1. Smithy
    Offline

    Smithy Senior Member

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    155
    Likes Received:
    0

    Character Death

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Smithy, Jun 4, 2010.

    I'm planning to kill off two of my characters during the same battle about halfway through the story. This is necessary to signal an end to the good times and the beginning of the main characters toboganning down the slope to self destruction.

    But I'm worried that having them both die very soon after one another will diminish the emotional impact of both, or that one death will overshadow the other, especially since one of the characters dying is of the overshadowing kind. How can I avoid this and make sure they both carry a decent emotional impact.
     
  2. Thanshin
    Offline

    Thanshin Active Member

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2010
    Messages:
    564
    Likes Received:
    13
    Location:
    Spain
    I see only two options. Either the second death is overshadowed by the first or it piles on it. Or, to put it in the opposite perspective, if you don't pile the second death over the first, I think it will be overshadowed by it.

    Now, the hard part is how to make the second death's emotional impact pile on the second. The easiest way is to lower the first death's impact to then make the second one stronger by contrast. I don't think it's the right method.

    I think your best chance is to narrate the first death a you were about to and then use references to it in the second, while strengthening the terms of the description. i.e.: Concentrate on making it clear that a part of what made the impact of the second death so hard, was the sudden return of the first death's buried emotions.
     
  3. Blacklungs
    Offline

    Blacklungs New Member

    Joined:
    May 28, 2010
    Messages:
    3
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Northern California
    In a lot of war recounts, you have these military men loosing multiple friends everyday. Obviously yours is fiction, but the point is the emotional toll it takes on the ones left. Two brothers dead, gone. Companions for however long, the true gritty emotion of knowing it could happen to you or any other of your friends fighting with you. To prevent overshadowing of ones death because of another, you really have to give the details of the post battle impact on the main character(s).
     
  4. shadowknight
    Offline

    shadowknight New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2010
    Messages:
    11
    Likes Received:
    0
    How important are the characters who are being killed off? I think a large part of emotional weight depends on how attached people are to the characters. If the two individuals who get killed mean a great deal to the protagonist, then their deaths will be harder on him or her, and will most likely have some affect on his life even if they mean nothing to the audience/readers.

    Also if you emphasize that the two characters have something to live for, or that they value their lives tremendously, then I think their deaths would be truly impactful. If their dying in a battle, i assume their deaths will be quick? It might have more of an affect if their tortured a bit before the end.
     
  5. boesjwoelie
    Offline

    boesjwoelie Member

    Joined:
    Jan 14, 2010
    Messages:
    69
    Likes Received:
    1
    reading this I got an idea... what if the first death takes place in the battle, having a big impact, but the other character gets wounded. That way, he could die a few days later.

    not knowing the context I don't know if this is possible, but a few days of suffering would surely increase the impact of his death, right? :)
     
  6. Shinn
    Offline

    Shinn Banned

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2008
    Messages:
    925
    Likes Received:
    5
    Location:
    New Zealand
    That sounds like a good idea boesjwoelie :)
     
  7. Smelnick
    Offline

    Smelnick Member

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2010
    Messages:
    43
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Winnipeg,Manitoba,Canada
    When one good friend dies, it hurts and is painful, but then when another dies after that, it hurts, but you've experienced that pain already and so it hurts less. If you run with that angle, you can bring a sense of depravity to the remaining characters. In this, you may have less hurt when the second death comes, but by playing it up as less painful, you give the readers a sense that 'hey, they must REALLY be degrading in the story, because this next friend died, and they were just used to it.' What better than loss of emotion to give the idea of impending self destruction eh?
     
  8. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    What? Have you ever been in this situation?
     
  9. Smelnick
    Offline

    Smelnick Member

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2010
    Messages:
    43
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Winnipeg,Manitoba,Canada
    Actually I have, lost one friend to cancer, and then like a couple months after that, lost another friend to some genetic disease that he had under control, but then complications developed and he passed away. The second death seemed easier to handle because I'd already been through it. I knew what to expect as far as emotions and how not to let them bring me down to far.
     
  10. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    I've experienced just the opposite. The second loss just compounded the shock, and made it very difficult to cope.
     
  11. Show
    Offline

    Show Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2008
    Messages:
    1,495
    Likes Received:
    30
    Exactly, everybody experiences life differently. So what may devastate one person may be tolerable for another. I guess it just shows that you usually can't write a scenario that will have the same effect on all readers. Killing off two characters together could make it doubly hard to cope for some readers, or lessen the impact of one or both for another.
     
  12. TerraIncognita
    Offline

    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

    Joined:
    May 28, 2010
    Messages:
    1,339
    Likes Received:
    40
    Location:
    Texas
    I lost my uncle Clark to cancer last year. It was extremely difficult. I just know that when Shirley (his wife) dies it will be even more difficult. She has had lung cancer, never smoked a day in her life. It metastasized to her brain then she had a stroke about a year after all the radiation was done that saved her life.

    It was hard for everyone because they were perfect for eachother. I still cry when I think of it. I know she probably will not live much longer because it's had such an impact on her emotionally on top of her physical complications from the stroke. I know they'll be together again when she passes away but the idea of loosing her too hurts tremendously to even think about. Okay time to stop I'm crying now.

    Point is that different people react differently to loss. It would also depend on the characters' relationship as to how the reader was impacted.
     
  13. Diablo Robotico
    Offline

    Diablo Robotico Member

    Joined:
    May 28, 2010
    Messages:
    70
    Likes Received:
    3
    I think it would be a good idea to have a mix as well, with one character having a slow death where he can say his goodbyes, and then another character dying a quick, never-saw-it-coming kind of death.

    However, I kind of think it would be better if the slow death happened first. The reader would get time to cope with the death, and he or she would expect that if anyone else were to die, it would be in a slow, dramatic fashion like the first character. But if moments later, the next character dies in one quick moment, that's devastating on a different level.

    As for deaths overshadowing each other, I would say that it would be better to have the more minor character die first, so he or she wouldn't have to be the follow-up to a big, important character's death. I would also say that losing an important and likable character in a sudden, instant death is much more surprising and leaves a stronger emotional resonance (at least in my experience).
     
  14. Boom Bach
    Offline

    Boom Bach Member

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2010
    Messages:
    20
    Likes Received:
    0
    Well as I see it. You should have one die in battle, clearly visible and dramatic. Then let the battle end. And as counting casualties find the other character, but dying. Let your main character talk to them as he/she dies. Making that one sad because the main character is there or holding them and the other one dramatic. A balance.
     
  15. rhen2006
    Offline

    rhen2006 New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2010
    Messages:
    4
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA
    Smelnick, I have to disagree with this. The only way I can conceive of a second death affecting one less than the first is only if the second person means less than the first person (sigh, that sentence was wordy).

    I think a second death would be completely unbearable. Losing one close person is terribly tragic, but losing a second close person shortly after the first is enough to tear anyone apart.


    Thanshin, I believe, gave the best advice. Use the impact of the first death to intensify the second. Reference the first death, commenting on how losing the second person was like losing the first person all over again. I think that is a much more realistic dramatization.

    Also, I always find long, drawn out deaths to be a bit cliche unless they have significant plot reasons. Besides, I think short, unexpected deaths are much more heart-wrenching. For the readers as well as the characters. You say you want your character to spiral downward due to these deaths. Well, I think his/her spiral would be more impacting as well as realistic if he/she never had the chance to say goodbye, or tell how he/she really felt for those he/she lost. Not having closure over a loved one's death can be very heart breaking and emotional. Just something to consider.

    Good luck with your writing!
     
  16. Tavares765
    Offline

    Tavares765 Member

    Joined:
    Apr 19, 2010
    Messages:
    22
    Likes Received:
    1
    I think ur best way is to make both deaths memorable.

    You got two ways to do this, one is through emotion, that is meaning your readers truly care about who is dying, but being midway in the story i doubt they will care too much unless these are some very memorable side characters.

    The second way is to make the actual deaths memorable, this is easier all it requires is some imagination on your part. Someone here mentioned having one character die in the heat of battle and the other die painfully later, which is a very strong idea.

    For example if it were soldiers walking in a battlefield and one of the characters stepped on a mine that popped up and blew up in his face. That death is scary and will paint an image in your readers mind, meanwhile the other character could be standing near the blast and lose an arm or something forcing your MC to try to save him but fail.

    That death will be remembered because it is considerably more sad while the other death is considerably more scary. Dont make both deaths sad or both deaths scary because you risk the reader only remembering the one which scared or saddened them the most.
     
  17. valdein lawnstin
    Offline

    valdein lawnstin Member

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2010
    Messages:
    32
    Likes Received:
    0
    to emblish on shadowknights statement; it really depends on how much the reader gets to know the connection between the three characters, not ow much a roll they play in the life of the character (i.e. father, mentor, messiah) but how much of a roll they play in the book and in the readers mind.

    the book i am working on right now my character looses his parents at the age of six but that is a prelude to the life now.

    if it captivates you when you write it (i.e. makes you sad to read it) then it will absolutely captivate your audience if you established the character relationship well to begin with.
     
  18. valdein lawnstin
    Offline

    valdein lawnstin Member

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2010
    Messages:
    32
    Likes Received:
    0
    my own empasis on rhen2006's comment is. I have lost people in my life when i am still morning the loss of one person. if you have never had somebody you love die, it is as best i can say it

    (my reaction, based on opinion)
    you first find it strange that you will never see that person again they are gone for ever you will not be able to say goodbye or if their young never see their potential, they were ripped out of life so suddenly, they didn't deserve to die and you feel betrayed by morality. they are gone life (especially if it is an involved parent) will never be the same and you don't know how you will wake up the next day.

    if your fictional deaths can create these feelings then they will have a deep impact, i would keep reading. some of the best books i have ever read made me cry
     

Share This Page