1. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    Suicide in novels

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Lea`Brooks, May 12, 2015.

    Is it too morbid or disturbing to start a novel off with a suicide?

    I'm writing a novel based in the spirit realm. But the first chapter is going to be the MC's death. I originally was going to have her commit suicide, but I worry that it would be off-putting for the reader right from the start. I don't need her to commit suicide to progress the story. It could be an accident or an illness. I just need her to be in the mindset of, "I'm ready to die."

    I suppose maybe an illness would be less jarring. Because if she is sick for an extended period of time, it's very likely she'd be ready to die, yeah?

    Anyway. Thoughts?
     
  2. neuropsychopharm
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    neuropsychopharm Active Member

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    I actually love both ideas. But I agree that an illness is probably the way to go if the suicide is only plot pertinent for getting her to the other side. It would bother less people.
     
  3. BrianIff
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    BrianIff I'm so piano, a bad punctuator. Contributor

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    A less provocative passing would be less confusing unless it serves as a motif for the aims you hope the work will fulfill.
     
  4. AlcoholicWolf
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    AlcoholicWolf Contributing Member

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    If you write in a suicide, it's significant. Suicides don't just happen. It's not a freak accident. You have to have completely given up. If you don't have the reason for her committing suicide and don't "need" it in the story, leave it out.
     
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  5. TheWingedFox
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    TheWingedFox Active Member

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    If you write in the suicide, then the reader will want to know the circumstances behind the suicide, what led to it, the MC's mindset, etc.

    Also, just an idea, could the MC be in the mindset that she is ready to die, in an Eastern philosophical sense, detached from the world of the flesh, and just happen to encounter a terrible accident?

    However, from what you've already mentioned, the idea of someone accepting their terminal illness, whether old age or cancer, for example, would be a softer introduction.
     
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  6. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    As others have said, suicide is something that's planned, premeditated - it doesn't just happen, which means your readers will want to know what led to it, why etc. It sounds like such a backstory doesn't exist and suicide is just a convenient way of getting her to die - and as such, I would not use it.

    It's odd to me though that you don't know how your character dies. Surely if the death is chapter one, then at least part of the book will likely deal with her thoughts about the events that led up to her death, and also how her family and friends are coping with her death, right? And if these things are part of the story (and they would be important elements too), then how can the way by which she dies be unknown to you...? o_O
     
  7. Robert_S
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    Robert_S Contributing Member

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    The Lovely Bones starts off with the murder of 14 year old girl, so no. In fact, you may want to read that book if you haven't. There may be some overlap because it's told from the girl's perspective in heaven.
     
    Last edited: May 12, 2015
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  8. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    How your character dies is going to be a HUGE plot point ( especially if suicide) , even if you fail to address it during most of the story. In short, this should not be arbitrary.
     
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  9. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    If the MC dies in the first chapter, is she really the MC?
     
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  10. AlcoholicWolf
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    AlcoholicWolf Contributing Member

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    Well if you read the post, about it being in the spirit realm, I assume it follows the MC's story through death. So, yes, I imagine she is.
     
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  11. sprirj
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    sprirj Contributing Member

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    I prefer the suicide option, the MC is making a decision, and quite a powerful one. It's intriguing for the reader, the questions that arise from this opening. MC chooses fate.

    A illness is soft, makes the MC helpless. Feels more depressing to me, and less back story options. MC is slave to fate.
     
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  12. J.C Adkins
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    J.C Adkins Member

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    Suicide would be more interesting. Especially if as part of the story addresses why the MC killed herself.
     
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  13. SethLoki
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    SethLoki Unemployed Autodidact Contributor

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    It could be portrayed as a more rounded suicide. The MC may well have no option but to take their own life; the spectre of a slow and painful death from terminal illness say. You'd have all questions pertaining to it answered in the first chapter and will also evince a very relevant aspect of the protagonist's persona. It would be acceptable too in the mind of the reader if the MC has a belief in the 'spirit realm' you mention; there'd be less reluctance to end things (on their part) if the end was seen to be a new beginning.
     
  14. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thank you all! That was very helpful.

    The story is going to follow the MC through death and the afterlife and how she copes/heals and eventually how she helps others.

    I've done some extensive research on the type of afterlife I plan to portray, and the realm would look different to a person who committed suicide, so I thought that'd be an interesting element to add to the story. I'm not entirely sure how much time I plan to dedicate to her healing process though. I originally planned to have her trying to help and guide others, but I must admit, there isn't much meat there yet. So perhaps dedicating the first quarter or third of the book to her healing process and growth would make it more interesting.

    Thanks again! I have much to think about. :)
     
  15. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    I think you would really hook the reader if you built her up as the MC and then had her suddenly die from something like getting hit by a car or some other accident.
     
  16. Lance Schukies
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    Lance Schukies Active Member

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    I think suicide it a extreme way to start unless it a significant part of your plot use another death, I as a reader would want to know the whole build-up to the suicide and would feel cheated if the book was pushing another story.
    I put a suicide in my story and on first edit inserted another chapter to qualify why the suicide took place, it also a significant part in my ending.
     
  17. Lance Schukies
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    Lance Schukies Active Member

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    on the "ready to die" if they are old and sick they can just pass on, you really do not need to detail the death just prologue then start with the spirit , one book I read had the start with the spirit walking through his old house. seeing the people he had lived with.

    I could not find the book but found this http://biblehub.com/matthew/12-44.htm
     
  18. Spencer Rose
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    Spencer Rose Member

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    I don't think it's been addressed (probably because it's a terrible idea) but why not start the story where the character is already dead? I'm not suggesting ahe has amnesia, but discovering why she died (even if it was suicide) sounds interesting.

    "She was dead. Dead dead. Dead like door nails, like Elvis, like the VHS tape. But being dead, knowing it for a concrete fact, was oddly comforting. Peaceful. Not in the sense of spiritual enlightenment, but like a physical weight had been lifted from her chest. Like for the first time in a long time she felt... whole. Which was, in a way, ironic. Being dead and all. "

    Just my two cents. Not worth much, I know.
     
  19. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    Suicide, accident or illness completely changes the character. It's actually an important plot element. But it's fine to start with a suicide. It immediately raises questions and establishes that the character has some kind of flaw, trauma, or problem they cannot deal with. An accident is almost, boring, and an illness like an accident (pretty much the same thing, 'unfair death')creates more empathy for a tragic death where the character may not have had any flaw or problem apart from the illness, and may actually be rather brave and optimistic.

    The suicide seems the most.... interesting.
     
  20. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    "Ready to die."

    That sounds like old age, or long illness, and an acceptance that death will be a blessed release.

    Or, a life of such pain and suffering that death MUST be an improvement on this hell on earth as the justification for suicide.

    Or, a young person with a debilitating chronic condition, or perhaps quadriplegic after a car crash, and assisted suicide with the help of her mother - or younger brother. Plenty of scope for screwed up survivor guilt!

    However you decide to go , I don't see suicide at the start as a major turn-off. But you do need to decide how her death is going to be, because it will be affected by how she dies, and how she's lived.
     
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  21. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I agree with @Selbbin. Suicide is an interesting way to begin a story, provided the rest of the story makes some sort of connection to the reasons behind the suicide and builds a strong character. Death by accident or illness is random, unless the person who died had a 'death wish' and partly caused the circumstances. Death by suicide is deliberate, and probably takes courage. It might even be excessively pre-planned. All this makes for a strong character. Just get on and get it written and see how it turns out. You can always change the beginning (or any part of the story) once you have finished your first draft, if you decide another opening is better. But you won't know if it works till you get it written. So get it written, and good luck with it! Sounds promising.
     
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  22. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Not too morbid. If you feel like this is something you want to write and it's an interesting and inspiring topic/character/beginning to you, go for it.


    Although, wouldn't the OP have to change the character pretty drastically if she changed her mind about suicide and went for e.g. illness? A person who was ready to kill herself is in a different mindset, I think, than a person who dies "against their will", so to speak. Sound like these are two different stories, two different paths. Not saying it's an obstacle or a bad idea to experiment, just that it might take quite a bit of work to rewrite if one ends up changing their mind. It's true, though, you won't really know until you've written it whether it was the right decision or not...
     
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  23. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Obviously the writer needs to think of the implications of each kind of opening before setting out. But I think I meant that the writer may well discover, part way (or all the way) through, that they would have been better choosing a different opening after all. If this happens, they should not hesitate to make changes. Yes it will take a while longer, and yes a lot of previous writing will need to be dumped. But if the end product is a better story, I would hope they'd go for the new approach.
     
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  24. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    The more you all discuss, the more I'm leaning toward the suicide option.

    My story is basically about reincarnation. It follows the MC through death, healing, growth, and potentially rebirth. I wanted to show what spirits may do after they've passed, how they help and communicate with the living, what life may be like as a spirit and how they plan their next life before they are reborn.

    But that's where I come into another issue. I'm going to write that death is predetermined, by the person before they are born, to hell teach them and those around them a lesson. But... Does that seem like I'm advocating for suicide or something? I'd hate to someday write the story, get it published, and have a mother scream at me because her daughter read my book and took her own life because she thought it was her time.

    Maybe I'm just reading too much into it.
     
  25. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    No matter what you do you can't stop some people from doing stupid things. Look at all the kids who kid other kids because of the Dungeons and Dragons game. It's up to the parents to keep a good line of communication with their kids and help them keep in touch with reality.
     

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