1. AngelSong
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    AngelSong New Member

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    How would you continue a story after you killed off the main character of a story?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by AngelSong, Jun 3, 2010.

    I don't think I've ever seen this happen in any of the books I've read. It seems that the main character always survives basically unscathed. What if THE main character a story dies? How do you continue (assuming the story is written from third person limited omnicient POV)?
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Perhaps a key secondary character takes up the mantle of MC.
     
  3. Halcyon
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    Halcyon Contributing Member Contributor

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    The main character dying early didn't hinder "The Sixth Sense" too much. ;)
     
  4. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    Forgot the book and the author but I have read a story in which something like that happens. A person dies and family and friends gather for his funeral. Everyone gathered remembers him in his/her own way depending on the relationship they each had had with him. So, the person who dies even before the story begins remains the MC in the story.
     
  5. jeanne
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    jeanne Member

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    But he had never gone. He was pretty much ordinary character, just appeared to die already.
     
  6. roseberryse
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    roseberryse Member

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    I think this could work if you already have a secondary character that is well developed and that the reader has already established a relationship with. Replacing with some random character would be quite frustrating from an audience standpoint.
     
  7. Tavares765
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    Tavares765 Member

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    I havent seen it happen in any mainstream published books but i do remember a self published book I read when I was younger. The story was told in both the hero and the villian's point of view and about midway to the story the hero is killed leaving his friends to carry out the mission. From that point on the book focuses on the villian but in a clever way as to reveal how his confrontation with the hero took place. These details actually play a part in how the friends of the hero defeat the villian. So to answer your question I believe the best way to continue a story after a hero is gone is to have the story either focus on a well developed secondary character or an enjoyable villian.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Keep in mind that the main character need not be the point of view character. The story CAN continue after the main character has departed.

    But you should choose your main and POV characters well from the start.
     
  9. CaptainMcNeil
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    CaptainMcNeil New Member

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    When the main character dies I've always een the next major character take over.
     
  10. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    I did a second book once where I didn't kill off the main character but it wasn't about the original main character. The second book was about a secondary character. It worked out just fine. Aside from the fact it was one of the first (serious) things I'd written and my writing wasn't very evolved then. ;)
     
  11. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Walter M. Miller, Jr. did that very effectively in A Canticle for Leibowitz. As I recall, he seemed to start a completely new story with new characters (but in the same world), and then they started interacting with the original story.
     
  12. Falconjudge
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    Falconjudge Member

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    You could have the other characters on a quest to bring him back, if it's a fantasy story...
     
  13. Unit7
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    Unit7 Contributing Member Contributor

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    If I were to kill off my main character it would definitely be towards the end. The remaining chapter or chapters would focus on the impact he had on the people around him. Maybe a glimpse of their lives a few months later either continuing what the Main Character set out to accomplish or just seeing how this person just effected them so.

    But I would make sure I had a strong secondary character that could take up his mantle.

    Of course if its in a fantasy story I might have them try and revive him and maybe have them almost succeed but have the fallen hero tell them that it's not what he wants. That they need to move on and live their lives the best they can.

    While I don't mind seeing the Main Character come back to life... I just don't think I would do that. Of course if everyone was led to believe he was dead but in reality he wasn't... then I guess it wouldn't really be bringing him back from the dead to begin with. :p
     
  14. Anonym
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    Like real life. People grieve, adapt and move on. Life goes on. That's how sh*t is in real life, emulate that.
     
  15. satch
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    satch New Member

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    They could kill him, but they cant kill his plans that are still alive haunting the bad. Our hero might had an idea what is going to happen. So he planned a tricky...plan for the bad.

    What do u think about it?
     
  16. Shinn
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    Shinn Banned

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    In mine, the main character (a WW2 bomber pilot) dies before the start of the book, so his crew are posted to a special duties squadron "headless", where, it seems, a young Australian pilot by the name of "Skippy" is a reincarnation of their old captain. So he lives on, in a sense, through Skippy's words and actions.
     
  17. jacklondonsghost
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    jacklondonsghost Contributing Member

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    The Great Gatsby is a fantastic example of this.
     
  18. Evil Flamingo
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    Evil Flamingo Contributing Member Contributor

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    If not the perfect example.
     
  19. SilverWolf0101
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    SilverWolf0101 Active Member

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    The anime series, Yu Yu Hakusho, deals with this concept. The main character Yusuke Urameshi dies as soon as the story begins. In fact, the very first thing you see is his dead body.

    After that, the story works from there. Really, it's not about the people around him morning his death or reflecting on his life. The idea of the story is him reflecting on his own life as a ghost. Eventually he is given the option to return to his life, but he has to prove he can. Basically, he has to change the horrid person he was and become someone completely better.

    It was an interesting twist on the whole, character turn around thing. Even though the story continues into him fighting demons from the underworld (just so he can maintain his life), it was well worth the read.
     
  20. Ophiucha
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    Ophiucha Member

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    Though not a literary example, I would think Psycho did this somewhat effectively. You believe the girl is the main character, follow her around for a bit, and then she is stabbed to death. As long as you plan appropriately for it, then killing off the main character can be a powerful tool for changing the mood of the story.
     
  21. ilocar
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    ilocar Member

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    Great Gatsby is the perfect example.
    Another good example is The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson, good example of a secondary Character taking up the mantle
    The Anime series Guren Lagan is another example where the main character dies early and his apprentice(so to speak) has to do all the evil fighting in his place.
     
  22. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    "evil fighting" or "evil-fighting"?
     
  23. Andrae Smith
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    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    Well I could say I'm learning more from you than I thought, I was going to say the same thing, Cogito ha ha
    But in any case, he is right, and it really depends on your POV. If your POV is 3rd person limited and follows your MC, then you should have a core or central secondary character who can replace him smoothly. Say Harry Potter were to die on his quest, despite the fact that they'd have been fighting in vein becasue of the prophecy, we would have looked to Ron, Hermione, and Neville to continue the fight against Lord Voldemort. So even withuot Harry we could could have Ron be the final hero.

    Or as Cogito Suggests, your POV would follow Ron or Hermione, but the story would be about Harry's endeavors. Its a little tricky to do things this way, but some really great stories are written this way. For example, in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness Marlow is definitely the MC, but with the right evidence, one could reasonably argue that Marlow is the POV, while the enigmatic Mr. Kurtz is the MC. [It would not be a strong argument and very difficult to support, but in an english clas it definitely shows a different train of though lol]
     
  24. Complex
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    Complex Senior Member

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    You say 'main character' as if there can be only one. If there is only one, then no, the story is likely to fall apart unless some other force (like afterlife things) keep the main character around. 'Killed off' typically means you are gone, no more, bye bye and don't let the door hit you on the way out. Soap opera characters are 'killed off' with some regularity, but other characters are there to focus on. First person novels are basically stuck with the 'kill MC = book end' unless going for that post-death experience story.
     
  25. Furyvore
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    You could look into the book: The Lovely Bones (don't bother with the movie, it doesn't capture the essence of the book). The protagonist there is dead right from the beginning, and narrates the whole thing from her vantage point in the in-between (a sort of cross-roads between Earth and Heaven). While the book sort of loses it towards the end (in my opinion), the first half of it is very intriguing as it focuses on the family grief.

    On a side note, why not have the book end right when the main character dies? you can have a conflict resolve itself in the time it takes the character to die from his wounds, so that your readers know how any particular fight ended, but if you made a very relate-able character, and just have everything go dark when that character dies, that can be a powerful ending if done right.
     

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