Just a question in general. Let's say the protagonist has succeed in his goals, but has lost everything, then he gets badly wounded and slowly dies. What is to avoid when writing his death? Just asking in general.


The death of the protagonist and the events surrounding it should further the plot or character development

If giving him a slow death in no way furthers the plot or someone's character development, then please kill him quickly.

There are a whole lot of unanswered questions here which would influence how much writing you want to put into Mr. P's death.

Do the readers have any sympathy for Mr. P?

If there is a lot of interest in Mr. P., then his death can be expanded. You can use it to delve into why he made the choices he made or didn't make.

How did he lose everything and does that make him a more complete character? Is it important to the story (or to the theme) that he lost everything?

Maybe you want to leave an air of mystery around his death. Did he or didn't he? Might he come back in the sequel?

I guess what I am saying, to answer your question, is to make his death meaningful. Avoid any other claptrap that does nothing but fill the pages.



But how has he managed to succeed in his goals and still lose everything? Was his goal to lose it all? (I remember some comedy where someone had to get rid of a lot of money in order to inherit even more, but he didn't die in the end...)

  • I really must agree with Erk's perceptive point about goals. There is an inherent sense of melodrama precisely in this outcome, i.e. achieving everything then losing it, then dying. There must be a narrative-wise sense-making reason why he died. It can't be a random event. Think of the traditional Greek tragedy: Nobody is interested in the death of a scoundrel, and nobody is interested in the triumph of a good man. It is ambiguity and confused juxtaposition that makes a good narrative.
    – user16555
    May 30 '16 at 7:18
  • 1
    Brewster's Millions. Good stuff
    – Stu W
    May 30 '16 at 13:56
  • There are plenty of people interested in the triumph of good men and the deaths of scoundrels. That's a formula the Hollywood blockbuster largely relies on, for example.
    – evilsoup
    May 31 '16 at 20:39
  • Well, I did assume we were talking about quality narratives ;)
    – user16555
    Jun 1 '16 at 10:33
  • @DigitalDracula: yes, this answer might have been a bit impulsive. I'm realizing that the death of the protagonist is probably the end of the story, so then there are a bunch of things that has to be done... but I am not at all sure it has to happen in the actual death scene...
    – Erk
    Jun 23 '16 at 2:52

I'd suggest a secondary protagonist that "carries the torch" when the protagonist dies. Even when done well, there's a marketability issue if the one character everyone cares about bites it.

Also, there's a great deal of respect for self-sacrifice. Dying for a cause is a successful and uplifting way to accomplish your task.

The first two blockbuster movies coming to mind are Terminator 2 and Armageddon.

However, there was this American movie from the '70s called Ordinary People which won "Best Picture" Academy Award, but nobody tried to replicate because it was so depressing--the MC commits suicide at the end.

  • The most recent spiderman 2 where (spoiler alert) gwen stacey dies also died at the box office because even though you know it's going to happen it is a total bummer. Most 1st wave watchers told other people the movie was depressing and people stopped going. And that wasn't even the main character.
    – raddevus
    May 31 '16 at 20:08
  • I'm just saying: Game of Thrones... would be interesting to see if they lost viewers when Sean Bean bit it ... :D However, in all honesty, I think Game of Thrones is an odd man out... and we'll be plagued with some B-stories where protags are being killed left and right... just because...
    – Erk
    Jun 23 '16 at 2:54

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.