Posted in Managing Characters, All Articles

How to remove characters from plot (without killing them)

Photo by STIL, Unsplash.com

If you are writing in the following genres: horrors, thrillers, detective stories, post-apocalyptic / dystopian fiction, war chronicles etc., killing characters is something that you are almost required to do.

However, a lot of authors who write outside of these genres often use character death to get rid of the characters that for some reason stopped serving them. If you have ever read a book in which an important character died suddenly, leaving you (and his team) angry and confused, you know what I am talking about.

Especially in long series, authors choose to kill character after character, using it as a way to push forward the plot. The remaining characters don’t have the chances to mourn the deceased ones, or on the countrary – they get stuck in a downward spiral of neverending mourning. At this point the authors have already created tragedy porn and lost the readers’ respect. 

How to avoid this?

The answer is simple. Don’t kill characters unless you absolutely have to, and no, “I don’t need them anymore” is not a valid reason. Learn to remove characters from your plot using other techniques – which I am sharing with you today:

  1. Graduation
  2. Changing schools
  3. Receiving a scholarship
  4. Contract termination
  5. Being fired
  6. Being transferred
  7. Going on internship
  8. Visa ending
  9. Returning home
  10. Family issues (helping sister with her newborn child, dealing with official matters regarding inheritance, supporting father during his rehab etc…)
  11. Going on a journey
  12. Going on a mission
  13. Going on pilgrimage
  14. Withdrawing due to health issues (staying in hospital, being on therapy, having a mental breakdown etc…)
  15. Changing the clique (due to a new hobby, after starting to date a new partner etc…)
  16. Quitting the relationship / friendship / agreement due to an argument
  17. Hanging out less and less until naturally disappearing
  18. Plot changes place (for example, if up to this moment the main characters were in Italy, move half of them to a new place).
  19. Main characters decide to spend less time with disappearing character (they found someone who works better or they simply got tired / disappointed… )
  20. Disappearing character goes through a personal revolution and starts turning their life upside down.
  21. Disappearing character is about to get something better than he had until now / something he always wanted, which makes them focus on their life mostly.
  22. Disappearing character falls in love with one of the main characters, gets rejected and disappears.
  23. Disappearing character completed his duty at the side of the main character (for example, a high school piano teacher gets replaced by university piano teacher)

Possibilities are really endless. My general advice is: think of the ground on which you created the relationship between the main character and the disappearing character. Then, simply remove this ground. You can also combine many reasons into one, if you feel that one reason isn’t strong enough.

Finally, if you changed your mind and need the unwanted character back, with the upper solutions you can make them return at any moment – for example, if they have become extremely popular in the fandom.

Author:

Hi! I am an author. I've published my debut novel in 2015 in Poland ("Dokąd teraz popłynę?"). My main genre is fantasy and magical realism. I often discuss socially difficult topics in my works and try to pass on a message of hope. I am always inspired and I never stop writing. My writing inspirations are Bruno Schulz, Pablo Neruda, Kiran Desai and Haruki Murakami. In my private life I am a polyglot. I believe in the Law Of Attraction and I write about it on UltimateManifester at Wordpress.

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