BrooksBlog: Killing Characters

Why do I keep killing off important characters in my books? Characters people like and root for. Even sometimes minor characters that are charming and likeable and interesting. I kill them off. I like saying when asked about this aberration in my character that I am unpredictable that way. Don’t get too attached to anyone in a Brooks book, I add. Well, in a Shannara book anyway. This doesn’t really apply to the Magic Kingdom series, which is a different animal. I don’t kill off much of anyone there, and certainly not my main characters. Please.

But everyone in Shannara is fair game. Except for maybe the Ohmsfords. I thought about that the other morning while I was trying unsuccessfully to come up with a name for a character. Really, why am I so bloodthirsty? Would therapy help? Electro-shock? Pecan Sandies?

I don’t know. I think maybe it has something to do with my childhood reading experiences. Characters I came to love were always dying off for one reason or another. Bambi’s mom, Old Yeller, Boromir, Greyfriar’s Bobby, Arthur and his whole court, three of the four Musketeers, and so on. I think subconsciously I want you to suffer as I did. So killing off characters you love satisfies some sick inner need.

Anyway, that’s what Shawn says. My kids, too.

By the way, I am thinking about killing off an Ohmsford, too. Ha!


51 responses to “BrooksBlog: Killing Characters”

  1. You wouldn’t REALLY kill off an Ohmsford, would you?!?!?! *heart stops*

    By the way, I just want to say how much I adore your books. I credit my uncle for introducing me to The Sword of Shannara when I was in 7th grade. It totally hooked me in and I would often get in trouble for staying up until 2am reading your books. (The Elf Queen is my favorite book of all time — I just love Wren) My own children are getting close to the age where I was and I look forward to introducing them to your writing. Thank you for sharing your gift with the world!

  2. maybe the odd ohmsford but some are more ummmm interesting than others. I would love to see maybe another very strong female that doesnt need a strong minder to help her.

  3. Characters die, every character dies at some point, unless they’re immortal. I think when you kill them off, you create purpose in their death. Often the characters themselves say, “Make his/her death mean something; don’t let it be in vain.” As the author, you do that will all of them. When an important character dies, my connection to that character gets deeper, stronger. Keep doing what you’re doing.

  4. From what I understand, Pecan Sandies are actually the reason for all the evil in the Four Lands. The Dagda Mor wanted to take over the world and put the elves, dwarves, and Valemen to slave labor making Pecan Sandies. Even Rimmer Dall – that was his original plan for Southwatch once and if he won the war…..a Pecan Sandies factory powered by earth magic.

  5. Despite how bloodthirsty you think you are, George R.R. Martin is a step above you. I am pretty sure he has killed off nearly every one of my favorite characters in his series thus far (although there are a few left), and often in horribly greusome ways. If you start taking lessons from him, I may have to cry…there won’t be anyone left alive in your books (kind of like what happened in Genesis of Shannara with most of mankind, but that was understandable)!

    • Mr. Martin is evil… Oh this character looks awesome, oh he is dead. This character has a lot of potential, but not filled with arrows. Oh this guy looks good, but more so with his head still attached to his shoulders. I might invest some interest in this character, but fear… oh wait, he is dead. At least Snow is still around and Winter is coming… you have to have snow with winter, don’t you???

  6. May I remind you that you already DID kill off an Ohmsford. He just didn’t go by that name. His name was Walker Boh! By the way, you really upset me when you did that and I still don’t forgive you! LOL!

    • You have to admit, though, that Boh’s death was a worthy one. Aside from the King of the Silver River, Boh was my favorite “regular” character, and his death was glorious. Upsetting, sad, but glorious.

    • I am going to agree I was rather fond of Walker and was really looking forward to seeing him get his druid council.. I only started reading these books a year ago. and am now working on Straken, so I can’t wait to see how this all ends. and please don’t kill off the Ohmsfords completely, One of things I most enjoy about the Shannara stories is that I can count on there always being an Ohmsford, a Leigh, a druid, and a Rover (my favorites have been the Creel’s) in the adventure somewhere. Also I was a bit upset that you killed off Ahren Ellessedil so quickly.

  7. In the current work-in-progress for my “The Dragon Universe” series, the protagonist saves a guy’s life. In the early morning hours this morning, my “boys in the basement” woke me with the notion that I should have the guy die. This would give me the opportunity to explore how these people mourn. Problem is that saving this guy’s life is what triggers the events over the next two weeks that makes this the happiest time of the protagonist’s life. The happy times are shattered at the next major plot point. Therefore, I do not think I will do it. I do have another character intended to be one of the most beloved people in the story. At the darkest moment of the story, that character dies. Emotionally, the draft of that scene was one of the most difficult pieces of writing I have done. It is difficult to write when tears keep falling into the keyboard.

  8. I think it’s great when authors don’t shy away from killing off characters, also major ones.

    There are too many novels where you just know that nothing will happen to the core crew. This takes away a lot of the suspense – at least for me.
    Sure, a story can stay interesting, but it’ll more like “I wonder how Mr Great is gonna get outta this situation, seems nearly impossible not to be eaten by the Bloodthirsty Monster.” rather than “OMG, the Bloodthirsty Monster! Not sure if Mr Great will come outta this alive!”.

    The awareness that anyone can bite the dust, even Mr Great!, will bring in a sense of danger to the story and definitely add a great deal of suspense.

    It’s this latter effect that I like and which I regret being absent from too many books, not the killing off of a character per se (who wants to see a character they truly care for die? not me!).survive the present adventure then this will keep me biting my nails for fear of

  9. In a nutshell (sorry, just thought of this line when I’d already hit the comment button): a “safe” character is less interesting than one in real danger!

  10. Characters need to be killed off from time to time and I think you tend to it within reason. I’ve read authors that rampantly kill characters without adding much to the story other than shock, and I’ve read authors that don’t kill off any characters regardless of how much peril they always seem to be in.

    You’ve discovered a healthy blend that adds realism, within the realms of fantasy, and you make it work.

  11. I think you have a good balance of killing off characters. I have read all of the Shannara Series to date, and so far the death that impacted me the most was Tay Trefenwyd. I can’t explain why-maybe it was because it was the first book I read in the series (the bookstore sold me the wrong book first)-but I was so sad when he died and have always remembered his death more than any of the others.

    • I have to completely agree with the death of Tay Trefenwyd.This was also my first exposure to Mr. Brooks and the world of Shannara, but I think it’s mainly because I enjoyed Tay’s character so much and he was around for so short a time with little lasting impact. All the major “kill-offs” in the books have been appropriate for the story and lifespan of the character I’ve always felt. Most have some kind of lineage they pass on or legacy left from their service during life. Tay just seems to get over-looked. Very unfortunate. Although his death does make sense, it is still sad. I’m re-reading First King now and getting close to the moment.

      • I can honestly say, the mot memorable death to me was when Steff was killed by Teel is the Scion Series. As the Scions was the first Terry Brooks’ novels I have ever read (almost 20 years ago), I was not used to having major characters die off on me in the middle of a story. Most books I read back then (6th grade back then) were ultimately “nice” to all the good guys. Terry Brooks’ art always kept me fighting the need to “skip ahead” a few pages just to see if someone survived the battle/fight/poison/etc. I succeeded in not looking ahead, but I will definitely say my heart felt like it was beating a thousand times a minute in anticipation & suspense. Thank you Mr Brooks, you set the bar extremely high, and few other authors have even come close.

  12. I have noticed that the life expectancy of an Ohmsford is one series plus a small part of a fourth book, unless that Ohmsford is just an Ohmsford in the first series and a Druid in the next one. This is the rule of thumb I’ve made up as I keep reading Shannara.

  13. You killed off one of my favorite characters of all time (or at least one I was most attached to) Amberle. I was sad for days after that, but the fact that a book could make me feel so much emotion, good or bad… well, I’ve been a dedicated Brooks reader ever since.

  14. Terry, I have a love-hate relationship with your books. I love your characters and hate it when they die. But, I agree that the connection you bridge between the story and the reader is so much more deepend, impactful and lasting when characters die, that it is priceless. It may seem weird but when I re-read your books with favorite characters that die, I pay closer and closer attention to things they do and say while they are still alive, so as to embrace all I can from them. It’s like holding on to the memory of a lost friend or close family member. It makes you long to have them back with you. You are a master at character development and wonderful story-telling. Will you please live to be 150 years old? And keep writing!

    • Because, it was an awesome way to remove a character that we enjoyed. It was incredibly creative. But lastly, Fixit was a character of science, when we are moving into a world of magic. He couldn’t stay or survive in the new world. His life cycle was done.

      It was totally harsh and so many people couldn’t understand what happened to Fixit… his last thoughts stopping in mid thought. That was pure brilliance!!!

      Sometimes you can’t do anything more with a character and to free yourself up from that situation the best thing to do is get rid of them.

      • Wow, Cam, I never even thought of that rationalization. Fixit was a man of science, and the world was changing again, this time towards magic. That is a very keen observation ._.

  15. The hardest for me of any character that Mr. Brooks has killed off that I have read and loved was Allanon. I still can’t reread “The Wishsong of Shannara”. But, I sitll read all of his other books all these years later. There are several characters that I will always love, but Allanon will always be the greatest of them all.

    And I, like many others, whish to know more about the Druid.

    So, Mr. Brooks, you can keep bumping them off if that keeps a smile on your face and a book in my hands. You have already gotten rid of my favourite character! 🙂 They just don’t hurt as much now.

    • I have to agree with Cam I too was very sad to see Allanon go. I remember I was sitting on my bed reading the book when my kids came in to say goodnight to me and when I had just read it and I literally had tears in my eyes. My kids looked at me and said “mom are you ok?” I responded with “Awww he’s dead!!” My kids were a bit confused but I had to just assure them it was a character in a book that I was speaking of. I must admit when he and Amberle met their ends I was one sad mama. But it was a bitter sweet ending for them both!

  16. I think for a storyline to be realistic major characters have to die,fact.terry has never shied away from this and that is another reason why he is by far the best out there.keep up the good work Terry

  17. I agree with cam Allanon was my all time favorite he was what made me want to read more of the shannara series and i have been an avid fan since keep creating Terry we love what you bring to the fantasy table

  18. Good or bad, live or die, is not one a shadow of the other, besides 90% of the story, is spent in the sunshine…….well that is, if you feel hardships, tight situations and killing foe……….I feel, to the Hero, this is but the sunnist of days.

    • Truls!! I agree bring him back.. he is so far my favorite character next to the Creel’s he had so much sarcastic wit. I loved the way he called Bek ‘boy’ just to irritate him.

  19. you have already killed one Ohmsford: Walker Boh!! He was an Ohmsford, altough he had a different surname.
    By the way, where does the name Ohmsford come from?

  20. The death of Quickening, the Silver Kings “daughter”… It was…LoL. I really have no words. Her name says it all. Her death quickened the land, and quickened a story already vibrant and alive into something almost like an imprint. 🙂

    That surely sounds like hyperbole, yet… all these years later I can remember the emotions i felt reading those pages: The heartbreak, the wonder. Hating the cruelty of it and saddened at the necessity. I remember thinking about just how great a sacrifice the Silver King had made. Imagined that ancient, vital man, shoulders stooped with grief and actually looking old.

    She wasn’t a recurring character of course, but she most definitely was wonderful and unique. Not to have killed her would have been bad writing. lol.

  21. I love it when authors kill off major characters, adds a sense of realism and the thought that no one is safe.

    As for the world of Shannara the death that impacted me the most was Walker Boh’s. He dies knowing his legacy will live on and with the hope that his mission will be fulfilled. But mostly it was when he was taken by Allanon (who did in fact have a look of pride on his face) to join the rest of the druids, classic and it made me cheer.

    • Just finished The gypsy morph , ur killing of cat and pather almost had me swearing off any more of ur books 🙂 , but read fourms and they lived yay , not for my second seris of yours im thinkingheritage series

  22. Perhaps my grandmother’s snickerdoodles would help tame your bloodlust? Snickerdoodles are in every way superior to Pecan Sandies when made correctly.

  23. I must say I am very thankful to my boyfriend who suggested I read the series. I like to read but it is very hard for me to start books, when he originally gave ne the book it sat on my desk for 2 years. Finally I said let me read this and see what he is making such a fuss about. So on the end of Jan. of this year I finally picked it up to read it and since then I have read all the way through Scion. I am in love with the books. Of course like all wish there were movies too but I know what Hollywood does to movies so I will just appreciate the true works of them. Thank you Terry Brooks for giving me something new and exciting to keep me thriving through the days. You are a great writer and I hope you can continue your streak of making great book. We all love them.

  24. I grew up reading your books…I was born in ’79 and started reading Sword of Shannara when I was old enough to lift it. I guess that means that when I start writing, I’ll have a pension for killing off my characters…just for fun. Thanks for putting all that you have into your books and for the amazing stories for me to escape to. 🙂

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