When was the last time a character you loved died, in fiction, TV, or film series? Do you ever imagine how the series would have gone if the character had lived?

My most recent experience of this was with Special Agent Kate Todd (Sasha Alexander) on NCIS, For two seasons, Kate was my second-favorite character on the show after Gibbs (Mark Harmon). After taking a bullet in the vest saving Gibbs from a sniper, she was sniped herself. Quite a shock, generating 38 comments on my blog.

As sad as I was to see Kate go, I was also intrigued at how the writers would proceed. Some viewers saw Mossad Officer Ziva David (Cote de Pablo) as a replacement for Kate, but I saw her as a new character, a fresh opportunity, and about halfway through the third season, she was showing skills and personality quirks Kate didn't have.

Have you ever decided between a character's life and death? What influenced your decision?

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The one that comes to mind is the kid in Cujo. I was so pissed at King for killing that kid. Not fair, I said. Not fair at all.
Adriana at the end of Sopranos series 5.
I know a few I would have liked to have seen killed. :D
We can discuss that, too, Jeri. Which characters did you have in mind?
I'm a big fan of the show Deadwood (by the way, if you haven't seen the end of the second season, you may want to stop reading now, spoiler coming), and when Mr. Ellsworth was shot I was nearly devastated. I really, really liked him. He was just a good old fashioned stand up guy. Always there when you needed him and always willing to do the right thing. Until that bastard Hearst had him killed. I'm thinking Mr. Ellsworth actually would have been a little embarassed by the actions set in motion by his death.

I'm not a writer so I've never had to decide a character's life and death, but I would imagine it's a little surreal-here's someone you've created, now you're thinking of killing them off. Sure it's for the good of the story, but still, it would have to be a little odd.
I agree, David - I was so pissed at King for killing that kid I didn't read him for years after that.

Funny how I wasn't pissed about him killing the kid in PET SEMATERY, though - that was perfect. Killing the kid in CUJO did seem like a cheat.

Also agree with Norby - I was devastated about Ellsworth in DEADWOOD.

Now I'm hooked on THE WIRE and I've been pissed a lot - SPOILER ALERT -

at the killing of D'Angelo, Wallace - and I am just dreading who's going to get it in Season 3. I know Stringer's doomed, and I hate that... but if they kill Omar, I am really going to have to kill someone myself.
A couple of months ago I couldnt sleep and sent Ken an email and because as Duane says "He suffers fools gladly" he was kind enough to respond. But now I have a place to post such nocturnal ramblings, Yay!

Only two fictional deaths have ever really affected me (and still do).

1) A death the had a HUGE impact on me was Phil's death at the end of Darkness Take My Hand

I think that the moment that Angie went into the hospital was a subtle foreshadowing on Lehane's part of Phil's eventual death. If you think about it Phil was the pariah of the neighborhood. Everyone, and I mean everyone wanted him dead for his treatment of Angie and would either have gladly participated in his killing or have readily condoned it. But whether Phil knew it or not he was actually under the protection of Angie. It was an unspoken protection but still a form of protection none the less. People left Phil alone because they were still married. Patrick's one major act against Phil also exemplified another aspect of this protection, because action against Phil led to the possibility of direct action against Angie. Angie is beloved so Phil is protected.

So, for a myriad of complex reasons I believe that Angie extended an umbrella of protection over Phil. So the moment that Angie was effectively taken out of the picture by being placed in the hospital at deaths door that protection was lifted. Without the protection Phil had to die and did.

I also think it was particularly devious of Lehane to spend the entire 1st novel making him a monster, then spend the duration of the 2nd novel humanizing him then killing him with the highest emotional impact on the reader possible.

Those six words still haunt me.

"I know", he said
And died

2) Tied for first place with Phil's death is the suicide of Steve Crosetti from Homicide. That 1 hour of television is the most powerful ever. To this day I tear up when I think about it. Them realizing who the floater is, G calling Meldrick into his office, "That stupid man and his stupid cookies", the parralell death investigations & Pembleton refusing to step foot in the church because he has lost his faith in God.

Then there are the absoultley heart wrenching scenes near the end: The toxicology report; Meldrick's collapse and Big Man being the first one to rush and support him, the funeral procession and of course that haunting image of Frank Pembleton in full dress blues saluting the procession as it slowly walks by.

Damn them all for making a grown man cry!!!!!
Fictional deaths that tore me up
The end of Bruen's THE DRAMATIST
Captain Miller's death in SAVING PRIVATE RYAN
The deaths of Moss and Carla Jean in Cormac McCarthy's NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN

Who lives and who dies in my own work...I can't say I've ever had to "decide" this. It just flows naturally from where the story's going. Usually, some actions taken early on make it inevitable that they're going to be pushing up daisies by the last page.
In the piece I'm working on now a character I loved and wanted to get to know more opened a door. There was a man in the hall. I wasn't sure what would happen until it did, and as much as I hated to let him go, I know his death was in the right place. Someone called it surprising inevitability and isn't that what we're all striving for?

And I couldn't agree more about Ellsworth. A great character that I hated to see die. Made me hate that fucking Hearst all the more.
I had to go back to my bookshelf to remind me of fictional deaths that have gotten to me. Two of the biggest: the deaths of the fathers in THE SHINING (Stephen King) and THE ROAD (Cormac McCarthy). I loved the Kubrick movie based on the former, but it didn't adequately capture the love the father still had for his son, and the enormous sacrifice he made to save Danny. The latter was so subtle. The father died unsure of his son's fate, after he spent the whole book working to protect him. Powerful, powerful.

In TV and the movies, there are too many to count. I've been particularly affected by deaths in "28 Days Later" (both of them), "The Descent" (the British ending), "Kill Bill" (Bill), "He Got Game" (the mother in a flashback scene), and nearly everyone who died in "Road to Perdition."

I haven't had a choice between life and death in fiction, not that profound, but if I did I would go for emotional impact - what would benefit the other characters more? To grow from grief or for their relationship with that character to grow?
Colin Dexter killing Morse. I understand why. Doesn't help. Still can't get over that final book :)

Needless to say Death of Dalziel was a torrid experience
The impending death of Shane. Wiped me out when I read the book. I was devastated, knowing he was gut-shot and was sure to die. To this day, can't read the book, watch the movie, can't even hear Brandon DeWilde calling out his name.

Lucy, The Girl played by Lillian Gish in Broken Blossoms. Her terror, trapped in the closet as her fater breaks it down to beat her to death is the most excruciating thing I've ever watched on screen. Than God it was silent. I would have hated hearing those screams.

Greta Garbo's in Camille. That woman died the prettiest of any actress I've ever seen

Randall Patrick McMurphy in One Flew Over The Cukoo's Nest. Billy's, too. The whole freaking book is draining.


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