So You Want to Kill a Character...
But it's really hard to kill a character. We love these fictional people that exist only in our heads. We don't want to kill them.
For me, this is just one more reason I plan. When I'm outlining, the characters are just pieces of a game to me. I don't really kill them, I just take them off the board. I'm like fricking George Martin, slaughtering characters left and right until there's hardly anyone left to denouement with.
But when I'm actually writing the draft, they're no longer game pieces. They're people, with feelings and hopes and dreams, all of which I'm about to crush with a single, over-written sentence. I could bring them back, sure, but I'd have to cheat. Some readers might be happy their favorite character didn't really die, but others would feel ripped off.
So I think, "Does this character really need to die? Can't I keep them a little longer?"
As it turns out, that's a good thing. It forces me to re-evaluate whether I was just going crazy in my outlining phase. It dials me back from George Martin to, maybe, Joss Whedon -- to killing one or two characters who really, truly have to die to serve the plot. (Though usually I do end up sticking with the outline.)
How about you? Do you kill characters? How hard is it for you?