Does it Hurt to Kill Off Characters?

My guy was reading a preface an author had put in a book, and he asked me if it was true it hurt to kill off characters.

As a writer my instant answer was, it depends.

In my last book, I didn’t kill anyone. I sure wanted to though. I have several characters I may edit right out of that thing.

In my current book, I ended up having two love interests. I am not sure what my brain thought it was doing, but the only way I could figure out how to solve it was to kill one of them off.  I cried.  I am still not convinced I killed off the right one.  I swear during rewrites I am going to bring the other one back and try him out.

It hurts to hurt people we care about.  Well, ok, there is that one woman from my past who I kill in almost every story I write. Horrible woman. I’ve never met a more disagreeable person with less to recommend them.  Sometimes she’s already dead by the time the story starts, other times she’s a minor character who dies, others she is the main villain.  I think I actually enjoy killing her. Repeatedly.

I had a story where I killed off a child. I can sob just thinking about how gut wrenching it felt. While it was right for the story, it killed a little piece of me. The grief still pulls at me when I think of it.

That said, I have to get in the mood to write different types of scenes.  If I am going to write a love scene, I don’t watch a horror movie.  I put on something sappy and romantic.  If I need to write a sad scene, Steel Magnolia's or Fried Green Tomatoes gets me every time. If I want to write humor, I watch a comedy special on Netflix.  It helps me to “get in the mood” so to speak.

So yes, writing a dark book can put me in a sad place until it is over.  Maybe I am a bit like a method actor.  If things are going well for my characters, my mood is lighter.  If I am in the middle of blood, sweat and tears with them, I am probably going to be a little grumpy. 

I have known some writers who say it doesn’t matter to them.  It’s a book.  They write it and move on.  They have a skill I don’t have.  I become connected to the people I write about. I feel it, and so I hope do you when you read my work.

What you read, is a heck of a lot of me. It comes out of my head, onto the page.  I need to care about them, so that I can get you to care about them.  Who wants to sit down and read a book and throw it against the wall when they are done? Because that’s what I do when I read a book where I could care less what happens to the people inside the cover.

So, that’s my long winded way of saying, yes.  Killing off a character hurts sometimes.  Sometimes murder can be a heck of a lot of fun. Getting you to give a shit, matters to me.

What do you think? Does it matter to you when you read about a long time character who dies in a series? If you are a writer, does it hurt when you kill off a character? I’d love to hear from you. Please leave me a comment below.