Killing Characters


I touched on this some during my live video, but I’d like to go more in depth on it now.

Killing characters isn’t all fun and games. Though it may seem like I casually toss off characters, I always have a plot reason for doing so. I don’t go into it thinking “I’m gonna kill SO MANY CHARACTERS!” and giggle gleefully (although I do giggle gleefully when I find a good spot that requires a character death). Knowing I was going to kill everyone from the start would just take all the fun out of discovering who my characters are in the first place, followed by them making stupid mistakes and ending up dead all on their own.

My rule of thumb when it comes to writing? Murphy’s Law.

Spoilers ahead for Playing the Hero and Symbol of Hope:

The Death of Jathas

Many are mad at me for this one. The senselessness of it, the way it came out of the blue, the fact that he was a voice of reason in Vathion’s chaotic life…

Originally, he wasn’t going to be as major a character as he ended up being. In the first draft of the book, he was merely there, and then I killed him.

Due to the needs of the plot, he evolved into more. I couldn’t have someone that had been in Vathion’s life since he was 7 simply die and not have Vathion react poorly to it. I couldn’t just give him a few lines and have that be that. So, he evolved into a fuller character; someone that Vathion could actually hang out with and consider a friend. Once I gave him the space to evolve, Jathas let me know what his motivations and goals were. Even if those goals aren’t overly clear in the text of the book (which is on purpose), they did affect what he did on-screen.

His primary motivation was to protect Vathion from Hyphokos political schemes. Being what Vathion was, there was no way he could be completely removed from it, but at least Jathas could give Vathion a childhood.

But! He had to die.

Here’s why:

Jathas’ death put a wedge between Paymeh and Vathion. Paymeh couldn’t simply blurt out what he’d done to Natan because Vathion didn’t want to hear anything Paymeh had to say. If Vathion had done more investigation into what Paymeh was up to on a daily basis, he would have come across the conversation with Savon and her Bond about how to fix the situation. Without Jathas’ death, Vathion could have gone either way with Paymeh; either disliking him on principle because of his association with Natan, or wanting to know more about his father from a closer perspective. With Jathas’ death, it was sealed that Vathion wanted nothing to do with Paymeh.

Now for how Jathas died:

Mental backlash. Due to Hyphokos physiology, they have a light mental connection with their Gilon even when not merged, having stored part of themselves in the Gilon’s bondstone. The crystal-like filaments that fan throughout the Gilon brain resonate with the mental activity of the Gilon, creating a low “hum” that Hyphokos can “hear” telepathically. They know who has a bond and who doesn’t, and whose bond that is by the “sound”. This mental link is why Jathas died. It set the stage for later when Paymeh removes Natan and makes Vathion into a telepath.

The moment when Paymeh merged and dumped Natan into Vathion’s brain, Jathas was in physical contact with him. A sort of Snowcrash happened (Snowcrash is an early cyberpunk book, highly suggest reading it). Jathas was overloaded with a mental noise so intense he had a seizure. If he hadn’t been touching Vathion at that moment, he may have survived, but he wouldn’t have been able to stand being near Vathion, let alone merging with him, as long as Natan was in there. Even for Paymeh, familiar with the way Natan thinks, the noise was maddening and getting louder as Natan settled in, driving him to avoid being around Vathion as well.

Jathas’ death, in Hyphokos’ law, was not murder. The bigger crime Paymeh committed was taking Natan’s mind out of his body and dumping him into Vathion. Furthermore, even if Paymeh had strangled Jathas in front of a live studio audience, Hyphokos still wouldn’t have seen it as murder. Jathas’ memories and skills were not lost. Paymeh took them from his corpse.

An individual life is nothing to the Hyphokos. It’s only murder if you kill someone and remove all evidence that they existed by destroying the body and anything they left behind in their Gilon.

I’m sure you noticed that even before Jathas became a character of his own, he was slated to die.

This isn’t just because of my plots to turn Vathion into a telepath. He had to die because Vathion needed to be isolated. For his character development to progress the direction I wanted, he needed to have gotten something he’d wanted at a great cost. He had so many things given to him – money, knowledge, physical skills… He was perilously close to being Perfect, even though he had crippling self-doubt and minor depression. I wanted to set him on a path towards utter self-loathing and borderline insanity and that involved taking everything from him. I wasn’t going to kill his mother since that would have been cliché and I thought it would be better instead of Vathion accidently killing his mother by Widow Syndrome, it would be better if he had to deal with his best friend’s death and then have to deal with the person who did it on a nearly daily basis.

Torturing characters is an art that requires you know their buttons and what order to push them.

The Death of Miki.

Sometimes I kill characters as a mercy.

Consider what I do the ones who live.