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By Johannes Helmold

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george rr martinThe title of this post might sound a bit confusing, but it is dedicated to one of the problems many authors face: eliminating characters from a story. You might say for writers like George Martin, this isn’t a problem, but I bet before killing (or in some other way disabling) a character, he makes sure it organically fits in the story. Today, I’d like to talk about how you can remove characters from the plot.

You have three obvious ways to remove a character from your story. Before you do it, think whether your story will be able to develop without him/her. And at the same time, make sure this removal will affect the story somehow; do not remove a character because you got tired of writing about him/her. Make it reasonable and contributing to your story (once again, I refer to George Martin as an example of a writer who kills his characters in a way that only makes the story better).

  1. Make a character sick or disabled in any way, and direct him/her to a hospital (sanatorium, asylum, or any other isolated place). This is not an actual elimination, but this way you can remove a protagonist from your story for a long time without having to kill him/her. Just don’t forget to mention him/her now and then, so their storyline doesn’t look broken off.
  2. Possible ways of elimination: sickness, accident, mental illness, imprisonment.

  3. Make your character move to some other place, which is not figuring into your story. For example, your character might get involved in a conflict with a local mafia, and in order to save his/her own life (and to make the plot a bit easier for you) he or she could decide to move to another city or country. The way the character does it—in a rush, or with a cordial seeing off—depends on you. Whether this character stays in touch with others also depends on you.
  4. Possible ways of elimination: hurried escape, covert evacuation, regular departure, planned (by your character, not by you) journey or business trip.

  5. Physical elimination. This is a less radical way to say “killing your character.” This can happen either unexpectedly, (preferably, if it is a secondary character, because eliminating one of the main characters this way can cause serious changes in the whole plot—if only it wasn’t the part of your plot from the beginning), or after some “preparations.” For example, you can mention how someone is plotting an impingement against this character. In the latter case, make sure you know how to logically explain and connect everything.
  6. Possible ways of elimination: planned impingement, street fight (your character might try to protect a woman from abusers, for example), bank robbery, car or plane crash, whatever other accident you can think of.

There are many more ways to remove a character (or characters). Before doing it, make sure you know what to do next, and if your decision was justified.

Good luck!

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