1. DeathandGrim
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    DeathandGrim Contributing Member

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    Trying to not over favor characters

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by DeathandGrim, Jan 14, 2013.

    I have a growing problem with this series I'm working on: I like the characters and tend to favor them to the point of overprotection

    Example: Originally a timeskip arc I was thinking about had a majority of the original characters die. This is was far in the future, it was just a point I wanted to reach. But as I buckled down and focused on writing from the beginning and developing characters, I began to like them more and more, and I started hating the fact that they were gonna get offed eventually as there was so much I was able to explore with them.

    Eventually the idea of that arc got scrapped allowing me to expand more on the characters. Part of the reason I scrapped the arc was it didn't make much cohesive sense, but still I feel like I'm not allowing myself to take really strong risks with the characters, such as death which is a often an important part of plots. Actually one character in particular, who has to die for the story sake, I felt awful because she didn't really deserve it.

    Is this bad that I may change plots to protect the characters? Am I being to safe?
     
  2. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    This is an important question and it needs to be discussed, but I don't have the time right now. Arrgh.

    But I will say this: In my experience, it is sometimes necessary for the character to die in order for him to have the resonance I need from him. As writers, we have to face this kind of thing all the time. You may love a character and hate that he or she dies, but when you examine the story closely, and examine the character closely, you realize that the reason you love the character is the arc he goes through - the arc that REQUIRES him to die. If he doesn't die, he doesn't get to become the character you love.

    An example of this is Jack Dawson in the movie Titanic. (I'm just selecting him because it's a movie I think most people on this forum have probably seen. There may be better examples, but they're more obscure.) As everyone knows, Jack dies in the end. Jack is pretty much a perfect example of a romantic hero, but he would not be so if he did not die. He HAS to die for the audience to appreciate him as they do in the context of his story. He would be a lesser character if he DIDN'T die - he wouldn't have the same effect on Rose, and he wouldn't have the same effect on the audience.

    It is possible to protect your characters too much. You can protect them to the point at which they aren't the characters you need them to be anymore. In Titanic, Jack has to die in order to be Jack, if you see what I mean. It would be an entirely different story - a weaker story, I think - if Jack had survived the sinking and had married Rose and they had lived happily ever after. In that case, Jack wouldn't be Jack and the power of the romance would be negated.

    We, as an audience, love Jack in part BECAUSE he dies. If he didn't die, if he didn't fulfill that role in the drama, we wouldn't care for him or for the larger story he's a part of.

    So yes - you have to be willing to let your characters die. It may be that the main reason you love them as you do is that they're willing to die if it's necessary. If you, as the writer, contrive a plot scenario in which they DON'T die, you may be draining from them the blood that drives them, and that makes us, as readers, love them. They become weaker, and unworthy of our love.

    Let your characters fulfill their destinies. That's what makes them characters readers can love.
     
  3. DeathandGrim
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    DeathandGrim Contributing Member

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    You're right actually, I never thought of it like that!

    The character who I referred to that died for the story sake was a former lover of the main character, she gets killed because of her involvement with him and his screwed up life.

    The story as a whole just wouldn't be the same without her death because I felt it was a necessary shockwave, but killing her was TOUGH I gotta tell you, it wasn't easy.

    But you're right I think I would care much less if I wrote in that she lived because she'll always be there and there's nothing to remember
     
  4. NigeTheHat
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    NigeTheHat Contributing Member Contributor

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    Minstrel speaks truth. Character deaths shouldn't be gratuitous and just for the shock value, but they shouldn't have a charmed life either. Ironically enough, getting killed off is often what really makes them come to life.
     
  5. hippocampus
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    hippocampus Active Member

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    Wow - great question!
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Coddling your characters is disrespectful to them. You bleed them of their purpose and make them bland.

    Characters exist solely for the story. To be at their full potential, they need to spindled, folded, and mutilated. They need to be stressed. tortured, and imperiled. They can only show their strength and determination by facing adversity, whether or not they emerge fully victorious. If they pay the ultimate price, they can still prevail, if they have upheld their principles.

    You owe it to them to make your own sacrifice and let them go if the story requires it.
     

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