Killing off a Good Guy

One of the joys of being a writer is the ability to emulate doG by creating entirely new worlds and populating them with creations from your mind, both with characters you love and characters you love to hate.  Killing off the bad guys is easy, killing off a good guy is harder but sometimes necessary.

If you’re a follower of the HBO adaptation of George. R.R. Martin’s, A Song of Ice and Fire, you might have read some of the outrage from watchers who raised holy hell when a favorite character was beheaded. I found the brouhaha…amusing.  Obviously these were people that had never read Martin’s books or were completely ignorant of Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey  where sometimes the “Mentor” has to die in order for the “Hero” to progress in their own development to achieve their ultimate goal or resolution.  (If you’re unfamiliar with The Hero’s Journey, a good summary can be found here. If you write fiction, read it!)

A similar situation happened some years ago during Buffy the Vampire Slayer, when Joss Whedon, the creator of Buffy, killed off one of a favorite pair of lesbian characters amidst cries of “foul” from fans and critics alike.  It proved to be necessary for the development of Willow, the remaining partner, as Whedon wanted to explore the trope of “addiction” in the following year. That said, the death of Tara  was still like a punch in the gut to many of us with some fans even going so far as to quit watching the show altogether.

In response to the fans who accused Whedon of giving in to the trope of a Lesbian romance never ending happily, he said something I’ve never forgotten.

“Don’t give people what they want, give them what they need.”
~~Joss Whedon

So, yeah, if you find it necessary to kill off a character that you’ve sweated blood over creating, taken the time to give him or her a proper background and made them likable, or even lovable, even though you may want not to do it, you may have to send that character off screaming into the depths of Hell for the sake of your Hero’s further development.  It ain’t always easy to do this, but if you must, do it with style, and for the love of doG do it for the right reason. A senseless and useless death of a “good guy” character will get you naught but grief from your readers, but one done for the right reason will give you cred for knowing what the hell you’re doing as a writer.

Of course, it’s not always necessary for a good guy to die, but who the hell doesn’t like a little added angst and drama combined with some graphic blood and guts type slaughtering of the innocents? What!  You mean that’s just me?

I doubt it.

Posted on July 29, 2011, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Oddly enough, I think I can kill off the character who is the story’s human “puppy”, but I don’t think I can kill off a cat in the same story.

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