1. Dazen
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    Dazen Active Member

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    Characters appearing dead and then coming back?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Dazen, Oct 28, 2013.

    Opinions on characters that are assumed to be dead from the narrative or dialogue, and then come back. An excellent example of this is George R. R. Martin's A song of Ice and Fire series, where the PoV Characters are reported dead, or thought dead, and then are alive. It can be a good twist, but also rather cliché and not work very well if not done right, so opinions?
    I mean, especially with the way in the 7th Volume (Latest published volume of the series) Jon Snow is assumed dead, but if he came back, would you mind? Etc. (OBVIOUSLY, I'D NEED TO HAVE A REASON FOR THEM NOT BEING DEAD. EG. "The axe took her in the back of the head." AND THEN YOU FIND OUT THAT IT WAS THE FLAT OF THE AXE, NOT THE BLADE. JUST SAYING)
     
  2. T.Trian
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    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Just a quick sidenote: the flat of the axe would probably also result in a mild case of death unless the blow was light / just glanced off her helmet or some such.

    Anyway, I do this kind of thing now and then with KaTrian. We usually try to make the reader really think the character is dead (e.g. another character sees them dive into a small room to avoid being shot and someone throws a grenade into the same room, it goes bang, and that's the last we see of that character until they return later on).
    However, it's always necessary to have a realistic, credible explanation for their survival because otherwise it just sucks all the emotion and effectiveness from the assumed death, kinda makes it... well, lame. And just like with everything, this, too, can be done to excess. If done in moderation, it's a nice way to add some suspense and drama to a scene.
     
  3. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    how would that be any different from a 'serious' case?... dead is dead, right? ;)
     
  4. Tara
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    Tara Contributing Member

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    As long as you have a realistic explanation for it and it adds something to the story (something other than an extra living character) I wouldn't really mind. If the character would return just be there without being of any real use to the story I would wonder why s/he returned in the first place, though.
     
  5. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I would say use this device HARDLY EVER! It can be extremely effective, but death, in the real world, is usually final. Making it less than final in fiction can destroy any sense of jeopardy you might build in the reader. I'd say make the return of the 'dead' person entirely plausible, foreshadow it, if you can, and only do it once.

    There is, however, nothing wrong with having other CHARACTERS think somebody is dead when they're not. That's not the same thing as fooling the reader.
     
  6. Keitsumah
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    Keitsumah The Dream-Walker Contributor

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    Well i may over-use that a bit then.

    I just went and counted the scenes and five potential deaths occour just out of the main or secondary characters, and only... two are real? though the second one makes me want to bawl because i hate killing off innocents...
     
  7. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Well, I'm not sure if we're on the same page here, but I didn't mean don't kill your characters. I mean don't kill them and then bring them back to life, over and over. That makes death meaningless, doesn't it?
     
  8. DeathandGrim
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    DeathandGrim Contributing Member

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    A mild case you say? Might want to explain that to me. I take my job seriously.

    It wouldn't bother me if it's well written, but if the story pulls a BLEACH where characters live from PIS then I will NEVER forgive
     
  9. Dazen
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    Dazen Active Member

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    I accidentally wrote this in the wrong thread before o_O - But here it is:
    Would any here be interested in starting a group of Alpha or Beta Readers for our respective novels? I think it could have a good impact on editing, revising etc, and also will help to reduce any type of writer's block.
     
  10. redreversed
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    redreversed Active Member

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    Honestly, I personally hate it when films and books do that sort of things. It always feels cheap to me and I never appreciate it.
     
  11. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    "It just so happens that your friend here is only MOSTLY dead."

    [​IMG]
     
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  12. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    The Princess Bride... I can't remember the last time I saw that, lol.

    @jannert Isn't making the characters believe that someone is dead fooling the reader in most cases? I mean if I'm writing 1st person POV and my MC watches the grenade scene T.Trian just described you're in a position that you believe what the MC believes.... right?
     
  13. mrieder79
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    mrieder79 Not a ground squirrel

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    The Princess Bride is the only story in which this has happened and I didn't find it cheesy. I would have to have a damn good reason to use this device in one of my stories. Perhaps you could have them go missing instead and then turn up later. This would be more compelling for me and it leaves the reader wondering, wanting to find out what happened, wanting to turn the page.
     
  14. TLK
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    TLK Active Member

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    A very good point, but it depends on the way in which you "kill" the character in question, and the way in which you "resurrect" him/her.

    So, say, for example, someone was to be left to fight a scary monster in your book whilst the other characters flee, and everyone (reader included) assumes the character has sacrificed him by fighting the scary monster. If you were to "revive" that character, you have a point. It may make that scary monster seem less scary. Which is a bad thing.

    But what if your character didn't actually die. What if he pretended to sacrifice himself but really he just ran off somewhere else, to do something to further his own gain and then was to re-join the other characters. No-one, reader included, is aware that the character has done what he has yet. As far as they're concerned, he had a lucky escape and was just catching up to them. Later however, we find out the character's schemes and how they effect the plot in general, for good or for ill (usually the latter works best in my opinion). Maybe add a bit of suspicion surrounding the character. E.g. how did he get through that city? I thought that was held by the enemy? Something's off here. Keep the reader guessing, perhaps. This gives you two plot twists for the price of one: firstly you have the surprise resurrection, and secondly the shock at what the resurrected character has done. And you don't destroy any sense of jeopardy.

    Personally, I think this plot device is a very strong one, though it's not something I would recommend using more than once in a story. It really loses its potency the second time around.
     
  15. Dazen
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    Dazen Active Member

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    That was an excellent point, and, I think I might try something relatively similar to the plot you've just described, if that is okay with you? I have this scene where I think I could weave this in, although obviously with your permission.
    And just a repeat; I'm looking for Beta Readers :)
     
  16. TLK
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    TLK Active Member

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    Go ahead, although (and this is a pretty good tip to bear in mind in general), don't just include something because you think it'll "be cool" or something like that. It has to work in your story. Don't just stick it in for the sake of doing so, or because you think doing so will instantly make your story better because, chances are, it won't. If you can find a good way to fit it in your story, that's brilliant, give it a go. Just be wary of adding things into your story for the sake of it :)
     
  17. T.Trian
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    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

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    @mammamaia & @DeathandGrim, it's kinda like killing someone only a little bit or, as was the case in Princess Bride, being mostly dead... although the latter does happen IRL too, all those cases where people have been clinically dead and bounce back anyway. Now there's a plot twist that almost never works because people find it too unrealistic.
     
  18. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The more we learn, the wider the gray areas become. Used to be, when the heart stopped, the patient was pronounced. Then cam CPR, open heart surgery, and heart/lung machines. So the criterion became the cessation of detectable brain activity. But patients have come back from deep hypothermia with no detectable life signs, and patients can be kept viable under full life support, with apparent brain activity long past the point of any chance of recovery.

    So it becomes increasingly more difficult to unequivocally define dead vs alive.
     
  19. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    No ...not if the reader sees the MC walking away from the 'death' scene, and maybe is privy to what he or she does next. The other characters don't realise the MC has actually survived till much later on—but the reader does. The reader then has the fun of watching and waiting for the reunion to occur.
     
  20. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I don't think anybody much is responding to your Beta Readers question! I would suggest that maybe you start another thread about that.

    I actually agree with you, although I think the mods on this site are reluctant, because this appears to involve people connecting outwith the forum, which means they might get targetted by spammers or folks who pester you and become unpleasant if you don't read fast enough, or say what they want to hear, or whatever. All are hazards, but I'd be willing to try to work out a way to make this happen. Novelists badly need somebody to read the whole thing, to catch story flow issues, not just posted snippets to catch stylistic ones.

    I'd volunteer myself, except I'm already a beta reader for several people (we met via personal messages, or, in two cases, I met them directly through my local writers' group.) I've got enough on my plate in that department just now, but if that changes, I'll let you know—IF you would like me to try.

    Anyway, if I were you, I'd start a separate thread about this if you want it addressed directly. And good luck. It's the one area this forum lacks.
     
  21. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Wtf is a mild case of death??:confused:
     
  22. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    The kind that you're only kind of dead.
    You could be brought back but tough luck getting the right sort of treatment in the Seven Kingdoms.

    I accept fake deaths as in one PoV sees another fall off a ship and washed under the waves but turns up saved on an island or a boat by sheer luck.
    That's cool.

    I also don't mind in aSoIaF when the onion knight was reported dead for an entire book only for his story to be shown before the death notice on why he is still alive.
    That's okay.
     
  23. Dazen
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    Dazen Active Member

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    Yeah, Martin's an expert on that, because when a character does die, you question it automatically and wonder whether the character is actually deceased or just seriously maimed, and then, as a consequence, you read on. Cliffhanger style.
     

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