Do authors kill their darlings to torture their readers?

*Spoiler zone for Harry Potter and other book series*

“Kill your darlings”, is advice given to writers. Seriously, do they need to heed it?

As a reader, it is often frustrating and painful to watch how merciless author’s kill off a beloved Darling character. The first time I actively noticed this literacy trend was while reading the Harry Potter series.

Author J.K Rowling came under much fire for killing her characters in a book series intended for children. Rowling kills off Cedric Diggory in book 4 of the series. If you ask me, this was purely a plot mechanism. Cedric’s death plunges the story forward. It also signals that the story getting much darker. While terrible, the death of this minor character was not all that traumatizing. Quill held high, each subsequent book saw Rowling crossing out another Darling.

People debated whether the death of Sirius Black or the death of Albus Dumbledore was more distressing. Personally, I would go with Dumbledore. He was one of my favorite characters. However, none of this came as a shocker. I was reading all the spoilers (Hey, I had to wait until normal business hours to get my copy of the book). I read the end before the beginning. Book 7 saw several Darlings lose their life. Only Rowling could kill off her own protagonist in such a magical fashion and get away with it. Okay, so she brought him back to life.

What is a story without its hero?

It was while reading another series that the death of a major character really got me down. Author Kim Harrison, killed off one very beloved character in her “The Hallows” series. I, along with all her other readers was confused, angry and very sad about the loss of Kirsten, who was Rachel’s (the protagonists) boyfriend at the time of his death. Okay I’ll admit it, I was crushing on the sexy vampire. Later books in the series revealed that he really did have to go. He was in the way of the story moving forward. Still, it hurt.

Author George R.R. Martin, takes no shame in killing his Darlings. Those who have read the “A Song of  Ice and Fire” series, or have watched the Television Show, “Game of Thrones”, will know Martin’s beloved method. He takes the entire notion of killing major characters to a completely new level. Simply put, I find this disturbing. It is one of the reasons I stopped reading those books.

The question then remains, do authors really need to kill their Darlings?


From J.R.R. Tolkien to Anne Rice, many authors have killed their Darlings. It’s not for nothing that this is something so frequently found in our literature and storytelling. Sometimes a Darling will stand in the way of the story moving forward. He will stand in the way of the protagonist’s personal growth. It is all part and parcel of plot dynamics. There certainly is good reason behind this madness of, killing off Darlings.

Authors do not only apply this concept of killing off their Darlings to their characters.  This technique is applied to entire scenes, dreaded adverbs and other things that do not serve a book. Some of these things are more painful to the author, than readers will ever realize.

However, when authors kill their characters, they should not expect their readers to react graciously. Sometimes only, the author and his editor will know why a beloved character needed to take a bow. For the rest, there are online forums, discussion boards and even book reviews where readers will take their disappointment out on the coldblooded author.

What’s your opinion on the killing of Darlings?

Thanks to Author Stevie Turner for : #OpenBook blog hop prompt.

About the Blogger

profile-pic-2Sarina often sat on the peaks of the dunes of Southern Africa watching the ocean tide drift in. A daydreamer, often dreaming up stories for lands somewhere over the rainbow. She is a mother, a wife, a blogger and an overall creative spirit. Above all, she is a human being.

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11 thoughts on “Do authors kill their darlings to torture their readers?”

  1. Kind of funny, when I see the phrase “authors kill their darlings” I think of it in a different way, one you did touch upon briefly. I see a lot of writing advice aimed at removing scenes, chapters, even whole characters (I mean totally take them out of the story, not kill them) if they don’t further the plot. I’ve read post after post from authors talking about removing their favorite part of a story and magically having all the pieces fall into place. As far as killing characters, yeah, it can be tough on a reader, but it is usually needed so the story doesn’t read too much like a fairy tale.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There’s so much writing advice out there….
      I think readers can’t comprehend the mechanics that go into writing an interesting book. Most people think it’s just write a book and publish. Like it all magically just comes out perfect.

      Liked by 1 person

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