So, Character d is dying, he got shot in the side with a Pulse Rifle. This is very bad, as Pulse Rifles are in the laser category and their mode of operation is to focus the most energy on the smallest possible spot, causing it to explode. The pulse ends before d's brain could even register what happened. After a second, he collapses on the ground. The situation is really bad, as the weapon's effect is mainly kinetic, the wound is not cauterized, and there is no bullet inside it to even slightly stem the bleeding. Character c rushes over to him and tries to close the wound, but d already lost too much blood, he can barely whimper, and even that is incoherent. C is busy trying to save d's life and only picks up a few words from him: "...I'm so cold, p-please... I don't, I don't want to go.."

DAAAMN! A sad moment where we can truly feel sad for a background character, BUT CHEESE STILL REARS UP ITS UGLY HEAD TO RUIN IT!

Some exposition: This series aims to be realistic, and you can't, and never will be able to give a deep, philosophical speech when your brain is struggling to get oxygen. What happened to d is called circulatory shock, a positive feedback loop, in which the circulatory system experiences a sudden drop in blood pressure, and tries to compensate it by dilating arteries, increasing the blood flow, i.e: d is now losing blood more rapidly.

Cold is one of the common sign of shock, so d complaining about it is perfectly rational. But the "I'm so cold" stock-death phrase is on the verge of becoming narm, which is not a good thing.

How can I use these types of phrases, without falling into either narm or Sturgeon's law?

  • 5
    You can't. Why bother? In real life, people die, conscious, without saying anything at all, all the time. I've been there to witness it. It is true people will not think of great things, but I've been told actual last words from a car accident (via a paramedic on the scene): "Man I'm really screwed." Many things come to people's minds besides the stock phrases. Look at "The Perfect Storm": As one character is about to die, his last words are "This will be really hard on my son," because that is the final thing on his mind, he loves his son. Simple, original, and realistic are possible.
    – Amadeus
    Dec 11, 2017 at 22:23
  • 6
    Before you can do any of that, you have to learn to write straightforward exposition. As long as your prose is all over the place, as long as you write like a drunk stumbling in the gutter, you are not going to achieve any literary effect. Stop with the bold passages and the capitalization and the exclamation marks. That is all just a distraction. Until you learn to write something as simple as a question in clear lucid disciplined prose, you are not going to be able to create anything worth reading.
    – user16226
    Dec 11, 2017 at 22:35
  • 4
    Further to Marks advice above, stay of TVTropes for a while. Pick up some books or courses about writing (The Hero's Journey, On Writing etc), listen to Writing Excuses or any of the myriad other resources out there about the craft of writing.
    – user18397
    Dec 11, 2017 at 22:40
  • With how you described a Pulse Rifle, I can't see anyone saying all those words before dying. Also, you said he could barely whimper. In my mind I picture him trying to say cold like- "C-co-" and then he raises his arm but it drops limp by his side immediately. Dec 12, 2017 at 13:01

5 Answers 5


"...I'm so cold, p-please... I don't, I don't want to go.." is a stock phrase because anyone could say it, so everybody does. Instead, make it personal. Make the character say something that only they would say.

Weave in something from their past. Maybe they are remembering how they almost froze to death that one time in Siberia and now, feeling cold, hallucinate that they are there again.

Let them say something that shows their character. The above phrase doesn't really reveal anything about the person saying it.

Let them talk about concerns or worries that are very specific to them ("Who's gonna feed my tarantula? Nobody else knows how she likes to be stroked...") or about very individual goals that they wanted to achieve ("This... this can't be how I die... I was going to fight in the zombie apocalypse!").

By reading their last words a reader should be able to guess which character is dying. This will also make it easier for the reader to relate to the character in this emotional situation, thus making their death more impactful.


As you said yourself, that kind of cliched dying monologue just isn't taken seriously anymore. I can't even take the big dramatic slow-motion "NOOOOOOO"s seriously anymore (see: Wonder Woman). So if you really want to have a character say something like "I'm so cold... I don't want to go...", then play the scene for laughs.

They are two ways to go about this, and I have an example of each:

a) The character isn't actually dying, but they think they are. Example: the climax of Megamind, after Minion is injured by the antagonist. He launches into a long, cliched death speech... and Megamind just rolls his eyes and tosses him into a nearby fountain, where he immediately recovers (for context, Minion is basically a talking fish).

b) The character isn't actually dying, but they're trying to convince someone else that they are. Example: a scene in the film Over the Hedge where Ozzy the possum is (not quite) hit by a car. He proceeds to "play dead", which consists of staggering around in front of the car for a good thirty seconds, rattling off every "dying speech" cliche you can think of, ending with a final gasp of "Rose... bud..." before collapsing.

If you want to use stock death speech, but play it completely straight, then my only advice is "Don't". IMO, people are going to laugh at that kind of hackneyed dialogue no matter what you do, so it's better to make sure they're at least laughing with you, not at you.


Make it poignant. Unless the character is extremely versed in the technical aspects of the human body, it's likely that he won't focus on that aspect. Consider the first Iron Man film, where the character Yinsed dies in the course of a firefight and is able to live long enough to give Tony his dying words. No one mocks this scene because it is quite poignant. Up to this point, Yinsed's motivation for helping Tony was give as escaping so he can return to his family. When Tony tries to remind Yinsed of that, we learn that this wasn't Yinsed's true goal... not entirely.

During their earlier discussion, Yinsed takes pity on Tony when Tony explains he has no family to return to, saying that Tony is a man "who has everything, yet nothing." Naturally, this is an important value to Yinsed and Tony comes to believe that Yinsed is allying with Tony because it's his only way to reunite with his family. But in this scene we learn that it wasn't Yinsed's only goal. Yinsed's family was dead and Yinsed's "reuniting" with his family is in the afterlife. It's here we learn the true goal: As a devout family man, Yinsed had no will to live knowing that his family no longer existed. They were his purpose in life. In Tony, he saw a man who had not found a purpose to be robbed of. Yinsed's true goal is to free Tony because he can sense that despite this lack of purpose, Tony is still a good man.

This scene will inform everything Tony does in this movie and in the future movies to follow featuring him. His protective nature of his legacy, his altruism, his guilt over preprieved failures, his building of and (subsequent fear of losing) a family in the form of the Avengers, these all stem from the dying words of Yinsed.

Dying dialog can have specific meaning and willing suspension of disbelief will forgive the important messages... but they need to do something more for the readers than confirm the obvious.


I will give the same answer as any time you run into something ruined by constant reuse in media.

If you can't avoid it lamps shade it, Call attention to how a real life event has been made chiche by the media

"The bastard could not even say anything original in his dying words"

or have him say

"I am cold, it's just like they say it happens"

This makes the audience stay with you, and that's really all you ever need.

Also most important to not have any emotional moment be a groan, don't try to force feelings where there are none. If this is a character that was around for 5 minutes, just let them die in a couple of sentences and move on. The first Hunger Games movie is a great example of doing this wrong.


There's lots of other things a person thinks when they die. My step dad died of lung cancer. He was a heavy smoker. We all knew he would get lung cancer.

After he was diagnosed, he said "I never thought I'd get lung cancer," And we all went, "Whoa, yeah, he didn't expect it. That's why he kept smoking."

It was like the big insight into his brain.

Maybe your character never thought this would be the way they'd go. Some reason, they thought they'd get a chance to settle their affairs or whatnot.

Maybe there is some element to the experience that surprises him. "They always say it's cold, but they never tell you about the fear," or "They always say it's cold, but my god that's not near as bad as the rage," etc.

If I was dying and cold, I'd be thinking of the family that went before me. I'd try to remember someone that was cold when they died. (I know who that is.) I'd say something like, "I'm cold. I don't like, but it's OK. Jane was cold too, and I've really missed her. Please feed the tarantula." ( :-) B Altman)

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