Photo by Dracorubio
There is this attachment that we as writers develop towards our characters. After all, every single one of them is a representation of ourselves, in one way or another. So then how can you even dare to kill off something as precious as a part of you? And yet in every story there is a place and a time for each character, and as soon as they stop serving the purpose of the story, which is, moving it forward, it's time to get rid of them. There is the famous "kill your darlings" phrase that signifies exactly that. I think William Faulkner coined it first, and Stephen King picked it up. Regardless of who said it first, it must be done, sometimes even when the character seems to be at the very height of her or his development. That might be precisely the right moment to do it. Also, Chuck Palahniuk said that every story needs a clock, a birth, and a death. So there you go, make a character die, or two, or three. Your story will only get better. How?
People die in real life. So must characters. Death happens every day, it's part of life, so it's unrealistic to shelter your characters from reality. And your reader will feel it. It's like that hero that's been shot 27 times and is still trudging forward, winning the battle and going on to the next. After a while of this constant survival we as readers will start questions this hero's superpower. The point here is, we're all human, and even if your story is about a Superman, make him appear human. Because we associate with the characters from our own fragile point of view, we have to identify with the weaknesses that are inherently human, no matter how incredibly immortal your character is. Give her or him a way to die, make it as magical as you want, but still, at least hint at an immortality expiration date or something. Fantasy or not, this must be done. George R. R. Martin does killing spectacularly. He develops a character, makes you fall in love, and then, BAM! Makes you weep. But you turn the page, and BAM! There is a brand new character introduced. It's like in life, that's what makes it real and readable.
Give new life to your story. Life and death are linked. When someone dies, someone new is born. Same with the story. Just for kicks, try imagining killing off one of your very important characters. The repercussions of this will ripple through the fabric of your story and give it a breath of new life. Because the other characters will be forced to react, and that will get them moving, get them to make decisions, and that's precisely what you want. Every story is driven by characters, after all, no mater how many people yell on each corner how plot rules and there is no story without plot. You can look at it from the opposite angle. Have you read a book where the plot was excellent but the characters were so-so? Okay, I did too. Now, have you read a book where the characters were excellent but the plot was so-so? Me too. Which one do you prefer? Which type of book touched you more? I bet you can forgive poor plot, but you can't forgive poor characters. If you agree, then killing off your characters will force you to focus on them, and that will only make your story better.
Grow as a writer. This is something that I had to learn on my own, with much fear and trepidation. As I wrote Siren Suicides, I grew as a writer and at some point realized that I have to let go of the characters I developed and move on to the new ones, to apply my newly learned skills. In my case, I have already killed off... OOPS, SPOILER ALERT! ...all right, I won't spoil it for you guys, but I'm dying to, no pun intended, because I took this rule to heart and proceeded with a massacre. In my case, SIREN SUICIDES is my first novel, so to be on the cautious side I operated with a very small number of characters, and when I killed one off, I didn't introduce a new one after that. I'm planning to do this in my next book, ROSEHEAD. In your case, if you're still in the process of writing your 1st Draft, I suggest you pick at least one of them to get rid of. Kill one, bring on board another, or read A Game of Thrones and see how George does. It's truly remarkable.
Conquer your writer's block. Another beautiful reason to get rid of the characters might be simply a dead end that you hit. You hit the wall, you don't what happens, you can't make yourself write and all you do is sit and stare at the screen, getting more and more depressed. Imagine how great it would be to channel that frustration onto a character? All that angst and anger and dismay that you feel about yourself, do something therapeutic with it, please? Stop suffering and throw it all onto page. Pick the character that annoys you most, that you're tired of, etc, etc. And kill him or her off. Now, feel better? I bet you would. I bet you would feel new energy flow into your writing when you do. It's, like, the best therapy ever. I know because I did it. Oh, it felt very good.
I have to stop here, because, if I keep typing, I'll come up with a thousand more reasons and you will never finish reading this bloody post. So, stopping. Because I have some killing to do. Some character killing, that is. And some birthing, but that's a whole another story.