A Writer's Objectives

They’re Just Fodder

Sometimes I think myself a terrible person. As a writer, I have an overload of characters to use in various stories, and sometimes I get a little overwhelmed. That’s when I pick a name at random from my mind, connect a personality to it, and introduce the new character to the story.

And then I kill them.

That’s right, I introduce them and either a chapter or two later, or maybe even just a couple scenes later, I kill them off. Sometimes I feel bad about it, especially if one of my main characters had a past attachment to them or gain a new one during the short time that character is in the story. But most of the time it just feels nice to open up some room in my mind.

I had a character named Chad form in my mind. He was a high-school football star, as well as the son of the mayor. He was Mr. Perfect in every way except one; he had contributed to the death of his best friend. The story of that death was plaguing me to write, but I was in the middle of a story and didn’t want to take the time to write a second. So what did I do? I tossed poor Chad and his story line into the story I was currently working on, made him get cozy with one of main characters, then killed him once the truth of his past came out.

I really felt bad about it, if only for what it did to my poor main character’s mentality (not that it was all that stable in the first place). But at the same time, there was relief. I had managed to, in a way, write Chad’s story without deviating from the current writing flow I had been stuck in.

A lot of the books I have read, or television shows I have watched, have similar characters. A man brings a box to the main character in a book, saying it can only be opened if he delivers a message. That character dies only a few pages later, and the box opens, not revealing the drug the man was told was there but something a lot less appealing. A woman, a werewolf, is introduced on a tv show. One of the main characters falls for her not knowing she is a werewolf. When he finds out, he has already begun to love her. He and his brother are forced to kill her because it is their job. It happens everywhere, and it kind of makes me feel better about not being the only writer who creates characters just to kill them.

Sometimes, they’re just fodder.

I’ve honestly lost track of how many characters I’ve used as fodder. That could be a good thing, I guess, though it could also bring me right back to the heartless comment…

How many characters have you used for fodder? Do you remember any of them specifically?  How does it make you feel, knowing that the character you are introducing, possibly making the readers fall in love with, is someone you plan to kill off very soon?

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Comments on: "They’re Just Fodder" (2)

  1. I think the trick is writing them in such a way that the word “FODDER” isn’t scrawled in sharpie permanent marker across their foreheads. A lot of times, when I’m reading (or watching a show) I can insta-point and proclaim, “That character is so gonna get it!” or “That’s the filler for the killer.”

    And that makes the story drag. I think when we write characters that we already know are gonna die, the way we write them might shift. Perhaps the characterization is shallower when we aren’t planning on working with them for the next five books, sometimes the romance is too perfect, and sometimes it’s something else.

    But in any of these cases, I think the story is worse off. As a reader, I appreciate unexpectedness.

    • I personally try give the character substance in most cases. I make my readers fall in love with the character and then, suddenly, they die. Chad was in a fanfiction I wrote, and although he was ‘Mr. Perfect’ he cared about the main character and they had a bit of a romance. I agree that in shows, when a character is “Gonna get it” and we the viewers can recognize that, it does seem to drag until the character finally dies.

      However, my point of this post was not to say “Haha I love killing characters for the Hell of it!” It was to point out that ALL writers do it, even if we don’t realize it at first. Sometimes the ‘Fodder’ is obvious, but in most cases the writer makes the reader/viewer adore the character and makes it seem like they’ll be sticking around for a while. Then suddenly, they get killed in a freak accident. My point was that, sometimes, writers need characters to bring out the water works for some of the readers/viewers and that that is okay. Sure, some of them are obvious from the start and do nothing but get the main characters from Point A to Point B, but others have a real role for the short time they exist.

      I may have worded things in a way you didn’t agree with, but my point wasn’t that I enjoy the ‘fodder’. It was just a creative way to say “Hey, we as writer’s do this. It’s okay.”

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