So you want to write a suicide scene, and you want it to be impactful. 🤷♂️
Firstly, I don’t know what’s wrong with you and…
Secondly, you’ve come to the right place because I’m this demented soul who’s probably written more than his fair share of them.
Suicide and I are old acquaintances. Our paths crossed several times, and it’s never been a pleasant encounter BUT… these experiences have taught me a thing or two about writing suicide scenes.
So let’s get our feet wet, shall we?
How do you write an impactful suicide scene?
Here are the basic ingredients. If you leave any of them out, chances are your scene will fall flat, or worse, make your reader laugh.
Buildup is everything. Suicide never comes out of nowhere. Even if we don’t see it coming, there have always been signs. We just might not have recognised them for what they were.
If you are not familiar with suicide, this is where you need to start your research. What are the signs, and how can we recognise them? (Or fail to recognise them, which could work equally well in fiction. All depending on what you want to achieve.)
Yes, not a pretty word in this context, but here we are. How will your character commit suicide? Which methods work, and which don’t? Again, you’ll need to do your research.
One word of caution: I personally shy away from going into detail here, as I don’t want to make it easy for people who are struggling with suicidal thoughts to copy my character’s behaviour. I, the author, need to know all the grisly details. The reader does not. I would advise you to tread very carefully.
3) Succeed or Fail
Will your character succeed or fail? This is another area where your research will pay off. Some methods are more likely to succeed than others. You can use this to your advantage in your writing.
Also… it pays to know the answer to this question: Did your character actually wish to succeed, or was their (attempted) suicide a cry for help?
Whether the character succeeds or fails, there will be consequences. Think of the devastation of family and friends; a feeling that will crop up, whether the character succeeded or not. They may also be plagued by guilt and doubts. Their “What ifs?” will often be plentyful.
Now, if your character survived, think of what that will do to them. One does not fail to commit suicide and then go on with life as if nothing ever happened. They may feel anger, sadness, fear, and many other often conflicting emotions all at once. They may also be plagued by nightmares and flashbacks. Their physical health may have been (irreversibly) damaged. Just to name a few.
Though it’s impossible to go too much indepth here, I hope this short guide on how to write an impactful suicide scene has been helpful. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to shoot me a message.
PLEASE NOTE: if you are struggling with suicidal thoughts or ideations, please call a suicide help line.
You don’t have to fight this battle alone. Please, GET HELP.