1. Mithrandir
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    Mithrandir Contributing Member

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    Sacrifice and Death in characters

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Mithrandir, Apr 1, 2013.

    In the beginning of my novel, I have a character who is preoccupied by survival. He abandons his previous moral code and does anything he can to survive. Eventually, the group that he's with takes over and does some really nasty stuff. In the process, this character slowly realizes that he doesn't value his life as much as he values justice and upholding his previous vows.

    I'm pretty confident that this is the right way to take the character, but I am undecided on how this arc should end. Currently, he eventually sacrifices his life in a dramatic moment (involving explosives and tortured children). I have been mulling over a different direction where his desire to fix injustice and atone for his own sins actually leads to him surviving the situation.

    What direction do you guys think I should go? The dramatic fulfillment of his character's evolution, or the ironic twist where he saves his life when he stops caring about whether his lives or dies.
     
  2. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    well...irony is always the more literary direction: but, are you saying that you are writing a story that you do not know how it ends...?
     
  3. Mithrandir
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    Mithrandir Contributing Member

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    It's a novel I am currently writing. I am just unsure about the end of this particular character's arc. I could write it either way in the upcoming days.
     
  4. Suffering-is-Beauty
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    Suffering-is-Beauty Member

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    just an idea for an ironic ending. you could have the character attempting to atone for his sins, but not kill him. since he values justice over his own life he would have to pay the price for his own sins, and that could be taking his ability to literally fight injustice. the bombs and tortured children could leave him handicapped and if he has others in his company, don't know, they would have to care for him. he could then ply his craft as a teacher for those that would follow his newfound code.

    there, now you have a similar concept to the somewhat similar and unfinished book that's been floating, literally I mean, around my house for the past year, and our characters would probably be best friends. after all what's better than murderous psychopaths with a hard on for justice.
     
  5. Nee
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    Nee Contributing Member

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    Novels are not stories...? :)

    If you think this character has potential for continuation in another tale, then have him survive: though in a way where he'll be tormented even more about his denial of his principals.
     
  6. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Saving his life when he finally realises what really matters and putting those things above his own life is a pretty beautiful way to end things, in my opinion. But you should decide for yourself - only you know which ending is right for your character.
     
  7. Mithrandir
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    Mithrandir Contributing Member

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    That's why I'm so conflicted. I have a really nice scene planned for his death/sacrifice, but this new direction for the character has me doubting in which direction I should go. I suppose I should write out both and see which one feels right. I'm still on my first draft, so maybe I'll just write out my first idea and revisit the scenario on the second draft.
     
  8. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    What tone are you going for? I think having him die is more straightforward and "serious," so to speak, and the ironic twist is more playful. Be careful with the ironic version, because it may come across as too contrived, and you might look to the reader like you're just showing off and not taking your own story seriously enough.
     
  9. Mithrandir
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    Mithrandir Contributing Member

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    My tone is definately serious. This is very helpful, thank you.
     
  10. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Well, it depends on your message - if you're going for realistic and heroic, death might be better. Somehow a hero dying has great impact - like in Gran Torina - spoilers below:

    when Clint Eastwood dies in order to rat out a group of gangsters so the police will have evidence to arrest them, in order to protect a family of Mongolians whom Eastwood had befriended. If he didn't die, I don't think it'd have been half as good - there's something in giving up your life for something greater than yourself.

    Or here's another death that was tragic but absolutely necessary, in an anime called Death Note (it's excellent, if you haven't seen it but are going to, rather don't read the spoiler - it's actually that great and the spoiler is rather huge):

    L dies and if he didn't, I don't think his character would've been half as powerful - there's this sense that he gave his life up for something, some element of hope that he represented and when he died, he took that hope with him and it turned him into a quirky, cool character into someone great and legendary - not even because he sacrificed himself deliberately, but just the fact that he died for something.

    Or, if you're going for an inspirational message, or for example if your book is more for YA audience, then your hero probably shouldn't die.
     
  11. Xatron
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    Xatron Contributing Member

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    As the others said, it depends on your target group. If you are writing a YA book then it might work better if he comes out alive.If not, then you should definitely go with death.


    BTW if you plan to watch Death Note you want to follow my advice: when you reach the part Mckk talks about in his spoiler, watch 1 more episode and then quit watching. The rest is garbage.
     
  12. Ubrechor
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    Ubrechor Active Member

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    This is all just my opinion, but with such a significant moment in the story, I think you should take a step back and forget all the logistics of writing the novel itself. Forget about whether the character has unfulfilled potential, forget about what's expected for your audience.
    Just consider what message you want to convey with this moment. Because every action will convey a certain message in a novel, and this seems like a very key moment, no matter which way you choose to go with it. How do you want your character to be remembered? How would YOU like to remember YOUR character after you've finished writing the novel?

    I, personally, would keep the sacrifice, but it's entirely down to you.
     
  13. Mithrandir
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    Mithrandir Contributing Member

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    I've made up my mind, with help from all of you, to end his arc in the way I originally imagined. Your perspectives have really helped.
     
  14. Simmy1993
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    Simmy1993 Member

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    The only advice I can give, (I know you've made up your mind) is before killing off a character realize that once he's gone, he's gone. Unless you go the route of your avatar there, of course. Don't kill people off without serious thought.
     
  15. GoldenFeather
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    GoldenFeather Active Member

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    I think if your character dies it will be more poetic.

    I don't like typical happy endings or things that a predictable. I also think that if he dies, you will emphasize your point that much more, that people would even DIE to uphold justice. I think it would have a greater impact on the reader. I think you should stick to your original story.
     

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