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I'm writing a stand-alone fantasy novel about a bunch of kings. The protagonist is a girl I am basing off of a female king from Sweden in the 1600s. I am planning on killing off one of the other kings, but he's also going be the love interest.

  1. How do I make him so that his death hits really hard?
  2. How do I make it more relevant to the book?

Obviously it's going to hurt the characters, but basically the reason I'm killing him off is that I don't want the protagonist to end up with him in the end (and also I want to kill someone off.) Is that a good enough reason to kill him off?

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  • A 'female king' is a queen! (Formally a queen regnant if she is monarch in her own right rather than the wife of a king.) I assume you mean Queen Christina/Kristina of Sweden. Mar 11 at 9:42
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    @KateBunting In many languages, a "female king" is a king: "In Ancient Africa, Ancient Persia, Asian and Pacific cultures, and in some European countries, female monarchs have been given the title king or its equivalent, such as pharaoh, when gender is irrelevant to the office, or else have used the masculine form of the word in languages that have grammatical gender as a way to classify nouns." (from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queen_regnant) Examples: Jadwiga, king of Poland; Tamar, king of Georgia; and Kristina – who was proclaimed king of Sweden at the age of six.
    – Ben
    Mar 11 at 16:09
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    @KateBunting "[A]lthough called 'queen', the official title [Kristina] was given by the Riksdag at her coronation in February 1633 was 'king'." (from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christina,_Queen_of_Sweden) —— There is a well-known YA book about her, Christina: The Girl King by Carolyn Meyer: amazon.co.uk/Royal-Diaries-Kristina-Girl-Sweden/dp/0439249767
    – Ben
    Mar 11 at 16:14
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    @Ben - OK - I stand corrected! Mar 11 at 16:45

1 Answer 1

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If you want to hit the readers hard with the death of a character, you must make your readers like him. The more the readers identify with a character and root for him to achieve his goals, the more distraught they are going to be when you suddenly kill him off.

The danger with this approach, though, is that you will disappoint your readers. Most readers want their ideas about a story to come true. They want "their hero" to win, not the one they don't like or don't care about. Going against what you build up may affect your readers so negatively that they stop reading your book (and anything else you write). So be careful.

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The death of a character is most relevant to a book when it causes a major turn in the story. The more that death affects the behavior of the other characters or the possible directions a story can take, the more his death is relevant to the story.

For example, if the woman who loves him was happy while he lived but then turns bitter and vengeful, that is a major turn of her character and most relevant. Or if the kind was on the verge of creating a long lasting peace and his death give the upper hand to his eager-for-war opponents, then that obviously changes the whole story upside down.

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I don't want the protagonist to end up with him in the end (and also I want to kill someone off.) Is that a good enough reason to kill him off?

As a motivation for you as a writer? Yes. For your readers? Probably not.

The death of a major character should be meaningful in the context of the story. But what does "meaningful" mean?

Stories aren't random. In real life, people just die for no "higher" reason. They grow old or they have a tragic accident or suffer from a terminal illness. But not to teach us a lesson about life or to make us miserable. In a story, the death of every major character serves a narrative function. It turns life around for the surviving characters, puts new obstacles in front of them (or removes them), changes the power dynamic in a political conflict, and so on.

If the death of a fictional character remains meaningless for the development of the narrative, it is random from the perspective of the readers and frustrating or irritating. If you just kill someone off to kill someone off that will leave your audience disappointed.

What you need to know is why the character has to die for your narrative to work. Why can he not simply lose interest in the protagonist and stop loving her? That would serve the same purpose (to allow her to fall in love with someone else). Why does he have to die? Maybe because the loss changes her outlook on life and that makes her behave differently and that has consequences for the story.

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