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  1. Sieglinde
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    Sieglinde Member

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    To Kill A Protagonist

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Sieglinde, Apr 28, 2010.

    I want to end my current WIP with the protagonist's death. (About 5 people died before him, I'm really a character killer.)

    The story depicts his downfall. By the end, he has lost everything (including his life partner) and he's also suffering from an injury that never really healed. Their love was doomed from the beginning - it was a hanging crime and although they weren't caught, it can only be fulfilled in death.


    So he has two options.

    1. Going back to his ship (setting is Nelson-era Royal Navy) and die in a battle, but wouldn't it look like as something that came very handy and deus ex machina?

    2. Kill himself to defend his honour (at this point, he doesn't really care about his soul anymore). But he must do it with style, like a gentleman who sees Greek/Roman heroes as an example. (Falling into a sword would not work though - he's alone, and you need a servant to help if you want to do it properly).
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    It sounds like you already know. If his death serves the story better than his survival, then let him die. And choose the death that best serves the story.
     
  3. Eutheria
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    It depends under the circumstances he returns to his ship. If it was part of his duty to return to his ship and engage in that fight (to soldier on) then it would seem only natural.
     
  4. Sieglinde
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    Sieglinde Member

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    His death is necessary. It's predestined and foreshadowed.
     
  5. Unit7
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    If I were to kill off my protagonist and he was in the army/navy/some other military group. I always figured I would send him off into a battle he couldn't win but decided to try for it anyways.

    If the battle is necessary and important to some struggle found in your setting, then I wouldn't say it is a Dues Ex Machina.
     
  6. Azihayya
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    Azihayya Banned

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    for good sources you could go to Candide world that guy basically should have died, personally I would have liked another ending but thats Voltaire

    hes got to hate everything he says, because the world expects him to explain himself and assert his purpose, but he just keeps dying because people inflect their karma against him, they say with their argument, "the world will never heal, it is abomidable and cursed"

    thats what this characters actions are about, hes going to restore faith but walking into all of the traps in the world
     
  7. Sieglinde
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    Sieglinde Member

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    Candide is a satire. This is not.
     
  8. Halcyon
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    Halcyon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hey, I share your penchant for character killing. Such a satisfying feeling!

    But with such a high body count, I almost feel like this character's death would be expected by the majority of readers who see your story through to the end.

    Soooo, I'll be radical. Let the poor guy live! ;)
     
  9. Sieglinde
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    No, I hate anticlimax. He's the tragic hero, he must diiiiie. :D
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    For what it's worth, anticlimax is the falling action after the climax of a story, not a softer climax.
     
  11. Sieglinde
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    According to TvTropes this is what you call it when a book/film doesn't end, just cuts somewhere.
     
  12. Cosmos
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    I've had to kill off characters I loved before and had difficulty deciding either whether to do it or how to do it. As strange as it sounds after spending weeks on one character I finally decided to flip for it. Yes, flip a coin. I don't really recommend that, unless you're totally stumped. But it worked for me. I'm happy with result, and if I were pressed again I'd resort to that. Fortunately, I generally just see where the story is headed and that tells me if the character should die, and how.
     
  13. Jemnisimi
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    Hrm.

    We'd have to read the whole story and/or understand all the characters surrounding him to pick "the best death".

    They both have their quirks.

    In battle, the death of the protagonist should be something very meaningful or at least be precluded by something that makes it a bit interesting/ironic etc that he got waxed.

    If he kills himself, his thoughts are likely to be some meaningful monologue which if done right could also be interesting. Or fall victim to emo kid syndrome.

    Either way, it's pretty hard for anyone to tell you how your novel should end, heh. It's all about HOW you do it.
     
  14. Sieglinde
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    Yeah, that's it. The method is important. if he'd die in battle, it has to be a victorious one... but then, Nelson Did That. :p

    If suicide, he must do it stoically, no emo-ing at all. I know some great examples, but all of those were antagonists.
     
  15. Norm
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    Norm Contributing Member

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    Just do it your own way. Hurry up and write it. If it doesn't turn out good, then re-write it. People who don't even know your characters aren't the ones to decide their fate.
     
  16. Karl C. Lewis
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    just one thing to think about.....Good endings make readers think and ponder the significance of the story and the human condition.
     
  17. Jemnisimi
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    I would argue that stories with "bad endings" do that too, if you're meaning "good endings" as in the protagonist lives.

    I know this is a writing forum but as far as stories in general go, an example of the very apex of this truth comes from the PSP game Final Fantasy 7: Crisis Core.

    It's a profound story with an even more profound ending. The protagonist dies at the end, and as in the case of the author of this thread's book, everyone knew he was going to die (and many knew how). I certainly did, but even in knowing all that, the scene in which it occurred was so well-done and tied it all off so well that my boyfriend of ten years and I both broke down sobbing at the end (and both of us rarely cry).

    Again.... it's all in how it's done.
     
  18. Pallas
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    Pallas Contributing Member Contributor

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    I cannot say much from experience, all I have wholeheartedly written is this one fantasy epic I am trying to finish. I had decided at the beginning that my protagonist would live, survive the climax, but organically as I breathed words and thoughts into him, I got this nagging feeling he had to die. Now I cannot see the story ending well if he survives; how curious that is. The trouble is that in knowing, this builds some great expectation that hopefully I will be able to articulate well when I reach the end.
     
  19. Sieglinde
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    Sieglinde Member

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    I knew from the beginning he has to die. The story is dark by default, and it would be too cruel to let him live (what would he do, wander on the seashore and angst like Maglor? Noooo.)
     
  20. Halcyon
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    Halcyon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Damn, is this guy still not dead? ;)
     
  21. UnknownBearing
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    UnknownBearing Contributing Member

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    Personally, I think the first option sounds better, as long as he has no intention of dying going into the battle. It wouldn't look like a deus ex machina if it's a tragic enough death, and he has time to realize he's dying before it happens.
     
  22. Sieglinde
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    He'd hope to die if it was a battle. He sees it as salvation.
     
  23. UnknownBearing
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    Then you really only have one option, depending on his outlook. If he really wants to die, and has nothing left or any cause to fight for in his life, he might as well kill himself.

    He can't go into battle without something to fight for besides his death, or else it'll be a lame fight, and not nearly profound as a well-executed suicide scene would be.

    But if there's one thing left dangling, (honor, love, lives at stake) no matter how small it is, a fight scene in which he dies could provide some closure on whether or not his soul will ever be at peace.

    The deus ex machina can be avoided if the battle in which he dies in is the culmination of events in the story; but if you're just pulling an attack on his ship out of nowhere, yeah, it's gonna look like that.

    Main point: Someone who wants to die wouldn't be fighting to survive. He's either in total despair (in which he would either welcome the attack on his ship and do nothing, or use the second option and kill himself) or still has something left to finish (which would provide motivation for a kickass battle.)
     
  24. Sieglinde
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    I can't make a possible final battle to be a crowning moment of awesome. All villains are dead at this point, and random French out of nowhere... Melville did that and it sucked. :D

    I think I should let him kill himself. Thus he could die beside his lover without a lot of people around (in a battle, or even afterwards, there would be too many people and no peace).
     
  25. UnknownBearing
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    UnknownBearing Contributing Member

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    Sounds like that's where your story's pointing to. Never deny the flow of the story. :cool:
     

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