How to Write About Death
If you’re a writer, there’s a BIG chance you’re going to kill off one of your characters eventually. Obviously being able to do this isn’t the same as experiencing death in real life, but it’s still something you need to think about and prepare for. Killing off characters should have some consequences to either your main characters or the plot of your story. If someone dies in your story, the loss must mean something to one of your characters. Don’t use death a cheap plot device to move your story forward.
Writing about the TOPIC of death can be a different story. If you’re writing about a character who is terminal and who we know is going to die, you need to know how to approach it with understanding. Writing about terminal cancer or a specific disease that you might not know everything about unless you’ve experienced it requires research. Don’t act like you know what it’s like to have something or the emotions that go into it. Don’t just “guess” what it might be like.
Here are a few tips on writing convincing death scenes:
Don’t cheapen a character’s death
If an important character dies, sometimes authors decide to bring that character back to life. Killing off characters and then finding a way to bring them back lessens the severity of death. Why should your readers care about what happens to your characters if they know nothing bad is going to happen to them? If you want to bring a character back to life make sure there’s a good reason for it.
Not everyone’s story will come together perfectly
Writing a good death scene isn’t about tying up someone’s story perfectly. People often die suddenly with no real time to “fix” things or say something to someone they love. Sometimes there’s more of an emotional impact when a character is not given the chance to change something about their life before it’s too late. Not everyone will be able to speak important or profound last words, so keep that in mind.
Everyone experiences loss differently
There’s no standard way for someone to deal with loss, so every person will deal with it differently. Obviously there will be unhealthy ways to deal with death, but it’s not abnormal for someone to not want to talk about it or for someone to be super emotional about it. Make sure you figure out who your characters are first and how they’d approach the situation.
Writing about death is probably so popular because it’s really about the discovery and appreciation of life. Some of the best stories make you analyze your own life and realize the blessings that you already have. Just make sure you know what you’re talking about and it doesn’t come off as disingenuous. Some people have actually experienced what you’re writing a fictional account of, so be respectful.