Who Should I Kill?

Ah, the joys of writing. I’ve recently found my stride again for my story Star Trek Challenger: Fool’s Errand and I’m glad for it, no doubt. The week has been fun so far and we’re only at Tuesday, but a problem has arisen: whom do I kill?

I’m at the point in the latest chapter (30 to be exact) that four characters are about to embark on a suicide mission that has to succeed to save the ship from certain destruction (or worse). The four characters are split into teams of two, both with equal chances of success or failure. One of them will die.

I’ve known for months this was going to happen (it was in the outline for the story) and have been dreading the point where I get here while also kinda looking forward to it. The arrival at this point marks the last leg of the story, where we begin to finally get a resolution to some things after what’s felt like months (and it has been) of dragging. On this draft, anyway. The original draft waited YEARS to get advanced before I ultimately scrapped it, but that’s another story. Literally.

Back on point, this chapter marks the beginning of the end for one of my four characters and I’ve fallen in love with each of them more than I expected. I wasn’t sure whom I was going to kill before and now I’m even less sure. But, that’s why we write, isn’t it? The thrill of getting to the point in a story where you can kill someone and agonize over it.

Each character has flaws, each has positive attributes, and each has an equal chance of going. Mostly. I have my own internal odds going on, but I’m still very much undecided. Over the next few days I’ll profile the four characters (who they are, what they’ve done in the story, and possible futures if they live/die) in question and then we’ll have an open, honest debate about whom I should kill. I may even open it up to voting for the final decision (let the people’s voices be heard!).

Stay tuned for updates and topics. As always, feel free to comment here or on the forums and thanks for reading. 🙂

6 thoughts on “Who Should I Kill?

  1. It says a lot about your characters that this is a difficult decision. That means they feel real to you.

    Although I’d also love to see how this blog post shows up in online searches.

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  5. Gonna copy and paste my thoughts from the forum thread for the sake of posterity on the Blog. Especially, as it is a very valid and difficult question. One I think many of us have faced and struggled with. Particularly, those like you who have written many varied stories and stories of a certain magnitude and length.

    You need to read Game of Thrones. George RR Martin’s series has been such a hit not just because of the writing, the politics and backstabbing schemes set against ice zombies and dragons but because he created some truly memorable and fantastic characters – AND – and he’s killed them off. No safe bets for any character. He’s killed peeps seen as the very main character in his story. Certainly these deaths play out with a huge WTF factor. However, the real purpose is that the deaths propel along storylines, or quickly pull the rug on the established playing pieces so as to throw everything back in the air. It means the stories and characters actually feel all realistic despite the backdrop because the reality of life is that anyone and, as jespah also points to, everyone dies. The deaths aren’t even heroic and moments of win get stolen away all the time from the people you root for reading his stories.

    I don’t agree per say that you kill a character who no longer has story telling potential. Cause really, such characters shouldn’t be about any longer and yeah kill them off because they’re only standing around as cannon fodder at that juncture. The character ought really to feel as though they’ve huge potential left to offer because that shows they are a game changer in their death and in life too. Essentially, any one that dies is a person cut short in life (that whole ‘it was their time thing’ is a whole load shitting crock). So as a writer, the death of a character if a main character should feel like that. That doesn’t mean they need to get a big massive moment of glorious death. That also doesn’t mean you have to eschew the big moment of glorious death because we are writing stories of adventure, drama and heroes and it does not belittle the character to give them this route out either.

    Trek does indeed have its problems with death. It never lasts. In the episodes there’s always some sort of Macguffin that allows a resurrection or a time travel that renders it null and void. Tasha’s death gets written off as inconsequential but in truth it’s the most honest. It comes out of the blue when it happens and the fix we expect to come does not. Sadly, yes this was TNG early days and there was a lack of touching back on this and then they went and gave her an alternative universe get out of death jail card. And as much as Jadzia died in DS9 by virtue of her Dax symbiont surviving and returning in a way that was a death akin to The Doctor’s death in Doctor Who, with traits retained, some changed and a face change. As writers of Trek fan fiction it is easier for us to write character death and perhaps our stories lend more to it too. We certainly owe it to our readers to make the death count in terms of the story telling be it the ramifications for other characters or the story plot impetus.

    The other thing is that it should be something organic. Yes, it can be planned for as a story beat but you’ve reached that story beat and planning point so now since there’s indecision you need to feel for the most organic outcome for the characters. Who would make the stupid mistake that gets themselves or someone else killed? Who would be too dumb or too brave and all themselves to be sacrificed? Who would be too stubborn to not understand when to cut their losses and run to fight another day? Or when might cross wires in agenda and communications compromise the mission and lead to an accidental or inevitable death?

    Don’t trap yourself into thinking however that you have to kill someone unless it truly is an important plot point. Some one can be seriously and badly hurt and despite Trek tech that does not always mean they get back into the thick of the action two days later. Their injuries and recovery could leave them removed from duty or on lesser duties that allows you to move pieces about, bring in new blood and new conflicts. The other thing is to also not trap yourself into the type of death they should get or when. The timing does not have to be at the end of the mission in order to save the day. It could be a costly mistake at the very beginning, throwing all plans into disarray and sending all of the other characters scrambling to deal with the consequences in the midst of the emergency all the while knowing their colleague is down.

    This all boils down to: It has to serve the story and it has to serve the characters.

    Note that this is coming from me who stopped writing Kestrel for lots of reasons chief amongst those reason was because of the knowledge that the story was about to move into such territory and story plots all led to a certain situation. So in that aspect I might have ducked out save that I know who dies and the manner of their death and have written peripherally around the events.

    However, I have at other times written character deaths and as above the decision was to advance stories, arcs and character development. Nathan Nikovcheski was first officer of the Accipiter and killed in an action that was partly brought about by the actions of the CMO defying orders. This death would impact directly on the sister living in his shadow, it would carry ramifications for the CMO and for Caitlyn Ryan it would bring her into the first officer position and her advancement would cause some frictions with the ship’s captain. Another death that happened was designed purposely to happen at the very end of the story and yes it was a WTF moment I think for a lot of readers. However, that death was a natural outcome of the criminal conspiracy she was uncovering and its a story that is going to play out in subsequent stories set within the Watchtower universe.

    But again, it comes down to: serving the story; serving the characters

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