Screenwriting : Do you know how to kill a character in your script for maximum impact? by Brad M. Johnson

Brad M. Johnson

Do you know how to kill a character in your script for maximum impact?

If you're not making sure the deaths in your script are APT, you're not utilizing them to maximum effect within your script. Find out more in my latest Script Magazine column, and let me know your thoughts in comments!

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Click to tweet this article to your friends and followers! The act of screenwriting is, at its most basic level, the act of giving life to the words and ideas inside the writer's mind. By making the c…
Michael L. Burris

I also noticed when I wrote mine for the Nicholl Fellowship as a writer I didn't want to kill the character. But I did because it gave the thread so much more integrity and the act of death that the character went through had importance twice more in the thread of the story. My point is that when a writer contemplates and doesn't want to kill a character. It is probably a good thing to either kill the character or formulate another thread to the rewrite. It amazes me to this day how "The A-Team" was so successful never actually killing a character. LOL! When you can make an audience say why? or that no good "S.O.B." we probably killed the character right.

CJ Walley

For me one of the most important things to do is write the character's death first, while you're distanced from them and not emotionally attached. This allows you to write with an indifferent attitude that can be as cold and brutal as required. You can then go back and write the early scenes while falling in love with the character.

Douglas Eugene Mayfield

I like your APT mnemonic. I think there are characters in stories who are 'invulnerable'; that is, because the audience or reader is so deeply emotionally attached to them, you can't kill them because they will hate you and drop right out of the story. (William Goldman discusses this in his book 'Adventures in the Screen Trade' in relation to his script for the movie 'The Great Waldo Pepper'.) What you have to do is make the character's death not only inevitable in the plot progression but also totally meaningful in terms of the crucial value which is affirmed by that death. One of my favorite films is 'A Man for all Seasons'. Great writing (Robert Bolt from his own stage play) led to box office success and a bunch of Academy Awards. (Spoiler) In the end, the bad guy has the good guy's head cut off, hardly a happy ending. But what is affirmed by his death makes the ending emotionally totally satisfying and appropriate.

Lee Davis

First we love a character. Then, if we're talented, the audience falls in love with him/her. So what kind of deranged writer kills off that love object? Me... in a heartbeat. Sacrifice a character for the story. No problem. Do you watch The Good Wife? Beautiful Kill of love object. Not to mention that hanging in Mad Men. Cool Hand Luke, Butch & Sundance, Terms of Endearment, Saving Private Ryan. The Great Gatsby, A Tale of Two Cities. Hamlet. Romeo AND Juliet. You get my drift. But I am curious about anything William Goldman says, so I'll have to get back to you after reading that citation.

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