I’ve read a fair few books in my time, and I’ve seen characters meet some interesting deaths, but I’m not satisfied. You see, I’ve seen a lot of secondary characters die, and those have been compelling and interesting. I’ve only seen a handful of main characters die, and ever single one either passed peacefully in their old age or they came right back to life. There are exceptions, but they all start the book dead. Now, I’m not here to bash anyone’s writing. I just want to put it out into the universe that I want to see some main characters die in some more compelling ways. In case there are any authors out there who read this blog, I’m going to list some fun ways to die that might spark some ideas.
Realistic Sword Work
Okay. I get it. It’s super fun to watch the main character in a fantasy run into a horde of angry monsters and send their heads flying like cheap popcorn. We all know it isn’t realistic, though. So, lets have some fun. Let’s have a main character — we’ll call them Jim – let’s have Jim show up to this major battle. His friend tosses him a sword. Jim has never held a sword before, but, by golly, he’s gonna make it work. He takes off running toward the antagonist, and, OH NO
Jim misjudges the weight of the sword and trips over his own feet. He falls on the sword. He dies instantly.
Oh, the villain is happy. He’s laughing at the whole situation. He brought a whole army to fight this baffoon? You, the reader, you are hurt and unsatisfied. This can’t be what happens. You check the page count. You only have 2 pages left. You want to stop reading and throw the book across the room, but your inner Billy Mays says “but wait, there’s more.”
There is more. There is Jim’s body and his blood. The blood runs through the leaves and into the nearby river summoning the ancient beast Jim search for his entire life for and could not find. The beast jumps up and slaughters all of the bad guys and, also, Jim’s love interest by mistake (whoops). The people are freed, and, without a reigning hero, instate a truly communal government. People with paper cuts are banned from swimming in the river.
Every decent hero needs a sidekick, right? At least an affinity to some type of familiar. I know Hellboy likes cats, and I want to play with that for a moment. Imagine a kitten being the foretold slayer of the hero.
First chapter, the hero finds the sad lonely kitten sitting beside its dead mother. It’s a heart wrenching scene that humanizes the otherwise completely chauvinistic hero (still named Jim). Jim travels for a full month battling monsters and crossing oceans all with the kitten by his side. One day, Jim lets his anger get the best of him. He yells at the cute fluffy kitty, and the kitty, terrified, bites him.
Welp, Jim gets cat-scratch fever and drops dead a week later. The party who’ve been traveling with the duo debate who should take the lead for the group. The kitten hops into a small child’s arms and meows loudly. The party takes it as a sign. They ask the child what the plan is. The child comes up with some wicked cool new battle tactics that incorporate the games Jim refused to play with her the whole book. All ends well.
Just Drop ’em
You can always have your MC drop dead in the middle of the book. All becomes chaos. That third-person narrator struggles to know who to follow. The narrator tries to find a new MC and goes through a great
many. As she switches from MC to MC, she is forced to face her sordid past: her abusive mother, her failed relationships, her inability to make a souffle. In the end, she discovers that she was the MC all along. Cue the Shamalon music.
Hot Air Balloon Crash
This one is a play on the manic pixie dream girl trope. Edna, 23, beautiful, quirky, NOT LIKE OTHER GIRLS (trademark), is determined to see the world. Mark, AKA bland guy #3 who want’s nothing more than to be buried with the one he loves, falls in love with her and gets swept up in her wanderlust. He sees the beauty of the world through her eyes and becomes a better person. But, oh no, the get in a fight about their changing needs.
Edna revives her dream of seeing the world. Mark realizes that he has no personality with out Edna, so he finds the balloon she’s planning to travel in and stows away. Because she doesn’t know that she has a stow away, she doesn’t properly account for the weight of the extra human. A storm overtakes them. Mark remarks that he is happy that they get to spend their last moments together.
Edna sees Mark for the needy, selfish person that he is, and decides that she cannot let him have that satisfaction. She jumps out of the balloon over some water hoping to save herself. She hits a boat instead. Mark drowns, and his body is swept away. Edna is buried on a hill with an awesome view far away from wherever Mark went.
Change It Up
There is one method authors frequently use to kill their MC that brings me joy, character development. I absolutely love when an MC changes so much throughout the book or series that they can confidently say “the old Taylor is dead,” and I super love when the change is so gradual that I, as the reader, don’t notice.
I want to thank Murphy Napier, her videos can be hilarious. I’ve been binging them, and her love of character deaths definitely inspired this post.