How do you kill a loved characters without angering your readers? I think the Last of Us Part 2 had a lot of detractors because of how they handled the death of one of its main characters. I think it was because it was shocking, immediate and brutal. There were also mentions of how the character who killed him was unlikeable and so on even if they set her to be likeable by showing her good side. So I am wondering if there are things you need to avoid when killing a loved character in your story.

2 Answers 2


laughs in Joss Whedon and George R.R. Martin

Oh you sweet, naïve, summer child pets you on your head that's not how this works. You kill beloved characters specifically to rile up your audiences.

That said, you shouldn't do it to immediately replace their role with a character who is just like them... but not... or you and the actor/actress who plays the character have had a falling out... but instead you do it because the character's death serves the plot... even in a small way.

Consider the death of Gamora or Vision in Avengers: Infinity War. Their deaths severed several purposes related to the story (Showing what Thanos was willing to do achieve his goal... and his hypocrisies. That a man was so capable of showing love... yet so motivated by his belief that his personal ambitions outweighed that love, that he willingly sacrificed an adopted daughter... a love of choice... to achieve those goals. When he kills Vision, he attempts to commiserate with Wanda by explaining he has lossed loved ones... but up until this point, he had not inflicted that loss on anyone but himself... Wanda has no choice but to kill Thanos... where as Thanos had a choice. And in this instance, it personalized the sheer weight of grief he would soon inflict when he killed 50% of all life in the universe. He would make the choice without care for how others would feel about it... and expect people to be fine with it... because he also lost people. And while the next film would deal with that aftermath, the audience understood that Gamora and the Vision (as we knew them) were truly gone and not just "Dust in the wind/ All we are is- HULK SNAP back for the big third act fight again." (Though this is based on comics. As was once observed, nobody stays dead in comics, save for Jason Todd, Bucky Barnes, and Ben Parker.... and even then two of those came back from the dead!").

One may dislike the death of a character because they enjoy the character, but should temper that frustration with the understanding that if a character is human, than death is but a possible outcome for that person. After all, nobody lives for ever. Death often happens suddenly and with no rhyme or reason, especially in conflict. Ultimately the writer need not follow any special prescribed path to kill a character. I have seen writers who plan out the character's death from the beginning and create proper foreshadowing. Others suddenly hit on the character's death as the next logical step in the story. Still others have left the decision entirely to the outcome of chance (I am aware of one writer who, during large fight scenes, would roll dice for each character to determine their fates, including the main character, and had a back up plan to continue the story should even she die.).

If you intend to kill a character, do so for the sake of the story and do not regret it... your role as writer isn't to mourn the character... it's to play God. And if the characters can die, remember, whether millionaire or humble street sweeper, everybody will dance with the reaper.

  • 2
    "If you intend to kill a character, do so for the sake of the story" is a much better reason than "You kill beloved characters specifically to rile up your audiences.". If the story demands it, I can accept a character's death even though I may not like it. If the author is just jerking me around for no reason, I'll stop reading their books in the future.
    – user54131
    Aug 11, 2022 at 13:41

How do you kill a loved characters without angering your readers?

I think it's important to distinguish between making readers angry at you (the writer) versus angry that the character died. Making your readers feel emotions that are appropriate to the story is good. It keeps them engaged and immersed. So, if readers are angry at the murderer for killing the victim, that's good. If they're angry at you for writing it, that's probably bad.

A big part of this is setting the right expectations. If any character can die at any time, then you should communicate this to your readers early on. And in that case you won't need a lot of justification for killing a character. Bad things happen, and deaths are sometimes pretty random and unfair. If that fits the tone and theme of the story, that's fine.

In other cases, you probably want to prepare readers more, by using foreshadowing. And you need to make sure the death has actual meaning within the story. There should be reasons for why it happens, and it should affect the world. If in the final battle a heroine dies saving the lives of her friends, that's a lot more satisfying than if she tripped and broke her neck on the way there.

I think the best deaths in stories are those where the reader has to admit that the story couldn't be better without it, even if they hate the death itself.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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