Discussion: Mass Character Deaths


There are quite a few authors who rather liberally kill off their characters from a wide variety of genres.  Whether major or minor, most of these characters which are gone too soon have a tendency to evoke heart-wrenching, emotional reactions from readers as a result of their untimely deaths.

Such authors generally receive mixed feedback from their audiences – some readers claim that any noteworthy author must also be a ruthless killer while writing, while others are adamant about each and every character surviving until the conclusion of the novel or series.  Needless to say, these deaths can be especially painful if the characters were well-liked and played a large role in their respective novels or series.

A few authors immediately come to mind, particularly J.K. Rowling and George R.R. Martin.  Without a doubt, however, Martin is the more experienced with respect to killing off characters as portrayed by the collage below (each tab represents a character death):
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One of the primary differences between the two authors’ responses to reader comments and complaints is Rowling’s sincere apologies and expression of regret, whereas Martin firmly stands by his decisions, taking pride in his “talent” for brutally and repeatedly ending the lives of his characters.
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In Martin’s defense, the majority of the characters that he kills off are minor – there have only been 3 or 4 major character deaths thus far.  Furthermore, the majority of these deaths can be directly linked to an idiotic action or decision to which the character had previously committed.

Rowling, on the other hand, incorporated several highly uncalled for deaths.  And yes, I am still very bitter about the ending of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows if you hadn’t already gathered.  Perhaps I was merely more emotionally attached to the characters that died in the Harry  Potter series because they played more significant roles in the series than those that Martin killed.

What are your thoughts on openly killing large numbers of characters throughout a book or series?  Do you have any favorite or least favorite authors as a result of your character-killing preferences?  What character deaths have you found to be the most heart-wrenching?
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I am a senior in high school and an avid reader/reviewer, horseback rider, and graphic designer.  Since a young age, I have fostered a love of reading, beginning with my forays into the Nancy Drew series.  I’ve branched out significantly in my reading tastes since then, and my favorite genres include young adult, romance, mystery, and thriller.  I’m constantly trying to expand my horizons, however, so I do dabble in other genres.  While I’m not reading, I volunteer at a hippotherapy center and a veterinary clinic, practice agility with my dogs, play piano and guitar, and sketch.
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4 thoughts on “Discussion: Mass Character Deaths

  1. Ugh man so many dead characters! It always hurts when a character dies, but in neither of these series have I ever felt like a character who died shouldn’t have died. IDK, but I often stick with how the canon goes for most series. I definitely cry more when I read Harry Potter though (those deaths just get me in the gut!) than when I read GOT. Perhaps that has something to do with their respective worlds? Westeros is much more vicious than Hogwarts imo. Great post!


    • Thanks! I agree, the deaths in Harry Potter were more devastating to me than those in GOT. I think it might’ve been that the characters in the Harry Potter series played a more major role, whereas the GOT characters were only briefly part of the series (for the most part).


  2. I like that there are a range of deaths in literature because then you always have hope for your character to survive… and then there is always the chance at heart break. But because of gentle authors like JK Rowling and then more ruthless ones like George R R Martin, you never know what to expect. I like the unexpected. It keeps things interesting.


    • That’s so true – it’s an interesting perspective that I hadn’t considered before. Although I may be rather angry with certain authors in the moment, I can often understand (after the fact – once I’ve had some time to calm down!) why they killed off one of my favorite characters. It’s definitely good that there’s such a range because it certainly keeps things interesting and manages to hold my attention!

      Liked by 1 person

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