Yesterday I wrote an obituary for one of the main characters in the novel I’m working on, and it wasn’t as morbid as I thought it would be. In fact, writing her obituary told me a lot about the character and those who respected and loved her, as well as those who didn’t. It also told me a lot about how characters in my WIP were, or were not, moving its plot along. Here’s why I think you should also write obituaries for the characters in your current WIP (Work In Progress).

Writing Obituaries Will Help You Develop Your Characters

When I was writing the obituary for the character in my novel, it helped me iron out details of her personality and her life that I hadn’t yet. So, it was a practical writing exercise to develop the character and really get to know her and what she had done during her fictional life, where she was from, what she did for a living, etc. It also helped me nail down a lot about some of the other characters in the novel and how they perceived her and who she was. Especially those characters who contributed to writing her obituary. For all intents and purposes, writing obituaries for your main characters is exceedingly practical if you’re struggling with the details of their lives, who they are, what they care about, and what they’ve done or are going to do (if they aren’t dead yet).

Writing Obituaries Will Help You Develop More Compelling Characters

Writing obituaries for your characters will also really allow you to get to know them in a more intimate, straightforward, and respectful way, even if they’re supposed to be terrible villains. This is important to note because if you’re to tell a good story with complex characters that are tragically human, they need to be believable. And this can only be achieved from a more objective vantage point. When you’re writing an obituary, you must be objective. All humans do both good and bad things, even villains (as long as they aren’t clinically considered to be sociopaths, at least). So, when you write an obituary, it essentially allows you to see your characters through a more objective lens, which will allow you to write about them in a more believable and nuanced way, making them more compelling.

Writing Obituaries Will Help You Iron Out Your Plot

Writing obituaries will also help you iron out major plot points in your narrative because you will be able to outline some of the major things some of your major characters have done. Even if you don’t include something atrocious or illicit that a character did in their obituary, its omission from the obituary is revealing, too. And what you omit from an obituary can give you a lot of ideas for compelling secrets and scandals and drama and suspense.

It’s oddly beautiful that it’s only through the death of your characters that you can see their lives more clearly.

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