Disposable Characters?


This is every writers dilemma. Who do you kill of in your story? Will the victim be a “disposable” person? One of those poor unfortunate individuals that you set up for the kill?
There was (and still is) an old saying about Star Trek (The Original Series with Kirk and Spock). Whenever they needed to kill off characters they always took down “The Red Shirts” or ”Security”. When you watch those old episodes you could literally bet the farm on who was going to become cannon fodder. It was an excellent show though.
Are you that predictable in your stories? Or do you give your readers the runaround? Hey, why not? Let THEM figure out who’s going to take a dirt nap.
Is the “disposable” person a “likable character”? Meaning you put your heart and soul into creating this particular person, and people just love them. And for what ever reason you decided to create great angst by giving them the ax.
Yeah, sometime we writers are just mean that way . . . . . . . . . .
This is a tricky step to take because, you have already built up a certain loyalty for the character, especially if he or she is a main character. You then risk upsetting the entire balance of the rest of the story. Unless you replace them with either someone just as good or better, or by some hook or crook raise them from the dead, you shouldn’t do it.
Unless of course the character is either a Vampire or Zombie. . . .
The reason I mentioned caution is because Hollywood shoots themselves in the foot by killing off main characters all the time. Most of the times after this is done the show(s) fail miserably. You’d think the professional script writers and producers would have learned to NOT kill off their “cash cow”. . . . . . .
Case in point: Gene Roddenberry’s “Andromeda”. When it originally aired it garnered a cult following. Especially because of one star in particular: “Keith Hamilton Cobb” who played “Tyr Anasazi”.
However, due to politics and skullduggery on the set, after three years, Tyr, even though he was a popular and favorite character, was cut from the show at the end of the third season.  At the onset of the fourth season, people tuned in to see the return oftheir favorite Nietzschean (Knee-Chee-Ann) and he was simply GONE! Though production continued without him, viewership fell off dramatically. The show struggled on for two more seasons, then it was finally canned. Why? No one was watching the darned thing anymore. . . . . . .
Oh, by the way, Tyr was brought back for the final two episodes in order to set him up to be KILLED OFF, permanently! This was considered “treason” by Andromeda fans! To this day, most rabid fans of KHC do not even consider the final two seasons of Andromeda to be part of the show.  To them, those last seasons are a totally DIFFERENT show!
I’m not saying your book(s) will suffer the same fate as a Hollywood production. It is after all, it is your choice to write what you want regardless what fans do or say.
But, will they continue to buy, read and enjoy your books, now that a favorite and well-loved character is gone?
The ultimate bottom line: “Will it continue to sell?”






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