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In my 3rd draft, a character, that adds a lot to the main character's backstory and motivation spends around 10 minutes in the movie. Am I safe killing him off, or should I extend the character's time?

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  • There's not enough information here to help you arrive at a meaningful answer. Is this death intended to be an inciting incident? Has their 10min interaction 'proven' their closeness and relationship importance to the audience (will they care?), or is this a generic Hero's Journey mentor-death that we don't need to spend a lot of time on because it's a well-understood trope to get the Protag started on the adventure?
    – wetcircuit
    May 13, 2023 at 17:31

2 Answers 2

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It sounds like this is an important motivational character whose death is significant to the protagonist.

Let's call this important motivational character Wormbait and the protagonist Hero, to keep things simple.

When Wormbait dies isn't a constraint on establishing their relationship to the audience. Wormbait could die in the opening ten seconds of the story or in the final minutes. What is important is establishing what Wormbait means to Hero and how Wormbait's death impacts Hero. All of these things could be told before or after Wormbait bites the dust. What changes is how the audience reacts to the death and how the audience relates to Hero.

So if Wormbait needs to die at the ten-minute mark as part of the chain of events that is the story and you haven't had sufficient time to develop the Wormbait, then you can use flashbacks or dialgue later in the story to establish whatever important details are needed to frame the relationship between the two characters.

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If the character is too important to the story to be kept alive, then a good idea is to have the character kept alive for a good chunk (maybe a little more than 10 mins, depending on how long the movie is, maybe a 1/3 or 1/4 of the movie with them alive) to get the character development across, then kill the character off. If the character is equally important to the story but for the death that the character has, then there can be enough scenes (so, yes, 10 mins is fine) for the character to show some of their personality but the majority of scenes about their character development I suggest should be from the perspective of others after the character's death. The real question for this is: Is the character important or is their death important to the story and protagonist? From that can you decide how to deal with the character.

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