Dealing with Death

We all face death.  It’s an unfortunate fact of life.  Along the way, we lose many people we love.  Maybe it should make us cherish life more, be nicer to other people, but for some reason when we’re grieving, it has the opposite effect.  We become moody, and distant from other people around us.  It’s not intentional, but for some reason this is how it works.  (For an expanded discussion on human emotions, you can see “Conflicting Emotions”)

Being faced with death can also make us appreciate what we have more.  It sets us into a deeper line of thinking.  We analyze purpose more than normal.  We look at our life and see where we can make it more meaningful.  Maybe we’ve held an ongoing grudge against someone?  Being faced with the frailty of life may move us to make amends.

At memorials for the lost one, people are brought together that might otherwise never cross paths.  The person who has died touched people we may not even know.  But, it doesn’t matter because everyone is there for the purpose of remembering a friend, or loved one they lost.  Everyone there is assembled due to a shared interest.

So how can we apply the above to our writing?

Keep it realistic.  If your character has lost someone dear to them, don’t make them come across balanced, and unaffected.  Infuse them with fire, and conflict.  Make a person who normally had patience, and self-control, lose their temper.

People “come together” for a certain interest.  It doesn’t just have to be in the above scenario, that of a memorial or funeral.  Maybe it’s witnesses in a case.  A street person, and a rich man both witness a shooting.  Even though their worlds would never otherwise cross paths, a common goal brings them to the same side.

Death makes people think.  Maybe your character is moved to make amends with someone, possibly an estranged relative.

These are just a few things I could think of.  How have you used any of these elements in your writing?  Or do you have any more brainstorming ideas to put them to use?  Please share them.


  1. so true death makes people angry grat post Carolyn, Deatha can also amke people act out of character close themselves off from people or act the oppostite way too good to not lose those closest to them that are left. But as you said death amkes all angry sooner or later.

  2. I dealt w/ a death in my book Faith & Trust. Faith, the MC, lost her sister years earlier. Readers "see" what's going on in her mind as she grieves. Thus, the emphasis is on the psychological ramifications on the living, not on the actual death itself. If you'd like to see what I mean, this all happenes in Ch. 4 titled"God).>

  3. Carolyn, once again a timely post. Kelli, my MC is about to deal with the death of her mother, which will happen at some point in my current WIP. When I write a scene dealing with the death of someone close, I draw from my own experience, having lost many loved ones over the course of my life.

    From my experience, everyone reacts differently. As for me, I sought out consolation from family, rather than distance myself from them. Yet, my older sister locked herself away after my mother passed and had little contact with the rest of the family for several months.

  4. "Keep it realistic."

    This is great advice, Carolyn. It seems so simple, but it's one of the biggest problems we can face as writers. Sometimes we create situations for our characters as plot devises, and the characters don't react appropriately to them (I'm guilty of this.) The problem is our readers can recognize contrivance. Keeping in mind realistic emotion and motivation is essential. But perhaps one of the hardest things to learn.

    A very thoughtful and relevant post. Thank you!

  5. That was great advice. I don't have any deaths of people close to my MC to deal with on that level. But There is death. I think I need help with how a dying person or the killer behaves. Do you have a post about that? I know you'd have something helpful to say =)

  6. Very thoughtful post. I think this is an important area to explore too, because it seems that often the stakes of a book include death of some kind.

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

  7. Hi Carolyn;

    My MC deals with her sister's suicide in my novel. Her reactions were based on my own experience when my father died but I also put in some random things that rang true. I later did research of grief and found what I had written happens quite often. The heart knows what it knows.

  8. Glad that everyone enjoyed the post, and thank you for the feedback on how you've handled death in your work (as well as real life).

    Tara, I don't know all the answers lol I'm thankful to never have faced death personally, and I've never killed anyone, so as far as how they behave...I'd have to use my imagination. And killers are motivated for different reasons. Maybe conduct a character interview them, explore your own feelings, and how you think you'd act, balance that in there (while keeping a distance from yourself..if that makes sense. I'll be putting up a post along those lines either tomorrow or Thursday).

    Welcome to the newcomers to my blog, and thank you for your comments.


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