1. JJ_Maxx
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    JJ_Maxx Banned

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    Kill Off MC In 1st Person Past Tense

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by JJ_Maxx, Oct 27, 2013.

    What do you think, can my MC die at the end if I'm using first-person past tense? Would you feel cheated?

    I will end the novel in third person and, in my opinion, the reader will feel sad because they are no longer in a position of intimacy with the character.

    Example:

    My head smashed hard against the floor. No pain.Come on, arms, move. Nothing. All the sensory signals had stopped. I was trapped in a dying body. Trapped. The blood pooled around my head, creating strange patterns with the curls of my hair. I could still see Wesley lying motionless beside me. I killed him. I killed him and now I've killed myself. The edges of my vision collapsed inward with a foggy blackness. Now I was alone with my thoughts. No pain, no fear, just regret. I love you Wesley, I'm so sorry.

    Chapter 32

    Wesley stood in the rain. The drops from the large oak tree plopping against his black umbrella. He shifted painfully against his crutch, bumping into Reggie.

    "What will you do now?" Reggie whispered.

    A tear ran down Wesley's cheek, standing out against the unending rain. He watched the coffin being lowered into the ground.

    "Find the man who did this," said Wesley, "and kill him."
     
  2. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    That kind of thing works for me. I've seen in done before in fiction (not published fiction, just stuff shared online) and I thought it worked.
     
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  3. JayG
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    JayG Banned Contributor

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    Okay, you're someone who reads at lunch, so every day you get a half hour with the protagonist. You've spent an entire week, or more, sharing the struggle, the hopes, the uncertainty your protagonist has lived through. Now, we come to the climax, the black moment, when all seems lost. But poetic justice demands they be rewarded for being steadfast, for not walking away when good sense and sanity shouted to run. And after all that work, worry, and sacrifice you're going to slaughter the protagonist and tell the reader they backed the wrong horse?

    Are you out of your fucking mind?
     
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  4. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, JJ, there's a lot of flaws in that paragraph, in terms of clarity, but I won't get into them unless you want.

    Since you gave an example, I think you're actually asking two questions.

    1. Does it bother you if you read about the MC dying from their point of view.
    Yes and no. No, in the sense that the emotional impact you can get from this could be staggering. However, if it comes off cheesy, or unrealistic, since describing your own death seems difficult to do, then yes, I'd mind this.

    2. Does it bother you the MC, who delivers the story himself, dies in the end?
    No. In fact. I love it when the MC character dies. Doesn't get more dramatic than that.
     
  5. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    This is a limited view of course, but I think it would work fine. I also think you've left yourself room to switch MC's and carry on in a sequel if you want. I don't see a problem with it and I don't think I'd feel cheated. In fact, I prefer realistic stories over the happy ending rule so I really think this would work for me.
     
  6. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I think this works just fine (with modification, possibly less melodrama—I'd try it without the I killed him. I killed him and now I've killed myself.)

    However, a lot depends on whether this ending is justified by what else happened in the story. Is his death the logical and emotional culmination of all that went before, and does it solve some major story problem? If the answer is yes, then go for it.

    I like the fact that his friend doesn't appear to know he's killed himself. That's a story in itself, isn't it?
     
  7. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    Me too. The sequel would be way fun to write (to me anyway, lol).
     
  8. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    What? I've read your excerpt and I don't get it.... what happened? The MC killed Wesley and then killed himself. Then Wesley turns out not to be dead (that's fine, because I take it that the MC only assumes Wesley was dead). The coffin clearly contains the body of the MC. And Wesley says "I'm going to find the man who did this and kill him"?

    What man? I thought the MC did it? And how's that an ending? It looks rather more like the beginning of a book, not the end, because now Wesley would be on a quest for the murderer, culminating in either finding him or realising it was the MC all along.

    I haven't a clue what Trish and Jannert mean by the friend doesn't seem to know he killed himself. What now??

    I'm just all round confused.

    As for the MC dying - no, I wouldn't mind if that's the logical culmination of the story, but something like this could easily go wrong. I don't see a problem with the MC describing his own death.
     
  9. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    The MC did do it I think, but that doesn't mean that Wesley knows that since we don't know how. There are a million ways that the MC could have hurt Wesley, then killed themselves, and Wesley have no clue.

    Also, it's possible that the MC did NOT do it, because it's in first person, we only know the MC's feelings/reactions to any given stimuli. So it's possible that the MC feels they did it out of guilt for creating (or not stopping) the situation that caused the (apparent to MC) death of Wesley. That's one of the best things about first person POV, in my opinion, and there are so many ways it could play out. Personally, I love it.
     
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  10. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I wouldn't feel cheated, no, even if it's 1st person past tense. Sure, it might beg the question "how did he tell the story if he's dead?" but not all 1st person requires it to be their memoir, at least I don't really read 1st person novels like that, unless it's made really obvious, "this is my memoir, this is my story. I was ten when..." Or if it's done like in The Lovely Bones where the girl tells the story from Heaven.

    I also like it when the MC dies at the end, don't know why. I don't expect the hero to prevail. Though I don't really mind if they do, as long as it fits.

    Also, I think this is totally cool because your character is called Reggie and I've grown fond of the name, having written one Reggie myself and it was a lot of fun :D
     
  11. redreversed
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    redreversed Active Member

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    Completely fine with that, you could even make it sound more detailed and medical for extra shock

    My head smashed hard against the floor, breaking my skull.
    Individual bone fragments speared and lodged into my brain, shutting it down.
     
  12. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Of course you can do it. It has been done before, successfully. Just do a good job of it, and most readers will go with it. You shouldn't worry about the ones who won't.
     
  13. JJ_Maxx
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    JJ_Maxx Banned

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    Thank you all for your input! I knew I could count on you guys!

    As far as the 'example', it was just a generic, truncated scene that I threw together to show you what I was thinking. Of course, my ending will be much better than that, and will be better written. ;)

    Even though it's a flash-fiction type example, the MC didn't directly kill Wesley, or herself, she just feels responsible for the actions that lead to both of their (alleged) deaths. ;)

    Yes, Reggie is one of the main characters in my story, but unfortunately he doesn't make it very far through the book. :( #spoilers

    Yes, the ending is a culmination of my MC falling deeper and deeper into psychosis until she loses all grip on reality and winds up getting killed. Don't worry though, I am going to have a small glimmer of personal redemption at the end, just enough so I don't cause any severe depression in my readers. ;)
     
  14. JJ_Maxx
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    JJ_Maxx Banned

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    Sorry Jay. The story must be told. Yes, it is sad, but everybody was pulling for Romeo and Juliet too. Tragedies have their place.
     
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  15. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    it can work, but only if the narrator is telling the story either in present tense, or in past tense from the afterworld, such as was done so well in 'sunset boulevard'...

    if he's not doing the latter, then how can he possibly be telling what happened before he died, in past tense, which he could only be doing after he died?
     
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  16. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I've seen works where neither is the case. Sometimes, it is just a stylistic choice of the author, and it isn't meant to be assumed that the narrator is directly telling you the story, any more than a third-person narrator has to be considered a separate entity chronicling the events of a story. I've seen this sort of thing enough in first person than when I read a first person story, I no longer assume that the narrator is meant to be telling me the story in hindsight, from some time after the events of the story. Also, if that assumption always had to follow a first-person past-tense narration, then would a first-person present tense narration mean the main character is dictating or otherwise recording the events as they happen?

    I think it is just a stylistic choice many times, and too much shouldn't be read into it. In other cases, it is meant to be a narrator recounting events, but the author usually makes that clear.
     
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2013
  17. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ultimate closure.
     
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  18. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    My favorite example of this is Poe's "MS Found in a Bottle".
     
  19. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well now I have a question. Does it bother people if a novel, told entirely in 1st person past, switches to another pov to show the mcs death?afterall, JJ does switch in the end anyway.
     
  20. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    No. I've read novels that do that as well, and it didn't bother me at all. Really, the only question in these sorts of scenarios is whether the author pulls it off successfully.
     
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  21. JJ_Maxx
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    JJ_Maxx Banned

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    This, in my opinion, would be meaner than killing a character for the reader. I wouldn't want to deny the reader the opportunity to be there, at the end. All those unfulfilled dreams and regrets... No, you have to be in her head for the end. She makes her peace, sort of, and the readers shares those last tender moments.
     
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  22. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Good choice, I reckon.
     
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  23. DeathandGrim
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    DeathandGrim Contributing Member

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    Not the first time it's been done. Sometimes it can be completely understood if the story demands it. It's just that it probably shouldn't be done so late in the game unless its the 9th inning you follow me?
     
  24. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    I disagree. I think it could be done on the last page if it needs to be. He could always write a sequel later...
     
  25. DeathandGrim
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    DeathandGrim Contributing Member

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    I'm just saying that if you're going to kill the MC you don't do it unless it's for closure or it's a throwaway character you're killing early on for a desired effect.

    But you don't build an interest in a character for so long to kill them midway through. Unless there's someone we're equally invested in to take up the mantle.
     

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