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  1. TheDarkPrince
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    TheDarkPrince New Member

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    Killing the main character?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by TheDarkPrince, Nov 3, 2008.

    How do you think reader's would respond to the death of the protagonist/other main character at the hands of a relatively minor character?
    Thanks
     
  2. lordofhats
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    lordofhats Contributing Member

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    Depends on how it's done. The main protagonist dies at the hands of a minor character is so vague I can't give a definitive answer. How is it done? Why? What is the purpose and how does it fit into the story? This is the sort of thing that angers people if done poorly or needlessly but can immortalize the character for all time if you do it right. What makes it right or wrong I don't know. It would have to be done on case by case and the way it's written matters too.
     
  3. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    Lordofhats is right. If it's necessary to the story, do it. If not, then don't. Admittedly it's an oversimplified way of putting it, but then your question was oversimplified as well.
     
  4. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have to agree with the above posters. Do it if it's necessary, don't do it if it's not.

    I personally tend to shy away from making minor characters do something that impacts the story too much, such as killing off a main character, but that is just me. Do what works best for you.
     
  5. TheDarkPrince
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    TheDarkPrince New Member

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    The main character is under the employ of the world's main antagonist, and is more or less evil himself. The story deals with his struggles to stick with his ideals, and his problems with how he must carry out his job. He is a witch hunter who is later killed (I don't know how or under what circumstances) by some rebel leader. (I'm planning on the rebel becoming a main character in another story.)
     
  6. Suomyno
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    Suomyno Member

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    If it needs to happen let it happen, but don't let the MC be killed off just for the sake of having the MC killed off.
     
  7. Sylvester
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    Sylvester Member

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    Sands of Iwo Jima

    If I remember right, John Wayne's character was killed at the end by a Japanese soldier that was little more then an extra. In my opinion, it worked.

    One that didn't work was the the shooting death of the character "DL" on "Heroes" by a simple thug. It seemed more like a an excuse to get rid of him.

    I think such an idea can work, but it has to be done carefully. How the audience percieves the death will also depend on how attached they become to the ill-fated character.
     
  8. Emerald
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    Emerald Contributing Member

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    You need to set him up for his death for quite a while. If the audience is emotionally involved in this character, and then he just suddenly dies, they're going to feel betrayed by you. They will be a lot more reluctant to trust you, the author.
     
  9. lordofhats
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    lordofhats Contributing Member

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    I disagree. Getting readers emotionally involved in the character and killing him is the point. If they don't care it won't mean anything to them whether he lives or dies.

    The key is not to make the death feel cheap or needless. You do need to build it up right, and you have to avoid the feeling of cheapness or else they'll just be pissed. Set it all up right and the readers may be sad but they'll be able to move on with the death of their beloved hero and maybe even remember him all the more. As examples I give: Aslan, Gandalf (though he came back later), and The Third Hokage.
     
  10. Emerald
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    Emerald Contributing Member

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    That's what I meant. If the audience is invested in a character, they want the death to at least be an emotional payoff. If he's suddenly offed by some random minor character and never heard from again they'll feel betrayed. I'm not saying you shouldn't get your readers emotionally involved in a character you plan to have die. Hell, the readers should be emotionally involved in everything, even the couch your characters are sitting on, if you're good.
     
  11. JGraham
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    JGraham Senior Member

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    I believe that this tactic is very useful if done right. Take the book "The Pillars Of The Earth" By Ken Follett for example. About half way through one of the main characters is killed. I was very distraught with this, i hated it. For the next day i was angry with the book and didn't want to continue. It was then that i realized i had developed an attachment to the character. After i finished the book, i coudn't stop thinking about it, it was a truly wonderful experience and i still love that book.

    So, as long as you develop the characters well, and kill them off in a way people can feel sorry for them or will feel some sort of attachment to. It is a tough thing to get right of course, if you do it too quickly before the reader gets to know the character i dont think it will work. But overall i think it is a good strategy.
     
  12. lordofhats
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    lordofhats Contributing Member

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    Ah, I misread your post.

    I agree about the death of DL in Heroes. It felt cheap and I was pissed when the character didn't return for the second season after that BS. Good example of a bad way to go about it. There was no build up, no logical reason for why he died. They really could have come up with something better. I don't mind characters being killed by any form of other character, major or minor, but I don't want to spend time with a character just to see him get shot by some random event that makes little sense (random events are even ok but those had better be done well too).

    PS: Totally. The couch is part of the family too :p.
     
  13. TheDarkPrince
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    TheDarkPrince New Member

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    I agree with lordofhats, that was kind of my view from the get go. Do you all think that the death should be as monumental as that of Aslan or Gandalf, though? I mean, I want the killer to be realtively minor until the next story, so the "battle" won't be all that incredible (no Balrog), maybe even more of a lucky shot kind of thing.
     
  14. lordofhats
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    lordofhats Contributing Member

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    I think it varies. The monumental deaths of Aslan and Gandalf were so fitting and iconic. Of course they were magical characters quite literally. I think it would depend on the story.
     
  15. TheDarkPrince
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    TheDarkPrince New Member

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    Well there is quite a bit of magic in the story, and the MC is a "pure" magic user who hunts down those who practice any form of magic that isn't considered "pure" by the empire.
    The rebel who kills him is part of a village that has a long tradition of being shamanistic, which is a heretical form of magic, which leads to the entire village being prosecuted. I don't know yet if the rebel has access to any magic powerful enough to kill the witch hunter, or if he simply gets lucky.
     
  16. Emerald
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    Emerald Contributing Member

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    They both pissed me off by miraculously coming back to life, too. I think that kind of cheapened their deaths...
     
  17. lordofhats
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    lordofhats Contributing Member

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    That's certainly true. Though i wouldn't use "cheapened" I would say the fact they came back, though very fitting for the stories from which they come, did lessen the impact of the deaths later on. Fortunately I think both authors did it in such a way that I didn't feel jerked around emotionally.
     
  18. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Gandalf's "death" (I assume Aslan's was similar) was not a death in the usual sense. Yes, it had that kind of impact at the time to the other characters, but in the grand scheme it was a trial, a rite of passage for the character in mythical proportions.

    Compare this to the death of Spock in The Wrath of Khan. It was a heroic death, and would have stood well on its own. But after the movie was done shooting, and was still in post-production, Leonard Nimoy said, "Gee, this was a lot of fun. I'd really like to play Spock again. I wish we hadn't killed him off." So the writers and producer scrambled to tweak the ending just enough to lay the foundations for The Search for Spock. I felt it was a dismal choice, and cheapened the death of an iconic character.

    The death-as-transformation theme is so powerful in speculative fiction that I half expected something similar of Dumbledore. I was convinced that he Snape had let himself die and had taken Dumbledore into himself at the end of book six, to allow Dumbledore to infiltrate the Death Eaters. Obviously, that was not the path taken, but I had expected Dumbledore to be renewed in an even more powrful form in the final volume. I'm quite glad that Ms. Rowling took the path she did instead, though.
     
  19. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    David Weber was going to kill off Honor Harrington (his cash cow btw) in the book "At All Costs" but the outcry from fans when the idea leaked made him rewrite the ending and someone else died. So, it had either been done before, or considered, just depends on how well-known or popular your character is...
     
  20. redjoker
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    redjoker New Member

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    I think JK Rowling gets the award for most homicidal popular fiction writer, and most of the deaths in that just annoyed me. Snape's death is the only one that seemed "right". The massacre in book 7 was just ridiculous and unneccessary. >_>

    On the other hand, V's death in V for Vendetta was the only way it could have ended. His task was to bring the corrupt society to the ground, so it could be rebuilt (a task he wasn't suited to after his experience beneath its jackboots). The story was about a successful martyr, so it wouldn't have worked without his martyrdom.

    Please, don't do it unless you know what you're doing. It's not funny and it's not clever to swing an axe just because you can... :)
     
  21. TheDarkPrince
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    TheDarkPrince New Member

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    I don't want to do it for humor, I want the act to be shocking, but also a kind of skyrocketing event for the rebel who kills the MC.
     
  22. Etan Isar
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    Etan Isar Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have a story where all five "main" characters die. For a reason. That's what matters: the reason for the death, not the death itself.

    If you plan to use this "rebel" character in a later story, then using the death of the witch-hunter as a pivotal event in his life is a fair reason to kill the MC in the story. I'm not quite sure I get the idea of prosecuted shamans with killer magic, but the plot sounds nice.
     
  23. CommonGoods
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    CommonGoods Senior Member

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    Personally, I vote against killing MC's. That said, I must confess I did kill MC's in several of my own stories. Because sometimes, it just has to happen. I prefer writing pathos, but only if the actions/reactions are logos.

    Ok, I see how that can be confusing...

    I write about human emotions, but in such a way that it makes sense (to me of course, because we all interpet emotions in another way). If someone spend half his life hunting down the MC, he will take the shot if he can.

    How the reader reacts to the death of an MC depends on how the reader relates to him/her/it. Readers reaction in general are generally more based on how well the text is written then anything else.
     
  24. anntoucan
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    anntoucan Member

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    so here some advice, i guess.

    so here is what i do. oh by the way hi im new. any how. when i go kill off a character, which doesn't happen to often. but when i kill off somone, i always tend to make the reader feel really sorry for the character, you know use really heavy emotions when writing, somtiems it even helps if you start crying when writing, that is just me. but i hate killing off poeple, i really do. it's too sad for me. make sure you bulid up suspense when you do it makes it more dramatic.
     
  25. GuitarSolo
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    GuitarSolo Member

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    If it's done well then yes. It would of course classified as a tragedy. But one of the greatest pieces ever made was a tragedy. Romeo and Juliet
     

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