I'm not going to lie; I've waited months to use that pun. And on top of that, I've been waiting months to write this blog post, because to be frank, life is hard and I don't always have the time, emotional endurance, or mental capacities to blog about squat.
Seriously. There are days that I couldn't journal the shelf life of canned peas without bursting into tears.
Okay, so maybe that's a tad dramatic, but bear with me. The actual topic of this blog post is coming.
Writing a death scene is a balancing act no matter what role your ill-fated character fills. There are so many things to consider!
It's a haphazard hash of various details that will get your moment of sadness to where it needs to go. Here are some to think about before you write the scene or when you rewrite/edit it:
- Who needs to have an in in this scene? That one relative, friend, significant other?
- Who needs to lack closure with the deceased character to further their character arc?
- What is the weather like?
- What is the character feeling as they die? Pain? Hunger? Nothing? Confusion?
- Are their thoughts running in orderly streams?
- Is there anyone crying over them? Pretending to care, even?
- What are the other characters feeling? Relief that they're going to a better place? Panic at the thought of losing their anchor? Sentiment over all of the stupid jokes they've shared past curfew?
- Who is your character thinking about? (Because when people are injured, or thinking even that they might die, their minds generally go to one person in particular. Be it their mom, their sibling, their friend, their spouse... something like that.)
- Is it clear to every other character involved that they are dying? Are they even sure that they're dying?
Anyway. Once you go through those thoughts, get a grasp of what you're dealing with, it should get easier, right?
Right. It should get significantly easier.
The key to writing any emotional scene well is to be in tune with feeling. Know what feels good, know what hurts, know what makes you laugh or cry. Just be in the know, and you should totally have it in the bag. Once you get a feel for life, your emotions, the human mind, everything will be a total breeze. (Hm. That ended up being much more complicated and difficult than I intended for it to sound.)
Here's another thing I like to consider when I write death scenes:
As with most things, it shouldn't be purely anything. Gray area is the color in your story, and it's the same with death scenes. It can't be all sad and gloomy and dark. Give it a small flicker of light. A white butterfly fluttering through the blood-filled streets. The thought of a loved one's smile as every face they see is covered with pain. A simple, precious, innocently-uttered word of farewell and adoration as their own cries echo in their ears.
All it takes is one good thing among the pain to make it even more impacting. It's like adding a bit of salt to a cookie recipe--it makes the sugar taste that much sweeter. That tiny touch of warm happiness makes the end seem that much more sad.
And that's all I have to impart to the lot of you! I know nothing beyond this: Write what you feel, and people will feel what you write.
Burn so brightly that all close to you catch fire as well
Passion is contagious. I pray that it's spreading quickly.