The official blog of Jane Domagala


Welcome 2012. This is my first post for the year and today is Australia Day, or as we Ausies like to call it, a good excuse for a bbq day.

Away with all the bright happy stuff, I thought I'd talk about writing death scenes. There are many ways to kill off a character, which most writers love doing. I mention few in this blog, but would love to hear the different ways you slay your characters.

The deathbed scene: this usually occurs when one of your characters has been struck down by illness, or injury, old age, poison (if it's slow acting). I've written a few of these myself – the raspy breaths, the fevers, the mumbled words before death. The deathbed scene is a great way to set up mystery or leave things up in the air. The departing never quite get to finish the words that will save the protagonist's life and save the world. These tend not to be gory (unless someone is coughing up blood or has pussy boils, etc...), though you can make them disturbing by changing the level of agony in death.

Accidental: Can't say I've written an accidental death scene before. I could imagine that this sort of death might be used to break a character's spirit, or change the way they perceive life and death. Any death scene should push the story along in some way. This isn't my favourite. The king accidentally dying before he can sign the peace treaty might give the antagonist a chance to continue the feud between kingdoms, but it works better if the king is murdered by the antagonist who makes it look like an accident. Maybe an accidental death sets off a chain of events. Who know?

Suicide: I have written a suicide scene recently. I really liked the character and didn't want her to die, but it was necessary to help unleash the evil my protagonists had to face. Like the accidental death, this is may set off a chain of events. The beginning of the movie, Constantine, starts with a suicide, that effects the lead female character and sends her on a journey to Hell.

Bloody Murder: Most of my death scenes are a result of bloody murder. Swords, knives, teeth, bear hands, axes, holding heads under water, pillows, poison, magic, fireballs are just a few ways to kill off a character. Murder can add mystery, it can begin wars, incite acts of revenge, send others into hiding, inspire terror. It's a dominating force in fantasy. One character plotting murder against another character is always a great tool and adds conflict. How bloody you go is up to you. There are, however, a few things to take into consideration. Who is your audience? Can they handle a lot of gore? Is it in your character's nature to be brutal?

Sometimes the hint of violence can work much better than the gore, as it allows the reader's imagination to take over. In my book I have a scene where a man is sacrificed by cannibals. I needed to show that the threat of death to my protagonist was very real. I was able to do it by taking the reader up to the point right before he's killed. It was enough for them to know it was happening without having to show it. Whereas, I have another character who was quite happy to watch his victims die. When he kills I show the blood, as it fits his personality.

No matter what kind of death scene you write, be sure that it helps to further either the plot, or your characters' development for good or bad.
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