A Writer's Musings

I recently read a review about a series where the Main Character died at the end – and the reviewer was not a happy kitten.

I admit that I’d be pretty upset if the main character I spent three, four, five, maybe more books rooting for died at the very end, and I’m sure you feel the same way.

But is that really such a bad thing? When I read a book, I want there to be a chance that the main character doesn’t survive it. If I can count on the main character being alive at the end, I know a pretty important part of the final struggle before I even start, and can stop worrying about the main character’s safety. They may get hurt, possibly badly, but they won’t die.

Of course I want them to survive, but that doesn’t mean that they have to just to appease the reader.

When I realised that there were more books in the Sword of Truth series than I’d known about I ordered the remaining four books. The author himself warned readers that, if we wanted a happy ending, we shouldn’t read past Book 11. I was prepared for the main characters to die – and it made the read far more exciting! I’d made peace with the main character dying at the end, and was prepared for it. I came to terms with my favourite characters probably not making it – but I didn’t know for sure, and that made it so much more thrilling to read on!

I don’t think killing your main character should be frowned upon. Of course readers will hope that they survive, but if there’s no chance of him or her dying at all I already know how it ends. I do read books for the journey, but I want some uncertainty about the destination, too.

If you’re a writer yourself you probably understand that sometimes, people have to die. It makes more sense for them to die than to live. In Rise of the Sparrows I tried to save a character, but ultimately let them die because it wouldn’t have made sense for them to be the only exception. Death in fiction has to be justified – characters shouldn’t just die because we feel like it – but their lives need to be justified as well. If there’s simply no way a character can survive something then they shouldn’t. Even if we’re talking about the main character.

But enough from me! What are your thoughts on this? Do you think that the main character should always live, no matter the odds? Or do you think it’s acceptable to kill your main character, if it’s justified? Get yourself a cookie and some tea, and let’s chat!


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