Killing off Characters

October 28, 2013 at 1:17 pm

The final installment of a well-known and loved book series was published last week, and before much time had passed, there were cries of outrage from fans all over the world.

I was one of them.

Why? A major character was killed off. This was hardly the first time in this series a character we had grown to love had died, but this one went further than any fan wanted it to go. The storm that it caused is still wreaking havoc amongst YA/dystopian lovers everywhere.

There’s no doubt what happened in this story upset me, but I have to ask myself why? We all know people die. We all know people die tragically. Should it not be that way in books? Why do we always prefer the HEA (Happily Ever After) even if it’s not realistic?

For me, I know I read books as an escape from the real world. If I want to know how tragic the world is, I watch the news. I want my books to entertain and uplift me. That’s why I read them. Even then, I don’t always object if characters, even major characters, are killed off or if the book doesn’t end happily. I enjoyed Gone with the Wind in spite of the fact that Rhett walks out and leaves Scarlett standing in the doorway, begging for him to come back. I enjoyed the movie Remember Me in spite of its incredibly tragic conclusion. So why did I have such a problem with this book?

I think the delivery of this particular title was part of the issue. Many fans have a lot of problems with the story as well. Perhaps that is at least part of the reason. However, there’s no doubt it’s the ending that’s pushed most people over the edge, and many have said that they will never read this author’s books again.

Is this kind of reaction a reasonable one, do you think? Is it right that an author should feel such pressure to ensure a HEA or risk alienating their fans? In what circumstances is it okay to have a tragic end to a story? I’m genuinely interested in your thoughts, especially the thoughts of my fellow authors. Would you be brave enough to write a story that kills off the most loved characters?