I've never been one for the killing off of characters - ever. I can think of three I have slain in the past, being (in chronological order):
1. An elf sentry. I was at a creative writing camp when I was maybe fourteen or fifteen, and we went to an old graveyard and were told to find a name on a gravestone and write about how that person died. I rebelled at the idea of not writing fantasy, so I went with . . . perhaps a less-than-likely account as regards the actual owner of the gravestone. The story ended with his death.
2. A dragon at the very beginning of a short story; he comes back to life at the end.
3. General Holofernes, in an Advanced Fiction assignment a couple of weeks ago.
It should be noted that I actually felt guilt about having a character read in a history book in one of my fantasy novels that someone had died decades ago. Someone I had never characterized at all, nor did I plan to characterize. Someone who, if pressed, I would admit I had not given so much as a hair color in my head or even a last name (the history book refers to him as "Prince Andrew").
So, this was a big deal for me, even though this was hardly a tragic death. In fact, the character is the novel's villain. Seeing as he was the main driving force for his side of the battle in the last battle scene, I thought it would be dramatic if I could kill him off, but I really wasn't sure whether I could handle it. Nor did I have that confidence in my characters. I debated with myself (at length, out loud, and dragging in the input of my ever-patient roommate, who is luckily also a writer) over whether I could do it, whether they could do it, who could do it, who would be traumatized for life, when they could do it, who could do it most dramatically, and so on. Eventually, I thought I would just finish that first draft of Lord of the Dark Downs without killing off the villain at all, then write alternate endings until I found one I liked. However, when the time came, one of my characters (or two, depending on how you think of it) stepped up to the challenge. I'm really quite proud of how it came out, and fear very little for the sanity of my fictional, death-dealing darlings.
The other big deal, of course, is finishing Lord of the Dark Downs - the rough draft, at least. There's a lot of rough stuff, but a lot I like, and I'm a big proponent of finishing the rough draft and then putting it away for awhile and working on other things. It's also quite exciting because, as mentioned last week, I have a policy of not working on more than one novel at a time (otherwise, I'll just skip over to another story whenever I hit a difficult part and never finish anything), so I can now start on the next piece.
In fact, I have. Our Advanced Fiction assignment for this week included writing the first page of a novel (or non-novelistic story, if such is your leaning) and turning it in. Normally, I'd take more of a breather between such long works - especially because of the policy noted above - but I pretty much knew which story I wanted to write next. I've done the first page, and I'm not sure how much I like it: the story is set in my regular fantasy world, and the very beginning barely hints that it will be fantasy. Still, I'm excited. This next work is tentatively titled The Dogwatchers, and you should be hearing more about it in the future.