Killing Off Main Characters

I just finished reading a thriller by one of my favorite authors (not going to say which because I don’t want to give anything away). It featured an ensemble cast of characters, many of which were killed off as the book progressed – including the character who was obviously the protagonist. It was an interesting twist, but it made me uncomfortable reading it. Almost as though I’d lost my guide through the book.

From one perspective, you can see the merit in it from a shock value perspective. As readers, it’s usually difficult to see the death of the main character coming – especially in the middle of a book.  At the end, that’s one thing. But when you’re still getting to know a character, and looking forward to seeing how life turns out for him or her, and all of a sudden she’s eaten by a dinosaur or he falls into a crevasse when the earthquake hits, to me it feels a little unfair. In truth, I kept waiting for the character to miraculously come back, which he never did.

I’ve written five novels and I’ve never killed off a main character in the story. But I could if people are into that! What do you think?

Do you appreciate the shock value of having the main character killed off, or does it disturb you?