When a character in a novel dies, how does the author feel?

Zachary Hagen

Ever shed a tear when a character in a novel is killed off? This author of fantasy feels your pain—and as a writer, shares the reasons some of his own characters have met their demise.

by Zachary Hagen

I never understood, before becoming an author, what could possess someone writing to kill off a character that they obviously meant for you to love. Of course, that all changed when I had to do it myself. In my books, The Eternal Chronicles, I had to say goodbye to two characters that I and my readers had fallen in love with.

That single action made the first part of writing Eternity’s Refuge really difficult. However, it has made finishing Eternity’s Edge even harder. Writing in a world without characters that I have grown to love is one of the most difficult things about writing this series. Saying goodbye is hard for a reader in love with a story, but for a writer who has invested in characters who feel like their friends, or even children in a way, saying goodbye is far worse. It’s like I’ve cut out a piece of my heart every time I sit down to write and know that I don’t get to meet those characters there.

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Well, I won’t say which characters I’ve killed off to potentially new readers. I will say that the feedback I received is that the loss hits hard. But that’s the job of a writer, isn’t it? Aren’t we supposed to make things as difficult for main characters as possible until they finally reach resolution, the completion of their stories, and their happily-ever-afters?

You don’t know exactly what will happen next in your life, but things tend to work out well if you just keep going.

So, in writing this new book (which will come out this December), I’ve had to find a new normal, just as you would with any loss. It’s bittersweet, but I know that what happened was necessary for the main character, Elior, to grow as a character and as a person, and to push him into the situation he needs to be in for the books to reach a satisfying conclusion at the end of book 5. As a Christian writer, I wonder if this is how God feels as He works with us through our own lives in the story called “history.”

I have faith that God knows what He’s doing, even when things are horrible, and we can’t see the end, but that doesn’t mean it feels good in the middle of things when you’re grieving a loss. As silly as it is, the loss of two of my favorite characters in my books hit me harder than I thought it was going to. I remember the night I wrote one of the deaths. As soon as I had penned the final stroke of that chapter, I shut my computer and cried for nearly twenty minutes. In that moment, for my characters, the bad guys had won and everything felt worse. Still, I know the end of the story. I know the hope that lies just out of sight for my characters. I believe it is the same with God.

So my advice to you, dear reader, is to keep going, because you don’t know the end of the story. You don’t know exactly what will happen next in your own life, but things tend to work out well if you just keep going and keep doing the right thing. As one of my favorite Disney princesses said, “Just do the next right thing.”

Grief is a funny thing, but it gets easier the more you keep moving forward.

Zachary Hagen is a Minnesota-based fantasy author and editor. He lives there with his wife, Claudia, and their dog, Flynn. When he isn’t busy writing his next book or working with an editing client, you can often find him walking around his neighborhood or hiking.

From a young age, Zachary was enthralled with the world of story. From the stories his parents read to him from his blue bedtime-story books (if you know, you know) to the first two series that he read, The Chronicles of Narnia and A Series of Unfortunate Events, Zachary’s tastes continued to develop throughout his years of reading. The influences for his first series, The Eternal Chronicles, include Christopher Paolini, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and others.

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