Death is a common theme in storytelling, and it can be used to add weight and significance to a narrative. When a character dies, it can leave a lasting impact on the audience, and if done correctly, it can also serve as a powerful tool to advance the plot and character development. However, making a character's death impactful requires careful consideration and execution.
- Build Emotional Investment in the Character
Before a character dies, the audience needs to be emotionally invested in them. They need to care about the character and feel a sense of attachment. One way to achieve this is by giving the character a clear arc and establishing their values, desires, and flaws early on. This will help the audience understand the character's motivations and empathize with their struggles. As the story progresses, the audience should also see the character grow and change. By building emotional investment in the character, their death will carry more weight and leave a deeper impact on the audience.
- Make the Death Unexpected
One of the most effective ways to make a character's death impactful is by making it unexpected. This doesn't mean that the death should come out of nowhere and feel cheap or contrived. Instead, it means that the death should be surprising but still feel like a natural progression of the story. This can be achieved by foreshadowing the death in subtle ways or creating a false sense of security for the character. For example, if the character has been in danger before but always managed to escape, the audience may assume that they will survive again. However, when the character dies, it will be a shock to the audience and will leave a lasting impact.
- Give the Death Meaning
A character's death should never feel gratuitous or meaningless. Instead, it should serve a purpose in the story and advance the plot or character development. For example, the death could be used to motivate another character or to reveal a hidden truth about the deceased character. The death could also be used to force the remaining characters to confront their own mortality and make difficult choices. Whatever the purpose, the death should be meaningful and leave a lasting impact on the story and characters.
- Make the Death Visually Compelling
In screenwriting, visuals are just as important as dialogue and plot. When a character dies, the audience needs to see it happen in a visually compelling way. This doesn't mean that the death needs to be overly graphic or violent, but it should be memorable and impactful. For example, the death could be shown in slow motion, with the character's last thoughts or memories flashing before their eyes. Alternatively, the death could be shown from a unique perspective, such as a bird's-eye view or through a character's eyes. By making the death visually compelling, it will leave a lasting impression on the audience.
- Use Sound and Music to Enhance the Scene
In addition to visuals, sound and music can also be used to enhance the impact of a character's death. For example, the scene could be silent except for the sound of the character's last breath or the sound of a heartbeat slowing down. Alternatively, music could be used to create a mood or emotion that complements the scene. For example, a sad, mournful piece of music could be used to underscore the gravity of the moment. By using sound and music to enhance the scene, the audience will be even more emotionally invested in the character's death.
- Show the Aftermath
After a character dies, the story doesn't just end. The remaining characters need to deal with the aftermath and cope with their loss. This can be a powerful way to make the death impactful and to show the impact it has on the story.