Updated: Aug 31, 2022
You are probably thinking, “Wait, Did I read that right? A eulogy for a fictional character that may not even actually die in my story? You are crazy!”
While I’m not denying my craziness, hear me out.
A eulogy is the speech that is given at funerals or memorial services for someone who has died in acknowledgment of their life. It is also a great way to really develop your characters. Sometimes when I’m writing I get stuck on one aspect of my character’s nature or how I expect them to be. I fall into this most easily when I’m writing my villains. It’s easy to just assume the absolute worst behavior for them and constantly stick them into that evil stereotype.
The best way I found to fix this dilemma is, you guessed it, write them a eulogy. Eulogies are meant to celebrate the person’s life and really have to be somewhat positive, so trying to say something good about this terrible character can turn out to be a challenge, but a good one!
It makes you think about their background and childhood, something that may not have been of interest previously. It makes you think about who is giving the eulogy: a parent, a lover, a friend? And what would this parent, lover, or friend have valued about this character? There must have been something if they are the one giving this speech. Once you start looking at your character through a different lens, you can make them more multifaceted. A character who may be a villain in your story, might be a good friend in someone else's.
Here are some tips on writing eulogies to get you started:
Step 1 - Share Stories and Memories:
Maybe it's a childhood friend reminiscing about the pranks they would pull in the schoolyard. Maybe it’s a mother recalling how your character clung to her on the first day of preschool, and then, on the first day of high school making her drop them off a block away. All of these different perspectives will begin to shape your writing leading you down a path of differing insights and attitudes. Just because your character is bad now, doesn’t mean they always were. Think of the possible character development.
Step 2 - Brainstorming and Editing:
Consider possible conversations about the deceased from friends and family. Think of more memories or maybe a specific thing that is associated with them: a food, a flower, a song. Music can say a lot about a person. Picking a favorite song for them or associating a certain song to a particularly important part of their lives is a great way to get “brainstorming.” All of these will force you to think of your villain as a person, not just a character.
Step 3 - Consider the Audience:
Lastly, think about who is attending this funeral. How did they know this person? Is it an army of loyal thieves and murders, a collection of old childhood friends who “can’t believe he’s gone, I wish we would have kept in contact,” or is it no one other than a mother or lover? Or perhaps even they didn’t come? Either way this helps shape the character toward becoming a more completely developed being.
All of these steps will create a finished and thoughtful eulogy that turns out an even more thoughtful and rounded character in the end. Doing this may even completely change the direction your story was heading in or the final outcome of your character. I know all of these have held true for me! So write on, and make sure that your character rests in peace before you’ve finished the ending, or else they may come back to haunt you.
About the author: Juliet Dore is currently completing her undergraduate degree at Syracuse University. She is majoring in English and Textual Studies because all she does is READ!!! Her favorite book is Jellicoe Road and she has love of ravens. She thanks Poe for that.