Self-Preservation by Keeping Characters Alive

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How do you feel about killing off one of your major characters?

No. I have absolutely NEVER thought of killing off a major character. No…nehi…la!

Check out the video below, where I share my perspective on the elements of romance and why the two main characters must stay alive.


Salams. Greetings everyone. It’s me, Lyndell Williams, your romance author extraordinaire. I am doing a video blog this week because I did not want to miss the Open Book Blog Hop.

I love doing the Open Book Blog Hop. It’s a great group of authors. And things have been really, really hectic. You would think that since I work from home and I homeschool my kids that it wouldn’t be as bad with the lockdown, but it is.

I have a houseful of people; you may hear some clinking and stuff in the background. And everyone is busy and they have a lot of demands on me. And also, I have a lot of work to do. I have a lot of articles to write and things like that. I have the Black Muslims Reads anthology stuff.

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And I have my own writing. I’m trying to get Book 3 of the Brothers in Law romance out to readers, Building on Broken Dreams. They’re very excited about that. As well as the second book in the Open to Love series. So, I’ve been kind of busy and I did not want to miss this week’s prop.

How do you feel about killing off one of your major characters? I don’t. I don’t think about killing off my major characters, especially the two main characters.

I am a romance writer. I’ve been researching romance for years. I’ve been analyzing literature romance for years. I’m actually a romance scholar. Romance is my subgenre. When I decided to write stories, that’s exactly what I want to write.

I go by conventions. Subgenres have conventions and romance is no different than any other subgenre. There are things that readers expect.

Pamela Ridges outlined eight elements of romance in her book A Natural History to the Romance Novel. One of them is The Meeting. The couple has to meet. Now, if that is set in stone; how they meet, it could be like if you have a second chance at love type of novel that they’ve already met and now they’re re-meeting and what’s going on with that. So, they have to meet each other.

The second one is The Barrier. That has to be something that’s kind of keeping them apart. One common barrier is the love triangle, where there three people; two want to get together and one wants to stop it or that they’re torn between two lovers. A thing which I’m not really a big fan of.

I kind of like what I call the isosceles triangle. We have this couple. They want to get together type-thing. They know they dig each other, and they have like that third one on the bottom that tries just like thwart it because they want one of those two people.

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A common trope is enemies to lovers. So, they can’t stand each other. So, that’s a barrier, the fact that they can’t like each other. A very famous enemies-to-lovers romance story is Pride and Prejudice. You have Emily and Darcey, and they are both too stuck-up on themselves and their egos are too big to really kind of — They can’t stand each other for that reason because they see too much of themselves in the other one, I think. So, that’s another one. All right.

So, now the fourth thing is The Attraction. You know, they have to kind of start dating each other. It could be early in the novel. It could be in the middle of the novel. It depends on how the story is set up. But sooner or later, they start to really have these feelings for each other.

You have The Declaration, which is they express the love for each other. Now, one can make a grand declaration; there’re all types of ways that this happens. The readers expect people to become attracted to each other and in one way or another to say, “I love you.” They have to say, “I love you” to each other. That is specifically in those words.

You know, I kind of tend to like that; I like that grand declaration of love. But not every author writes it and that’s fine.

You have the Point of Ritual Death; that’s what we just called that. Now, that’s the thing in the book that really makes it seem like it’s hopeless that the couple will get together. I tend to think of it more along the lines of something or a bunch of things that may impact the relationship and make it really shaky. And even though we’ve kind of anticipated that they’re going to end up together, it’s still that point is like what is really going to happen to them.

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Then you have the recognition; how are they going to overcome the obstacles so that they can be together and love each other? They have to problem-solve.

Again, that has levels and layers to it. Some authors make it as simple as, “You know, forget this. I’m not letting anything get in between us. You come with me now type of thing.” It’s a love interest overcome the obstacles to being together.

And then finally, you have The Betrothal. It doesn’t have to necessarily be marriage. It really is that they’ve made that connection. Now it’s clear that they’re going to be together. That’s where you get the happy ever after.

Romance novels, books, stories, short stories, novellas, one quintessential element is that “happy ever after” or a “happily ever after” or a “happy for now.”

It is clear, at the end of the novel, that this couple is going to end up together and they are going to stay together. You can’t do that if one of them is dead. They have to both be alive.

That is actually a defining factor. If you don’t have the couple together at the end, you don’t have romance. You have a love story. You don’t have a romance. A Romance, the central part of it is that the couple has to be together at the end. That’s what readers come to expect.

A lot of really, really average romance readers will get upset if the author kills off one of the characters. And I think every romance reader does, but some really, you know, like myself, who are really into romance, they will not like that. You do not kill off either of your two main characters in a romance. Other people may be fair game but not those two.

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So, I would never ever kill off the two main characters in any of my romance novels. Some other people may die. I may do other stuff to my romance characters, my two main characters. They may get sick. They may have an accident. One of them may get shot. I may throw one of them off a cliff. I don’t know. As long as I make some plausible way that they are alive at the end, they don’t have to necessarily be whole body or perfect, at the end, as long as that couple ends up together.

Another — Yeah, it’s a romance. Technically, it’s not, but it has a really strong romantic element in it, is Jane Eyre by one of the Bronte sisters; I believe it was Emily. No, Charlotte. Charlotte Bronte.

And at the end, Jane ends up with Rochester. And he was blinded in a house fire. I think he deserved it; I can’t stand him. But she ended up with him at the end and taking care of him. She stayed with him when she found out he was blind and everything like that. Very strong female protagonist, except she stayed with him; I didn’t like that part. But that’s a whole another video. So, they end up together at the end.

No, you cannot kill off the main characters of the romance. You could kill off other characters, but you cannot kill off the major characters; the two main characters of the romance.

So, my answer is no, never, la, nehi. No, it’s not going to happen. My characters are going to stay alive and they’re going to end up together.

Thank you for joining me, for hearing my perspective on killing off main characters in a romance novel. Don’t forget to check out my books. We have the great Brothers in Law series; Books 1 and 2 – My Way to You, Sweet Love Bitter Fruit and also the short story that kind of tells you how the brothers got together and became fast friends. It’s six great lawyers and each book centers on them finding the love of their life; being together alive. Also, check out Book 1 in the Open to Love novella series; Open to Love.

Don’t forget to visit my blogs. There’s a lot of great stuff there. I have great articles; this blog hop is one of them. I have author interviews, book reviews, interviews of me and all kinds of great information.

And our merch store; don’t forget my merch store. There are mugs, there are T-shirts and all kinds of things like that.

Let’s keep those keyboards clicking. As-salam alaykum.

Transcript completed by osuloye169.

Regis’ Elements of Romance

 In A Natural History of the Romance Novel, Pamela Regis assigns eight elements to the romance novel:

  1. Society Defined – the flawed, often repressive environment through which the protagonists must navigate
  2. The Meeting – The heroine and hero encounter each other, and readers are usually introduced to the impending conflict
  3. The Barrier – obstacles to the union of the protagonists
  4. The Attraction – a combination of sexual chemistry, friendship, shared goals or feelings, society’s expectations, and economic issues
  5. The Declaration – The hero and heroine express their love for each other
  6. Point of Ritual Death – hopelessness that the union will ever happen and the barrier to their love will remain forever
  7. The Recognition – Discovery of how to overcome the barrier to the union
  8. Betrothal – marriage or an indication that the heroine and hero will end up together


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2 thoughts on “Self-Preservation by Keeping Characters Alive

Add yours

  1. I’ve always pushed against “the rules.” I guess that’s why I don’t write romances! Barbara Cartland once wrote a romance where she killed of the love interest. From what I understand, it didn’t go well and her publisher pulled it from the market.:)


    1. It’s not about breaking rules; the HEA is a foundation of the genre. It’s like writing a murder mystery without a death, horror without gore, or erotica without intense sexual scenes.


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