My hubby and I have an ongoing joke. When a character is killed off or leaves a TV show, we call it a contract dispute. For example, the character of Lance Sweets from the show Bones was killed in the Season 10 opener. Boy that was a shocker! Other major characters have left or met their demise on other popular shows such as NCIS and CSI. The most recent contract dispute falls in the lap of Doctor Derek Shepherd who went out with a bang (literally) when his car gets T-boned by a truck, and he hangs on for dear life for at least a couple more episodes of Grey’s Anatomy. A sad day indeed. Sniff.
The exit of these characters got me thinking. When is it the right time to kill or remove a character from an ongoing book series? Is it when the character stops meeting the readers’ needs and expectations? Do the characters become boring? Stop growing? Refuse to change? Perhaps. I guess the best sounding board would be the readers. Listening to them on the social media or reading the reviews they post. Are they sick of Character X? Does Character Y make them want to vomit? Or do readers even relate to Character Z? Mind you, I’m not sure killing a character off would have the same effect in sales as it does for TV ratings, but you never know until you try. Bahaha…
However, if you kill the wrong character you’ll have blood on your hands and angry readers. Case in point—when Arthur Conan Doyle killed Sherlock Holmes by sending him over a waterfall with his arch enemy Professor Moriarty in tow, it wasn’t pretty. I mean for Sir Arthur, and the readers demanded satisfaction. Seriously? What was he thinking? Note to self: don’t piss your fans off!
In my time travel series, The Last Timekeepers, I’ve seriously thought about replacing certain characters to freshen up the series as it progresses, although nothing is written in stone yet. Readers are continually looking for new and improved characters to keep them invested in any series. That’s the reason why TV shows keep introducing new characters into a series. Even J.K. Rowling added new characters (and killed off a bunch) throughout her Harry Potter series.
So my question is: when must a character die or leave? I’m guessing there are so many answers to that question, but the reason I’d off one of my characters is when there’s no more room for character development or growth. That’s what Sir Arthur Conan Doyle attempted to do when he killed off Sherlock Holmes—he tied up all the loose ends and made sure Holmes lived a full life. Unfortunately, Doyle underestimated his readers, even though he wanted to cash out and move on to writing other books. And to this day, Sherlock Holmes has survived his creator, and duped death. Now that’s one loved character!
Thank you for reading my blog! So, what characters would you like to see killed/removed from your favorite book series? Love to hear your answers! Cheers!