Hello. I have been reading your character death articles, and it has made me think about my own characters in my own story. I originally was gonna have one character death, but her death was unnecessarily brutal and did not serve a purpose (the true reason behind my unwillingness to go through with this was because I got attached to this character). However, there’s lots of dangerous instances in the story in which my characters could die, especially since they’re fighting against a world-ending monster – I am just very attached to each and every one of them. How should I decide which characters to kill? Should I kill any characters at all?
To judge whether a character should die, first look at how your threats are presented. You said your monster is world-ending and your heroes are repeatedly in life-threatening situations. That sounds intense, but how stacked are the odds against them? Is this a “holy crap we’re all going to die!” situation or is it a “this will be the fight of our lives” situation? The more you emphasize how impossible the odds are, and the more times the heroes come up against the odds, the more audiences will expect someone to die.
Then, it depends on the tone of your story. If it’s pulpy or light-hearted action like a Marvel movie, I think you can get away without killing anyone. However, if it’s cosmic horror or otherwise dark in tone, it might be strange if everyone comes away unscathed.
If you determine that your story calls for someone to die by the end, but you don’t want to kill anyone, using other consequences could help prevent your ending from feeling cheap. Look for things that feel significant and are permanent. Maybe the injuries the heroes receive or the trauma they endure has lasting consequences. Maybe important places or artifacts are destroyed that can never be recovered. If everyone makes it through but no one will ever be the same, you’ll probably be okay.
If you decide to kill someone after all, it’s usually okay to spare the most central character(s) and pick one or two side characters. It depends on how many characters are in Team Good and how big and scary the threat is. The characters you pick should be relatively well liked by readers and not aged or close to retirement or something.