Killing People?

How often do your characters kill people? Even if it's just nameless, faceless bad guys, how often do your characters actually kill them? I noticed that in almost all my stories, my characters are pretty merciful. They rarely kill unless they're forced to, and even then that usually only applies to the main antagonists of the story. Usually, they just knock people out which, now that I think of it, really isn't something people would be able to do with any efficiency in a heated, chaotic battle. But what about yours?

Main characters? Not often. One has killed twice in the course of a story- once was desperation, where he was literally experiencing his life energy being drained. The other was premeditated (the villain involved killed the girl he loved pretty much from the moment of puberty forward... then raped him... so... pretty justifiable motive, there).

One main character's a (former) special forces soldier. He's seen his share of killing, and if necessary will do a soldier's duty yet again.

One fight where the bad guy was wounded fatally. He was then left to die, rather than executed.

No other main characters have ever killed anyone. Yet.

Some of my villains have been unapologetic (even enthusiastic) mass murdering psychos who'd call the Joker an amateur.

And a lot of other characters either have, or have tried, to kill. Some even during point-of-view chapters dedicated to them. But for the most part, the majority of my characters haven't killed anyone.

... So I guess I'm all over the board on this one. Whatever fits the story and those characters.

One of my guys is pretty much all killer, because it's a convenient way to get rid of someone who bothers him. My other guy just goes along with it in quiet support, but can't pull the trigger himself. Everyone else? Laughably merciful. That means they're normal people who see murder as a legal and moral crime. In order to make my first guy's murderin' hold any consistent weight at all, it has to be that way; if everyone just kills willy-nilly and sees it as a good thing, not only do I have to jump through hoops to explain why someone WASN'T killed, but I'd lose any emotions from the reader around it (anticipation, satisfaction, shock, humour, horror, loss - the full suite).

'Killer' is a personality trait just like anything else, so unless everyone has it as a normal part of that world, too many with this inexplicable quirk gets confusing. :P So that's how I handle that.

Great thread topics, Adam! I like the discussion you've been sparking.

In Juryokine, Toke (my MC) has killed three people. One was on purpose, kinda sorta, and the other two were accidents that you could argue weren't even his fault. The guy he killed himself was attacking him, and Toke cut enough feathers off his wings (cuz he got wings, y'know?) that he fell out of the sky. The other two... the first guy tried to throw Toke out a window, but ended up falling out the window himself when Toke just anchored himself to the wall (it's his power, read the book for more details!), and the second guy was trying to kill him, and accidentally stabbed a machine's power source, making it explode on him. So yeah, maybe it could be said that Toke killed them, maybe they were just suicides that Toke happened to accidentally instigate by... you know, bring there. :P

@Tartra, thanks! I didn't have anywhere to talk about my writing after I quit posting on the WattPad forums. I'm glad I found this place, because I'm able to have a conversation that actually feels like I'm talking to professionals. I'm glad you're enjoying them, because I'm always worried that I'll annoy people by posting too much, haha.

I write a superhero thing. And a gun, if you think about it, is a bit like a really lethal power. It's a little device that can make a little bit of metal go faster than you can blink, wherever you're looking, with the mere twitch of a finger. And there's all sorts of stuff you can with that little bit of metal, and that device to change performance. Cops absolutely use them, in my story and real life. And the people usually on the receiving end of that, generic brand criminals, why wouldn't they? And take a random vigilante. He could teleport. Or he could teleport and also shoot little bits of metal with lethal precision at people who would kill him in a heartbeat with that exact same second power. He's not a vigilante because he wants to give out hugs.

That being said, humans don't like murdering other humans, typically. The only time I've had characters kill in cold blood is when they have some sociopathic tendencies, both protagonist and antagonist. But in the heat of the moment? In that situation a person has millions years of evolution screaming at them to not die, squishing all logic. A person will do damn near whatever it takes to not die, if their brain sees a way. That's when my characters kill.

Advanced medical technology + digital memory backups + a scientific understanding of reincarnation = very difficult to actually kill people.

In Delvers LLC, Ludus is a harsh world. My MCs kill a lot. However, I'm really looking forward to the new book(s) where my MCs will have opportunities to solve problems in different ways, especially since doing so will reflect more on their personalities.

No one has died in my serial, but the main character WILL kill people in my Western. Between the two books, he's been directly responsible for at least three deaths.

But that's a different universe, with different rules. It's difficult to deal with an enemy in that universe without using lethal force, and that's fine, because the setting encourages that. If I killed someone in the thief serial, it would have to be a dire situation, and I can't imagine those coming up. I'd rather write a creative way of hobbling someone, then make one of my non-killer characters into someone with blood on their hands.

All the time. He's become less lethal lately, but he's a character that reacts as if pretty much all conflicts are life or death (usually making them so in the process). That's part of the problem with heroes and law enforcement dealing with him, being so willing to kill and do whatever it takes to win or escape. Even once, when affected by a drug that induces affection and lust in those ingesting it, things turned lethal.

Unfortunately, I've somewhat lapsed on making kills interesting. He considers guns boring, among other things.

Seeing I write short fiction, it varies from story to story and collection to collection. Some have none. On the other end, the sword and sorcery series has plenty of it. It is hard to do S&S without copious amounts of hewing, cleaving and smiting. Though oddly, my favourite of that series (not yet published though) has no killing at all in it.

The Legion of Nothing is superhero fiction as seen from the eyes of inexperienced (at first) teenagers. More importantly, they're fairly normal teenagers--normal, if normal for you means mostly middle-class US citizens. They're a little less normal in the sense that most of them have superpowers and grandparents who were famous superheroes and (in a couple cases) supervillains.

All the same, they don't want to kill anybody.

As the series goes on, there's an alien attack and in fighting back, they do kill people, but they don't do it as vigilantes. They do it in the service of the planet. They're simply the only humans with a realistic chance of fighting back.

Among my readers, at least, the question of violence has caused a lot more discussion than the question of diversity--in part I think because there's a certain amount of discussion about it in the comics community due to comics' standard tropes.

No killing is one of them, but it's reasonable to ask if that's realistic. People have legitimately pointed out that if Batman had killed the Joker rather than handing him over to the police (who don't seem capable of keeping him in jail), he'd effectively save hundreds if not thousands of lives.

The kids in my story don't have that sort of a villain anywhere near as bad as the Joker. Plus, the people they've defeated tend to stay in jail or even end up dead despite the fact that no one intends to kill them.

It happens more and more often of late, with all the mental and emotional scarring that accompanies it. They used to not kill anyone (and feel terrible when it happened by accident), but at some point the temptation of pulling a trigger and being done with that villain forever became too great. As my characters know, villain prisons didn't work out in the comics, so why would they work out in reality?

My villains applaud from the afterlife. There's something sweet about corrupting a hero to the point where they become a mass murderer.

I don't write superhero stories so my world rules are probably a little different than most seem to be writing on here. It's sci-fi/action stories set in a cyberpunk world and depending on the characters and situation there can be quite a bit of killing. Two of the characters, for example, are mercenaries, so killing takes place in the form of combat in war-torn countries. Another MC, however, is living a typically normal lifestyle in the States and has a more superhero-ish storyline, where she would knock someone out but never kill them. Both storylines take place in the same world and the character know each other, so the impact of killing is relative to the POV at the time. But even with the two mercenaries they have varying degrees of killer instinct. Doc, who is a veteran merc, kills without compunction while Tina(the MC) who is learning the trade, can kill in a firefight but won't do it in cold blood.

Depends on story. Main chars in the high school romance, maybe not so much. Main chars in the science fantasy one, well, the body count is huge.

One of my POV characters has only killed once so far (and the victim was a monster who had been attacking and murdering people), and the other POV character has killed eight-ish people (two a year, for four years). Granted, the latter did so because he was trying to use blood sacrifices to keep the ancient evil that was bound to the lake behind his house from escaping, but Cool Motive Still Murder.

In the Foldspace Universe, Grif and his crew hold their lives as sacred, but everyone else's is... negotiable. They don't seek out murderin', but if push comes to shove they'd prefer to shoot first.

In the Curveballverse it's all over the map:

- CB has killed, when necessary, but he tries to avoid it.

- Jenny (new to the heroing scene) killed a guy in self-defense, which scarred her, and then killed some other people while she was trying hard not to deal with it, which has scarred her more.

- Crossfire's default setting is "kill the bad guys."

- Regiment's default setting is "don't kill the bad guys/don't look into the monster lest ye become the monster"

- Overmind -- one of the world's most notorious supervillains -- has a default setting of "no civilian casualties" to the point of actually abandoning plans for world domination if he determines the outcome will be civilian casualties. He is also a veteran of World War I and almost accidentally destroyed the world in an alternate timeline, which informs that policy

It varies a lot by setting, I guess, and depending on when I was working on the story. In some settings, my characters will kill monsters readily and they'll kill villains if there is no way to contain them and the villain can't be reasoned down.

In other settings, such as my early superhero works, even the villains will make a point to not kill heroes (unless they are specifically killers by theme) and heroes went by the no kill rule unless they were some kind of truly alien, monstrous threat. There's been one or two Punisher types will just mow down bad guys, but they tend not to last very long.

When I get back to Phoenix, well... of the 15 main characters i have charted... 3 definitely are still alive when the curtain drops. 2 are maybes.

And I plan on making most of the deaths sudden. Like, danger, danger, danger, everyone is out of danger, Boom, you're dead.

My protags span the range on the issue. One of them basically won't kill ever. One tries very hard to only kill terrible people, but will do what she has to. One of them doesn't kill, but has an uncontrollable alter ego who is a fiend. The other two are pretty much evil, and will kill like you and I would order breakfast.

It is a harsh world. 3 of them do the best they can.