Day of Debate: Killing Off Main Characters

Day of Debate

This is a feature my brother came up with— wherein we tackle certain topics on books, young adult or not, and give you guys the low down on our opinions of them (which, mind you, generally differ). I’ll be encoding our conversation, and if you guys have any opinions of your own on the topic, or on the heated discussion, feel free to once again make my day and comment!

My brother is seventeen, a college sophomore, approximately one year and two days older. His name is Juan (that’s pronounced like the number, one), and he’s my best friend. No matter what anyone else says.


Design AJasmine: So… time for a little déjà vu! Yay or Nay?

Juan: YAY!

Jasmine: YAY!

Juan: Lolwhut.

Jasmine: Are you actually trying to tell me that we’re agreeing for once?

Juan: No, I’m trying to tell you that you’re agreeing with me for once. Achievement unlocked!


Juan: Gagged then tied him up. ***evil laugh***

Jasmine: I should rename this feature and make it ‘Day of Debate Unless Brother Gets Kidnapped by Agreeable Cyborg’.

Juan: Let us stop this nonsense at once and get to the meat of the conversation.

Jasmine: Since we agree, I’m going to have to incorporate external opinions on the topic. Some, okay a lot, of people don’t find this their cup of tea because they don’t think it’s helpful to kill off characters left and right, especially the important ones. They attest to not being given the chance to connect with these characters, and once they do, they don’t relish the thought of not keeping them alive. What do you have to say to that?

Juan: I disagree. I believe that there are times that you connect to the characters the most when they’re already on the brink of death. When your life is about to end, that’s the time that you make the choices that define you as a person. Do I save this person I care about? Do I save the world? Do I save myself? Do I fight for my life or do I give myself up? Characters are sometimes defined on their (metaphoric) deathbeds, even more than when they were alive and kicking. It also helps because I believe that a writer’s skill is put to the test the most during death scenes.  Writers get to choose whether to dramatize the scenes or to keep them conservative, and write them as they write all scenes.

Jasmine: I think you have a point, though my reasons for agreeing are different (okay, achievement semi-unlocked). We have to remember that these characters, though fictional, are based on human beings, and unless they’re aliens, immortals, or immortal aliens, they’re not given the fast pass when it comes to dying. I don’t think it’s right to assume that just because they’re classified under ‘main’, it gives them the ticket to salvation repeatedly, through deus ex machina. I get why people are skeptical, because it does break my heart in much the same way that it breaks everyone else’s, but I have to say that many of these characters, though doomed, become loved and understood, and like you said defined. The story does get interesting after that, more often than not.

Juan: I think the operative word is ‘many of’. Not all death scenes are written well, and that’s probably the main reason why a lot of people disapprove. That goes back to my point of a death scene testing a writer’s ability, because they have to find a way to make it meaningful for the character, and acceptable to the reader. When a writer makes the reader feel that the character died for capital S Something, when his death was more than just ‘cardiac arrest’, that’s when you know a story (and it’s author) is good.

Jasmine: I think you’re right when you say that death needs to serve a purpose. Some writers think that to make an impact, they have to add a certain twist, and in many cases, that twist involves the d-word for an important character. This isn’t to say that they aren’t right- things like that do tend to remain engraved in my head. However, they need to be careful, because like I said before, readers feel for these characters, and they’re going to take hefty risks if they want to kill off a character that their audience has come to love. But I definitely don’t think it’s essentially bad to do that. Again, it depends on the writing, though I do have some sort of spontaneous inclination to dramatic transitions into the other world. I like books that can make me cry. Haha!

Juan: CONFESSION BEAR. I also love books that can make me cry. How many books can make a grown man freaking cry? I also think that deaths can help to reinforce the setting of more heavy handed books. It annoys me when writers try to portray an unforgiving world in which all of the main characters stay alive for one reason or another while their friends and family are killed one by one, sometimes even by mere coincidence. It destroys the integrity and atmosphere of the book.

Jasmine: I guess some writers tend to consider the friends and family mere plot devices, though most of the time it’s to add to the hardships the characters have to face to give them a chance to develop. In the area of romance, many girls my age would go on weeping sprees or author strikes, which is normal a) because of the widespread belief that attractive hunks should automatically live by virtue of their eight pack abs and platinum blonde hair, and b) because authors should consider themselves screwed if they dare cross the line. I don’t get the logic, but fact of life is, part of the audience cares the most for the romance. So in essence, this tells us that writers shouldn’t even come close to thinking of killing any love interests. Ironically, that happens especially in terms of love triangles. Just to make it easy.

Juan: That’s so corny!!

Jasmine: Why do I keep agreeing? Agreeable cyborg, YOU’RE crossing the line. I don’t necessarily agree to many girls my age, though. I still think it’s more than acceptable for a great writer- it’s part of the poetic license. What’s the guy perspective on this one?

Juan: Hard to say. I don’t know.

Jasmine: That was helpful.

Juan: There are different opinions on the subject. Some don’t care, some hate it, some like it. Do guys understand the ‘ship’ concept anyway? I only got that from you. It varies. I think.

Jasmine: Okay, works for me.

Juan: So basically, when it comes to books with darker themes, killing off main characters at the right time and for the right purposes is good for the emotion and feel of the book. And that ends my argument, and my agreeing with you.

Jasmine: Yes, we’re geniuses! In conclusion, main characters don’t have to stay alive all the time, but in retrospect don’t have to die, especially not uneventfully. I’m perfectly happy either way. Case closed!

Design A

So what do you think?  Have any suggestions? Criticisms of the constructive variety? Life changing praise?  Comment if you do! 😀



21 thoughts on “Day of Debate: Killing Off Main Characters

  1. I’m all for killing important characters. But only if it’s done right. If they didn’t die for a purpose and it was just a random killing, I’d be mad. I think Rick Riordan is good at killing off main characters haha. I mourn their deaths and was sad about it, but it had to be done. It just felt right, y’know? And Jasmine, it’s so cool that you’re best friends with your brother 😀

    • Yep, I think a thing like this only really makes sense if they die for a purpose. Random killing is definitely maddening. And yeah, you’re right about Rick! I’ve never really thought about that before, but now that it’s out there, he has killed off some really important characters, but at least it made sense and they still managed to make some sort of appearance, or manifestation later on. At first it didn’t feel right, but yeah, in the end I got it. Gotta admit, he’s a pretty straight forward but amazing author 😀 And thanks! My brother’s the only one I can trust with everything, so he’s amazing in that way. But shhh, don’t tell him I complimented him. Haha!

      • Lol, I never get along with my brother. We just sorta avoid each other? We do share jokes occasionally though. And YES! Rick Riordan is amazing at killing off characters but it also makes us want to kill him lol (well only the hardcore fangirls and fanboys do). And it’s okay, your secret is safe with me 😉

      • I think that’s pretty normal 🙂 My brother and I used to NEVER get along as kids. Our debates were usually angry back then. HAHA! But I guess now we’re more professional. I do get mad at him on occasion, but mostly he’s just this funny guy I trust, and really really like, and we get to bond through debate instead of nurse our sibling rivalry with it 😀 Rick Riordan is hands down one of my all time favorite authors, and the only times I feel like slapping him silly is when he kills off a character he seemed to put effort in to make lovable. But he never does it recklessly, which is good, and I guess I’m not the hard core fan girl type like you say 😀 And YAY thanks! Haha!

  2. Yep, it’s okay to kill off characters in a sensible fashion, but not just for kicks. In HP for instance the Weasley twins should have both had happy endings!! lol. Loved that pair. 🙂

    • Oh I loved the Weasley twins! My heart breaks for them to no end 😦 But perhaps it was just meant to be that way. And it was great cause their scenes were so much more real because they were actual brothers. And yeah, as long as the death makes sense 🙂 Thanks for stopping by Annie!

  3. Great conversation! Personally I don’t like when main characters (or any characters I’ve come to know very well) are killed off abruptly. This may seem weird but I feel like such characters deserve a death worthy of how important they were to the story. I definitely accept that certain characters have to die and that sometimes death is necessary to fuel the plot. It adds a lot of perspective for the reader as well as the characters who do survive. Sometimes that death is the catalyst for something greater to happen.

    Lovely & thoughtful post! 😀

    • Thank you Paola! And yeah, it’s never a good thing when a character (especially one I happen to like) is killed off just like that. It has to have some meaning somehow! And you’re right about perspective. Sometimes, death scenes add depth and emotion to the story, and like I said, more often than not it does pave a way for something even more significant and unexpected. 🙂

  4. I agree! I think it’s okay for main characters to die. I actually feel like authors have to have a lot of guts to do such a thing, because it will inevitably upset people. But MAKE ME CRY AUTHORS! That’s just how I am. Yeah, I’d prefer for it to be meaningful and reasonable, but in the end I’m usually too busy just dealing with the feels to think too much about it. Let me put it this way: I much rather a main character just die instead of being brought back to life ten times. (Oh no, he’s dead! NOT!) That bothers me way more.

    • I agree with the bringing back to life part. It irks me when I’ve already bawled my eyes out, and then suddenly, author reintroduces supposedly dead character into the story. CRUEL! There are exceptions to that rule though- with characters I really really really love, I just keep waiting for the author to bring them back. Heehee~ But mostly, I think it’s unnecessary, and it cancels out the effect of the entire death scene. I agree that it’s somehow inevitable to upset readers, but I’m glad that there are authors who can make it work 🙂 Glad to hear someone else likes books that make her cry! HAHA!

  5. Like Juan, I also agree that killing off important characters if often a test of an author’s writing skills. I respect and admire authors who make that decision for the good of the story. No, I as a reader am not a masochist nor do I necessarily want a main character to die, but sometimes that death is necessary in the context of the story, and I really respect authors who make the decision to kill him/her off even though it’s hard for the reader and probably harder for the author. I imagine it’s like sacrificing a piece of yourself. I recently read a so-so YA novel called The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls, and I think the book would have been so much better had the author not been afraid to kill off a main character. I’ve got a full review up on my blog (spoilers beware!). I really enjoyed your post and am a new follower as a result!

    • Thank you so much Kristin! I followed back by the way. Love your blog 😀 And you’re right about that! I guess I understand why authors are afraid of taking risks, simply because it’s hard to kill off an important character without aggravating the readers. However, if they can make it work, I think it definitely attests to their skill as writers 🙂 Thankfully, I haven’t come across something like that that really bothered me 😀 Mostly it all really depends on how that scene was introduced and what led to it. It has to have some meaning! Oh, and I would love to read your review on it 😉

      • Thanks! I agree. If the choices an author makes when writing are meaningful in some way, I’m a lot less forgiving if he/she happens to kill off a character I like.

  6. I’m not going to say I like it when a main character dies, cause that sounds terrible, but I do not mind if it happens. It makes the story more exciting, because you never expect the outcome. IF you know this is an author that doesn’t mind killing off ANYONE, the suspense increases, you know?

    • Great point! I’ve never thought about it that way, but there’s a certain reckless, all bets are off feeling to reading a book when you aren’t sure what the author is capable of. On the flip side, it can be anticlimactic to read something by an author that plays it safe.

    • I guess at first, I was bothered by the prospect of it. But now that I think about it, it can make or break the story, and the fact that so much depends on that makes it all the more exciting 😀 I kind of felt like George R.R. Martin didn’t get bothered by killing off all the good guys. The instant I loved someone, they died. EEP! I don’t think it’s still good if it’s overkill, but you’re right about there being more suspense- I was kept on my toes for the most interesting parts of his book, the war scenes where everyone faced potential death. HAHA!

  7. I don’t exactly know who I feel about killing off characters. Sometimes the ones I like get killed off and I’m like WHAT? WHY! and most often than not its not even for a good reason. The book I’m currently reading killed of a supporting character for a good reason and I’m okay with that because it changed the main character and the story. You and your brother crack me up. I love your debates. 😀

    • Aww, that’s okay. All these authors and their writing styles tend to mess my thoughts up too! It’s fortunate though, that I usually come across books that kill of important characters for legitimate reasons. And thank you! Glad this bro-sis tandem can make some people smile! 🙂

  8. I love this feature, you and your brother are so funny together! I agree, killing characters is not bad when it really adds something to the story, not just for the shock effect. In HP it shows the consequences of a war, but for example in the Hunger Games book 3 were a lot of unnecessary deaths (not naming them b/o spoilers).

    • Thanks! I never tell my bro he’s funny, though he really is. Haha! I wasn’t bothered by any of the HP deaths, except maybe immediately after, but that was normal. In the Hunger Games though, I got devastated because of **spoiler here**. But I still really loved that series 🙂

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