Wicked Wednesday – Who’s Off Limits for Murder?

It’s Wicked Wednesday again, where we all weigh in on a topic. Continuing our theme this PersonProhibitedmonth on characters, we’re talking about who we just couldn’t kill off in our series without serious consequence (or who we’d just miss too much!).

Liz: I could never, ever kill off an animal in my books. Doesn’t matter if it’s a “main character,” like Scruffy or Nutty, or a walk-on four-legged friend. I have never been able to read books where animals are killed (I’ve been known to simply stop in the middle) and I would not cross that line. For people? Jake and Char. I’ve gotten attached to them.

Edith: I have broken a rule three times (so far) and written characters who are based on Speakingsomeone I love in real life. So they’re never going to be candidates for murder. Neither are children (following the animal rule), which includes fourteen-year-old Ellie and seventeen-year-old Vince, or Cam’s great uncle Albert. But I suppose a supporting character like Felicity, or Elise (from Speaking of Murder), could need to die to move the story along. I sure don’t have that planned, though, and Elise already nearly died once, in Speaking of Murder. Shouldn’t that be enough?


Jessie: At this point I can’t say for certain there are any characters I wouldn’t ever write as a victim. I know I don’t choose to read books with children as victims and I’m not sure I could write one. I’m a little superstitious about it, actually. Oddly, every time I’ve written a book, soon after I end up meeting a person in real life who is very much like one of the characters. I’d be so terribly upset to meet a child who ends up as a victim.

Barb: I don’t like to think about anything being off limits. That being said, Julia’s my point of view character in the Maine Clambake Mysteries, which are written in first person, so if she was gone it would shake things up a LOT. I do have one child character, Julia’s beloved niece, and if she was killed it would take the books way out of the realm of the cozy. But I have thought about killing off every other secondary character, particularly if they’re being illusive or misbehaving. However, so far I’ve focused on killing off random strangers.

Readers, what characters do you think are off limits for murder?

16 Thoughts

  1. I vote for children and animals. I read mostly cozies though and I suppose it doesn’t count for thrillers. If I do read an occasional thriller the death of a child has to have happened in the distant – 100 yr. – past.

  2. You’ve already mentioned children and animals–I agree. I’ve used past deaths (as far back as the 18th century) in a contemporary mystery. And sometimes I seem to go out of the way to make a death initially appear as a murder but turn out to be something else. Or at least, not premeditated. Question: do you have to come to know and like–or dislike–the victim before killing him or her?

  3. Children and animals are off my list. And Sheila brings up a great point. It is really hard for me to bounce back when someone I really care about dies in a cozy. Really hard. As an author I understand, but it needs to be treated carefully. Right now, before anyone has met the residents of my series, I am thinking about the next two books, and setting up those stories in the first (at least glimmers). Hopefully I won’t get too attached to the characters! PS, sorry I missed the deadline on getting this in the post!

  4. I write dark, historical mysteries (not cozy) and for me, nothing is off limits. I concentrate on story. My recent release did feature a killer targeting pauper children in the streets in 19th century London. It highlights the disposable view Victorians had regarding poor children. And the killer ‘gets it’ in the end in a big way so I believe it is all around satisfying to readers to know good triumphs over evil, which isn’t always the case in real life.

  5. I’m with Liz on the animals. I even had a hard time writing a scene with a strangled stuffed animal. I guess my rule of thumb is that if I wouldn’t want to read about it, I don’t write it.

    Great topic today, ladies! 🙂

  6. I have to agree with the other Wickeds, especially since we are all writing cozies. However in my “books in the drawer” which will probably never see the light of day, I kill off a main character.

  7. Since I write police-procedural, I’d have to say no character is off limits – although I would find it difficult personally to kill an animal or a child. I would find it heart-wrenching to kill any of my secondary characters, but I suppose I could do it if the story demanded it. Fortunately I haven’t gotten to that point.

    Oh, and I prefer to get to know the victim, at least a little, first. As a reader, I either have to feel sympathy or dislike – and that’s really difficult to do if you drop the body on page 3.

  8. Great topic! And it is fun to see varying perspectives from authors who write different styles of mysteries.

    I have trouble letting children and animals suffer in the fictional world. Adults are fair game. 😛 But I must be a sick, twisted person, because I think I could kill off a child character before I could let an animal die.

  9. As a reader, I get attached to the supporting players, too. I’d really, truly hate to see someone I’ve grown to love in a series get killed off. While I get what you are saying, it happens so rarely in a cozy mystery that I would really have trouble with it if I ran across it.

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