RedPen Editing
Character exits

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The way in which a character makes his or her entrance should have an impact on the reader; the manner of leaving the stage is also of importance. Studying how other writers manage these entrances and exits is one way of engineering your own.

For many characters, they are still in existence when the story ends, the main character especially. Some die. According to Virginia Woolfe: ‘Someone has to die in order that the rest of us should value life more.’

While it’s unlikely you’ll want to copy the most famous stage direction ever (from The Winter’s Tale: Exit, pursued by a bear), let’s look at how Shakespeare writes out his characters. His plays are littered with suicides and murders, assassinations and executions, and many characters are killed in combat.

Katharine Trendacosta produced an infographic which illustrates the variety of exits employed in Shakespeare’s plays and, if you are at a loss as to how to finish off one of your characters, check out Improbable Research’s pie chart which identifies the manner of 74 deaths. I like especially ‘baked into pie’.

Steak and Kidney Pie

Another source of inspiration, although perhaps on how NOT to do it, is in the world of soaps. An actor has to be written out of a series. How is it done? I don’t watch Grey’s anatomy, but I do drink Pinot Grigio and this Cosmopolitan article judges how much exits matter to an audience, ranging from one sip to the produce of an entire vineyard.

Seriously, how do you write out a character?

  • WikiHow offers two articles: one on deciding who and why, and the other focusing more on how to make the death real.
  • KM Weiland provides arguments for and against killing off a character, and a useful checklist.
  • Livia Blackburne, in her ‘Brain Scientist’s Take on Writing’ provides the anatomy of how to make the reader cry.
  • Martin Turner answers the question: ‘What makes the reader care when your character dies?’


Acknowledgment:© Derek Phillips | – Steak and Kidney Pie