely to incite reader reaction. For me, it usually has a backwards effect because I see it coming and I just turn into a smoking mountain of volcanic rage.

As a writer, I have become very careful about making sure my stories’ deaths and tragedies are not in vain. Taking out extra characters, combining characters, and redistributing roles is a good way to cut down on excessive tragedy, not to mention create more succinct stories overall.

This may be a groundbreaking thought, but having characters killed, raped, maimed, or anything else for shock value is not good writing, it is lazy writing. If a story is well written, you don’t need arbitrary violence to illicit reader emotion. Does this mean there shouldn’t be surprises? Of course not. It simply means that bad things within a story should have reasons beyond audience provocation.

However, in this case, like so many others in literature, it is all perspective. Summarily, if there is a definitive purpose to the unfortunate event, leading to plot advancement and/or realistic character development (preferably both), it is serving a veritable purpose and is actually good. (Unless you’re having some sympathetic innocent raped and/or murdered to advance the character arch of someone else. Don’t ever do this. Just don’t.)

And I’ve never actually laughed about killing characters when it came down to it, no matter how much I hated them. Are there actually writers that do this?

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