1. DanielCross
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    DanielCross Member

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    Killed off for real.

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by DanielCross, May 27, 2010.

    Hello writers.

    I was wondering how people feel when characters, especially of the main variety, dies permanently without ever getting a get out of Grave free card. So, no ressurections, no deus ex machina, just dead and gone from a beloved series (like sirius black for example) forever.

    I'm contemplating on playing with this withing a novel i'm writing, but I'm not sure readers will appreciate it.
    However, it is necessary for the plot to continue and provides character development for the protagonist.

    So please the readers, or maintain the plot?
     
  2. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Interesting how I see this after just having a scenario playing where the main character got killed at the end. :p

    Well, to be honest, you can't please all readers. Harry Potter fans were PO'd when Sirus Black got killed and when a bunch of other characters got killed. I remember a Harry Potter forum, a girl swore she'd never read another Harry Potter book again because Rowling offed her favorite. (It was Cedric Diggory, fourth book)

    It would depend on the plot and how you weave the characters. Yes, that person will be missed, but if you're able to keep the resolve of the other characters going and keep the spirit of the book(s) alive, you should be good. :)

    There is a thing called killing off the hero too early, leaving the book empty, lifeless.
     
  3. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Don't worry about readers because you can't please them all. If the death fits with the story, then go for it. There are plenty of examples where MCs and/or likable characters are killed off for the sake of the story.
     
  4. Vacuum Eater
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    Vacuum Eater Senior Member

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    Well, analyze both choices - the character lives or the character dies - and see which one develops the story better. Sometimes, it is necessary for a character to die in order for the story to have a lasting impact (in fact, sometimes it is the only logical conclusion), but occasionally an author will take it too far in order to make his or her novels "darker."

    Since you brought Sirius Black up: I hated that he was killed. He fit the role of sort of a father figure for Harry, so I guess I should have seen it coming; after all, I can't think of a single book in which the protagonist's father figure doesn't get killed. In Star Wars, father figures Qui Gon and Obi-Wan get finished off; in Lord of the Rings, Gandalf dies (well, temporarily, but you get the point); in Pendragon, Uncle Press is killed. In Harry Potter yet another father figure - Dumbledore - also dies. Now, the reason why authors tend to get rid of the father figures is to emphasize how alone the protagonist has become and how dire the situation is, and also to show that it's time now for the protagonist himself to become the wise, strong adult.

    All I know is that this trend is starting to wear thin on me. I don't like it one bit when I get attached to the father figure (usually, father figures are pretty cool and likable - more so than the actual protagonist in many cases ;)) in a book, only to find that he "has" to get killed off in another couple of pages just to show how "dark" things have become :rolleyes:. To anyone who's considering killing off the protagonist's father figure in order to up the darkness level, may I suggest doing something a bit more unexpected - like getting rid of the trusty sidekick or the love interest instead?
     
  5. DanielCross
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    DanielCross Member

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    @Vacuum Eater, its interesting you should say that. I have it planned that both father figures survive (even if one's the main antagonist), however the love interest dies.
    The reason i'm worried about this is because it comes completely out of left field after the entire story has been built upon the hero's goal of reaching her.
    It's kind of like having Han and Leia come back from Endor, spent a happy week together, then Han gets run over by a speeder.
     
  6. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    Some good points raised. Obvious point: what was JKR supposed to do? Ask her fans if it would be okay to kill Sirius?
    I say go for it if it's necessary for the advancement of the plot. After all, it's your book, you can do whatever you want.
     
  7. Vacuum Eater
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    Vacuum Eater Senior Member

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    No, of course not! However, it is in my interest as a writer to note where other writers (no matter how accomplished and famous they may be) have fallen short, and maybe, perchance, if I figure out what went wrong, I'll have a chance to do better (at least in that particular area). I don't mean to come off as boastful or anything, but let's admit it: people within the same line of work will be competitive!

    My point was that: is it really in the best interest to kill off a really interesting character just to make the plot darker, when future sequels may actually prove more entertaining and interesting should said character survive?

    I'm one of those people who thought that JKR went overboard to show how dark and desperate things were getting in the Harry Potter universe. She's not the only one either; it seems to be a fad now. I don't know if you ever saw the TV shows Angel and Buffy: the Vampire Slayer; in their later seasons, the writers thought it'd be cool to make everything ultra dismal, desperate, and depressing. Guess what happened as a result? The ratings went down. I think there comes a point where every writer who's writing something that started out fun and whimsical, like Harry Potter), should ask himself or herself: is this really fun anymore?
     
  8. Scarecrow
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    Scarecrow Member

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    All you have to do is read some George R.R. Martin and then look at his fan base. He's killed off most of the characters he started out with in the first book and quite a large fan base. Personally I like it when prominent characters die, it give the book a larger sense of reality. All you have to do is make sure that the death is believable.
     
  9. Vacuum Eater
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    Vacuum Eater Senior Member

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    The villain is a father figure to the protagonist? This should be good. :D Be sure to PM me the title when you release the book!

    Actually, what you're describing sounds intriguing. Personally, I think it could work well indeed. If you're worried that the ending will be too out of the blue (which could be a valid concern), how about doing a bit of foreshadowing? For example, a loose end, which the protagonist ignored due to thinking it was insignificant, could be the ultimate cause of the love interest's death. It would help emphasize the irony of the situation.

    On another note, I just want to clarify that the the reason I had a problem with the excessive darkness in Harry Potter is that, from the beginning, it promised a wonderful, fun escape from reality (sort of like Mary Poppins, only more mature) - and then people I've come to care about start dropping dead left to right. Don't get me wrong - this is not a dig on JKR's writing so much as me expressing my honest reaction. I think it's important to try not to stray too far from the original mood. If you want to write something dark, start off that way, or at least give sufficient hints as to where you're heading. One of the most frequent complaints I've observed about sequels is having a too sudden or too drastic change of tone when compared with the earlier books.
     
  10. Forkfoot
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    Forkfoot Contributing Member Contributor

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    You're worried people will have a problem with characters dying without the possibility of coming back? Isn't that,like, the way it normally is? Do what makes a better story; kill that sumbitch.
     
  11. Roby
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    Roby New Member

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    I am not really to concerned if the reader will like it or not. If they have to die, than death shall come to them. If they need to die, they need to die. See ya later. Kaboom. Catch. Gone. It's cold and ruthless but it's they way it has to be.
     
  12. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Only a dedicated writer could name this thread 'Killed off for real' LOL
     
  13. Lydia
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    Lydia Contributing Member Contributor

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    Actually I find it really annoying when that happens- when a character that's supposed to be dead returns. If you kill them, kill them for real. No coming back. Thank you. :)
     
  14. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I was thinking, when I first saw this thread, "This person must primarily read fantasy and science fiction." Only in these genres is death treated in such a cavalier manner.

    "Daniel Jackson is dead." "What, again?"

    "Finglas the half-elf has fallen in battle. Is there a cleric in the house?"

    In most other genres, death is final. Even when it's not handled realistically in its emotional impact, it's still a one-way trip. I would recommend to Daniel a broader range of reading material, and he will probably find his answers easily.
     
  15. DanielCross
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    DanielCross Member

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    Thanks everyone for the suggestions.

    And yes, the genre I'm pursuing is fantasy, where deaths tend to be light hearted affairs.

    I just like the phenomenon that is generated by a fictional character's death and the backlash from intelligent readers. For example, when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle threw Sherlock over the falls, the outrage was so great that he was forced to bring detective back to life. But Doyle did it because he was sick of writing detective stories.....
     
  16. Afterburner
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    Afterburner Active Member

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    I like it. I think it brings a shock to the reader and sets it out from other typical situations like you stated. It's nice to see an author take a chance and do something out of the norm.
     
  17. rainy
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    rainy Senior Member

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    I love with an MC dies for a very real, even if slightly worthless, cause. The bigger the char, the better they fall. Then the stakes are higher. I dig it. Personally.

    However, if they die anywhere before the end, make sure there's mention of them again at some point or another. Even if the world is ending, you'd still remember if you're best friend died. So I'd imagine.
     
  18. Anonym
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    Anonym Contributing Member

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    I'm rather pathologically attracted to gritty realism and the like, so I only kill off characters for real generally. But yeah, I don't give much quarter to presumed 'fan favorites'. They're all flesh and blood, and die just as easily, if not more so. Why not? Whatever is best for the story.
     
  19. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    But what about killing the character off the character too early? Like if JK Rowling offed Harry in the middle of the series?

    Just thought I'd bring that up.
     
  20. DanielCross
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    I believe that would be called a decoy protagonist, although it really depends on what time in a series the character dies.

    It rarely happens. The only instance i can think of off the top of my head is Bernard from Brave New World. He just kind of fades away from the main plot and eventually becomes a side character even though he's still alive.
     
  21. galdus
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    galdus New Member

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    kill him off by all means, but do have a replacement already on scene to replace him. Not the cavalary coming over the hill.
     
  22. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Unless you're already knee-deep in plans/plot/outline for ... say, book number three or six or twelve or something in a series, I don't really see a problem. You have a slice of life embraced between the covers.The presumption when we read is that the characters had a life before they met us and those lives will continue after we have 'laid them to rest' as it were. If your novel ends on a down note with the mc getting deep sixed then I wouldn't worry so much about the readers' take on it as any agent or publisher. So then you have to consider if the offing in the offing offers a satisfying ending. If not, you probably need to re-think either how you kill off the mc or whether you should do it or not at all or if you have or have not set it up properly in presentation.

    Y'see, much as we'd like to think it's all about the art of creation, if you plan on selling, it's all about the art of publication.
     
  23. JTheGreat
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    JTheGreat Contributing Member

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    Try not to make their death pointless. There are many purposes to kill off a character: to initiate emotional changes in characters, to initiate emotional changes in readers, or to just more the plot along. J.K. Rowling exploited both the first and second option in the mass murder we call Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

    Try not to bring characters back too much, if at all. If you do, no one will expect any of your characters to actually die, finding the protagonist invincible and boring.

    But, the REALLY clever ones will bring lots of people back, then kill off the protagonist FOR REAL.... Or maybe I'm just being paranoid.
     
  24. Shinn
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    Shinn Banned

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    I agree; if the death fits in, go ahead. I'm not one for bringing characters back, rather the reincarnation of their qualities in a new character.
     

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