Types Of Deaths In Screenwriting

Is Death Just About Dying?

The role of death and dying in storytelling has concerned us since the dawn of humanity. It has filled us with both fear and wonder, since we have limited control over it. We try to avoid it, put it off, embrace it with honour and dignity. Death signifies the end of something. But it must also pave the way for something new and improved.

Death has traditionally been associated with loss, abandonment or other negative experience. But it needn’t necessarily be that way.

Death is ultimately a change of state; a rebirth. These changes cause great upheaval and are often associated with a ritual to toss out the old and bring in the new.

Death Is Also About Change

Here are the main types of death you may encounter:


This is simply the loss of physical life. A literal death can culminate from significant preparation and suffering as is the case after long, debilitating illnesses. In stories, this represents the resilient, fighting spirit of humanity and serves to inspire audiences.

It can also be unexpected, such as in a tragic accident. This helps as cope with sudden and often senseless loss that we are often forced to face. Stories help us deal with our grief.

Literal death is a ubiquitous trope of action films where the villain is killed. This represents the elimination of evil from our environment so that good can prevail.


Non literal or metaphorical deaths signify the true richness of many stories.

They represent the loss of spiritual, intellectual, social or lifestyle constructs. They typically follow periods of extreme hardship, emotional and physical pain. There is a high price to pay to reach something worthwhile.

They also symbolize significant transformation and personal character growth; the internal character arc. It is a time of self reflection and taking stock of our lives by removing those aspects that no longer serve us.

Non-literal deaths could also be portrayed as the loss of an attitude, belief, or malevolent force that has held the main character back from achieving their goals.

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