I saw a fellow author post on Facebook the other day that she had killed her first character. She was feeling emotional about it but there were non-writers commenting say it was just fiction and she should get over it. I do my bets not to get involved in situations like that, especially when the person is not a friend outside of social media. I did follow the thread throughout the day and was thrilled to see so many other writers coming to her defense.
We know the books are fiction. We know the stories are words on paper. We also know that our connection to the characters goes far beyond the fictional world in which they live. The characters in our stories are a part of us. In many cases we are also built into them in a way. Because of this it can hurt when one of them dies. Even when the hero kills the villain at the end of a book, we as writers can take the death with difficulty.
We know more in our hearts than the reader will ever experience. there are elements that are too small or insignificant to the storyline to be included in the book but they live on in our memories. We know them better and have seen them develop so even if we sort of hate them for who they are we still care when they die.
Sometimes we write a draft of a book but one of the characters does not work. They show up but they go nowhere in the story, they don't lend to the outcome and ultimately they just take up space. When we edit and rewrite it can be better to simply write them out of the story. We have now killed them in an entirely new way. Either we have created them only to die or we remove them completely before they ever exist. Either way there is a figment of something that was but will never be again.
I recently had to make a call in one of my books resulting in the removal of a character so the story would flow correctly. It was the right call but it was still frustrating to have to do it. I understand how my Facebook friend felt. This character was not my "first kill" but it was still painful to say goodbye. I will always have a draft of a book where they existed and a final version where they don't. Writers find characters and help them share their stories. Sometimes they die, for us there is a sense of mourning because it isn't so much a creation that disappeared as a friend we have to let go. I know more characters will leave me, that just doesn't make it any easier.