I am not embarrassed to say that I enjoy killing off characters, especially the ones who seem undeserving of death. A tale of a hero who is unable to finish his quest because of an untimely demise really sets my heart aflutter with ideas! It may be horrible of me, but it is when their death induces tears that I feel especially accomplished! After writing, rewriting, revising, editing, and crying, I have found out a few good ways to make a character's death even more emotional and tragic. So, without further ado, here are three ways to kill off a character successfully.
1. Avoid the why-die!
The why-die, as I like to call it, is a character who died for the sole purpose of making the reader sad. You wonder why they had to perish, or how it even furthered the plot of the story. A death like this may cause the reader to sniffle, but it will more than likely just make them frustrated. If your character's death has no meaning or impact on the story, then they don't need to die. The realm of writing is far different than the world in which we live. There should always be an explanation for their death, or at least a purpose afterward.
2. They just died.
"The glass windows shattered as the bombs exploded, sending rocks and debris hurling down toward the coastal village. "This is it," muttered the man as he clutched tight to his three-year-old daughter. A deafening howl echoed through the atmosphere as the missile landed atop the hut where the man and his child hid. There would be no bodies to bury. No loved ones to mourn over them. Nothing but the cold, heartless embrace of death."
Now, I wasn't too phased by this. There was no emotion after the death of the father and his daughter, they just, died! If you want to write a truly gripping and emotional death scene, don't just kill them, make the reader suffer with them as they die. Make them feel the agony of the man never seeing his child grow up and have a family of her own. The thought of her being taken away from the world far before her time should kill everyone. The very knowledge that the father held her in his arms wasn't just to keep her safe; it was to hold his young one in his arms just one last time before they were both taken from this world. See? Don't just tell it, feel it.
3. So much to live for.
If you kill a character, nine times out of ten, do not allow them to be happy with death. Let your reader know the life they could have had, the sacrifices they've made, and the love they have or have lost. Perhaps your character just got into a heated argument with their significant other and left the house, only to be crushed by a driver who was too drunk to be behind the wheel. Maybe they are a ten-year-old child who is suffering from a fatal disease, let your reader know that they did not deserve to die. If you want your character's death to mean something, give them something to live for then wrench it away from them before they even had the chance to touch it.