1. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Is killing off the mc too risky for a lot of readers?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Ryan Elder, Oct 8, 2015.

    Sorry, I thought I capitalized MC in the thread heading. For my screenplay, I have been tackling with what ending I should use, and I finally came up with one that should be much more satisfying where all the plot elements come together more simply and sensibly.

    I can write it out all out and get more opinions. However, in order to have this ending happen, I have to kill off the main character near the end of the second act, then another more minor character from before takes over and becomes the MC that drives the story from then on.

    I am wondering if it's okay for a more minor character, to switch and become the driving MC for the third act only. I thought about retooling the story so he was the MC the whole time instead, but I do not really have a lot for him to do for the first half, so it I don't think I could and still have it make sense to tell the first half from his point of view, when all this other important stuff is happening to the other character.

    So I was wondering, how risky is it to use this unconventional method, and kill off the MC at the end of the second act, and a more minor character, becomes the MC as a result? I mean most stories are about following a main character, and see if he reaches his goal, or if he learns something more important along the way. But in this case, there is no resolution for the main character because he is killed off before he can have one. But the ending for everyone else and for the story as a whole could hold up a lot better. What do you think?
     
  2. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I can think of at least two books that followed that approach and worked just fine. It's all in the execution.
     
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  3. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    A situation where there are several MCs and one or some of them die is fine by me, but having one MC for two acts and another MC for the final act might be jarring.
     
  4. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    To be clear, in the examples I am thinking of, the MC was the only MC up until his/her death. I didn't have a problem with it.
     
  5. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. Well, what I am worried about is the reader not caring enough about the new guy because he was only in a few scenes before, where as the MC got a lot more time to develop and was put through more events. I could perhaps write some other scenes with the other character prior, but then I feel like I would be juggling too much perhaps instead of having a clear MC for the first two acts, but then as a result, the reader may think that the new MC is perhaps underdeveloped for a climax, only having six or seven scenes, prior?
     
  6. Australis
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    Australis Active Member

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    It depends. Are you giving the reader a reason to continue reading?

    I remember reading the most perfect first chapter, a first chapter anybody would love to be capable of writing. You would fall in love with the story, and the characters before the end of the first page. This was a story where you wouldn't even attempt to find fault in. If it was a religious piece, it could have converted the most militant atheist. At the end of the chapter, the author killed everybody off. I didn't bother to read another word.

    Ask yourself this. Who else is in the story when you kill off your MC. Is there any reason for a reader to want to know what happens?
     
  7. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. Well there still are the villains, and the allies of the MC. When you say is there any reason for a reader to know what happens, what do you mean by that exactly?
     
  8. DeathandGrim
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    DeathandGrim Contributing Member

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    As long as the SC who takes over for the MC as MC is developed enough past "Guy in background 4" so that the adjustment to his new spotlight is smoothly transitioned in then I think it can go fine.
     
  9. ToBeInspired
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    ToBeInspired Contributing Member

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    I don't really mind MC's being killed off as long as another decent character replaces them. Death is kind of part of life and all that, you know? I actually find it a bit more ridiculous when no one dies in a book (depending on the genre). Heroes go through a giant war -- miracle after miracle -- they all survive.

    If it makes the book more realistic, hell kill them all off. You can always make more characters. Just be careful and don't get a Misery-type situation going on.
     
  10. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. I haven't read Misery, so what is a Misery type situation? I think that the character that takes over can be more interesting, but only for the climax, and not for the whole story perhaps.
     
  11. Daemon Wolf
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    Daemon Wolf Active Member

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    That's just going to annoy readers. If you have more than one main character than yeah, killing off the main-main one wouldn't be to bad for having one of them pick up the story, but having a random minor character that the readers don't even know is a no no in my book. I say don't do it unless you are going to develop the "minor" character more and make him/her more of a secondary main character. Still it being like that I would personally just put down the book.

    I have played game series' and even know of book series' (I know I plan to do it) that kill off the MC at the END of one of the games to replace them with another Main Character of the game/books. But it is ALWAYS at the end and ALWAYS replaced by a MAIN character. Not a minor.
     
  12. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. It's just I don't have much for the minor to do before the third act. So if that's the case, then maybe I should keep the MC alive, and find another way.
     
  13. Albirich
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    Albirich Active Member

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    The simple answer is no. People stated before that it's all about execution, and that's pretty much it. In that lies buildup, drama and all that.
    And your minor character that becomes mc is not really a minor character at all if you go that route, it's been done and if it's done right there's nothing wrong with it, wouldn't even call it unconventional. Urr...or if they don't know who your minor character is at all, without the proper buildup, foreshadowing or character development from his/her end then I'd say it's a no go, though I'd go about trying to give him/her some kind of buildup and continue on the route you want instead of altering the story completely. I honestly doubt you don't have any way of introducing this minor character and feeding the readers enough info to take it from there. There's always a way. :)
     
  14. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. It's just I have been trying to write an ending without plot holes, and if I have the lead character not survive, and have him die before the third act, then the plot holes dies with him, and everything comes together well.

    I might be able to restructure the story so that the more minor character is the main character throughout and it's all told from his point of view, but he is much less sympathetic character, with potentially hypocritical views, so as long as the reader does not mind rooting for such a character, then it might work.
     
  15. Albirich
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    Albirich Active Member

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    Think less about what the readers want to read and more about what you want to write.
     
  16. Masked Mole
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    Masked Mole Contributing Member

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    Personally, I'd like to read something like that. It's not predictable or forced, and I certainly don't see it much. If it feels good, at least believe in it enough to put it in words. You can do it.
     
  17. Lyrical
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    Lyrical Frumious Bandersnatch

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    I don't agree with Daemon Wolf. I think it could annoy some readers, but it wont annoy all readers. I would be fine with this, as long as there were a reason for me to keep reading, as @Australis said. Like, to find out what happened to the MC, or to see if his original mission gets picked up and carried on by the SC, or what could possibly be left of a story where the central character is dead.

    Also, I know you said you don't have a lot for the SC to do. In light of that, I would not restructure the story around him, as he might bore your readers and the death of your MC would not seem like such a big deal. Keep him as an SC, but maybe you could pepper little hints or foreshadowing about him throughout the earlier chapters. Little mentions of him here and there, maybe he could show up one or two times more often than he already does. If the reader's subconscious is aware of him, his inheritance of the story wont seem so unexpected. Does that make sense?
     
  18. Kallisto
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    Kallisto Active Member

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    It can be done. Is it a risk? It's a risk to kill the MC no matter where it is in the story. Some people will like it and some will absolutely hate it. I think what the challenge is to make the minor character developed enough that people are willing to accept that the story will now follow a different perspective. This second character needs to be just as developed as the MC.
     
  19. Australis
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    Australis Active Member

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    You don't need to make him the main character from the start. You merely need to give the reader a reason to continue reading.
    Killing the main character halfway through is only suicidal if you haven't given the reader reason to continue.
     
  20. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    Um guys? This is a screenplay. Whether you would read it or not is completely irrelevant. And @Ryan Elder, movies don't have main characters, they have protagonists. Books have main characters because we see and understand things through their eyes. Movies don't have that problem. You can have several protagonists, killing one of them should not be a major problem, and it's been done to great effect before.
     
  21. ADreamer
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    ADreamer Banned Sock-Puppet

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    For a screenplay - which is for movies, TV shows, etc. by majority - there's countless of series with major [but not main] characters being killed off. Walking Dead for example I believe has killed off some lead characters or at least as important characters. Game of Thrones is another.


    Really the question depends on how good a writer you are above all else. It can be done.

    There's a few books - and fewer movies / TV shows - where a secondary character takes over the lead but oftentimes the secondary character sort of plays a "sidekick" role and just isn't thrust into the lead position for the heck of it. Such as Dracula 2000. In the most basic summary the semi-main character throughout the initial start is Van Helsing vs. Dracula... it then becomes Van Helsing's dubious assistant/apprentice who takes up the fight in place of his "mentor". There was a vampire TV show - Strain? I believe - which followed a similar sort of mindset.

    If you can connect character A and character B then it'll work. It doesn't sound like character A and character B has anymore than a passing connection though - but are utterly separate in your idea. I mean you keep going on about making character B simply the lead instead of breaking the screenplay into pieces.
     
  22. Theoneandonly99
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    Personally, I believe that the greater the risk, the greater the potential reward. In fact, the idea does seem somewhat interesting. However, watching something like that might feel to jarring. You should really make it obvious that your next main character is now THE main character after your first one dies. Give your second MC some good enough development while the first MC is still alive then I think it can turn out pretty well.
     
  23. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. Well I think the the secondary character is too underdeveloped and will not have enough to do for the first two thirds of the story for it to work maybe. So perhaps it could best to come up with a different ending.
     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2015

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