?

which is worse

  1. hero returns to see his family are dead.

    3 vote(s)
    23.1%
  2. hero arrives home but is unable to save his family being killed.

    10 vote(s)
    76.9%
  1. dave_c
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    dave_c Active Member

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    which is worse, seeing someone you love die or not being there when they do.

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by dave_c, Mar 4, 2013.

    long story short (literally):

    hero has gone away in order to receive training and his family are killed. i need this to be a really traumatic scene but have two ways of going about it. which do you think would be worse/more traumatic to the reader. I would appreciate reasoning or alternative ideas, thanks.

    the hero returns but does not understand his abilites well enough yet to use them to save his family.

    or

    The hero arrives home to find his family killed, having just attained an ability which could have saved them had he been there.
     
  2. Piankhy
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    Piankhy Member

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    To be honest, they're both cliche and have been done to death. But then again, what hasn't been done yet in literature?

    My personal opinion, I'd go for a third option. Hero accidently kills his family, trying to stop the bad guy. That's been done too but not as much IMO. If you gave me some more background info on the story and characters I could probably give a better answer.
     
  3. Eric242
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    Eric242 Member

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    EDIT: Scratch that. Misread the original post.
    I think the first option fits better with your story by the sounds of things. Being there to see them die would be very traumatic immediately. Finding out after they die is tragic, but would tend to lead the character more towards guilt, a thousand 'what ifs', and a more drawn-out sort of sorrow. If you do decide to have the hero be there for the death be sure to describe it very well or it won't impact the reader the way you want it to.
     
  4. Pheonix
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    Pheonix A Singer of Space Operas and The Fourth Mod of RP Staff Contributor

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    If he returns home, equipped with the abilities to save his family, you get a kind of tragic irony. If he returns, and can't save them, then you have the possibility of using that as a source of further character development, showing how he deals with having that on his shoulders. Either way can work, but it depends on how you want to develop your character afterward.
     
  5. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    Either way works, really. It all depends on which is easier for you to write effectively.
     
  6. mg357
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    mg357 Active Member

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    dave_c i have a thought what if the hero is in some foreign country putting his training to use and he gets contacted with the news that one or more members of his family is ill or has died and he has to return home to see the family member before they die or they have to attend the funeral.
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Which do YOU think is worse, Dave? Support your choice via a story illustrating the suffering of the person involved.
     
  8. iWant iStrive
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    iWant iStrive Member

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    In my opinion it would be seeing them die, but i suppose it depends on the manner of their death. In terms of in a book i think it can have a bigger impact for the mc to witness it as then the reader also experiences it.
     
  9. slamdunk
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    slamdunk Member

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    Knowing that you could have saved them if you only knew a little more about yourself is probably very hard to accept and live with. I would “vote” for option 1.
     
  10. Roxie
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    Roxie Active Member

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    I am on the fence on this one as both options offer guilt and sorrow and opens a thousand what ifs for your character. If you have the time I would suggest write both scenarios and see which one clicks for you the most. Good luck.
     
  11. niallohagan
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    niallohagan Member

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    On a personal level, I was at my dad's bedside when he passed away last July and that was awful but Im glad I was there, Id have hated to have missed it. I think that would have been more traumatic
     
  12. dave_c
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    dave_c Active Member

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    Unfortunately the killing the family himself by accident would fit the story but wouldn't introduce the vengeance factor that i need it to. thanks for the suggestion though

    sorry, i should i have made it clear in the OP that his family are murdered. in addition he is only training say 50 miles away (estimate)

    i appreciate what you are saying Cogito. The issue is that i don't know. i can make both traumatic to the reader but you have much better blossom if the roots are steady, if you catch my drift.

    i think that is what im going to Roxie, thanks for the advice. i think the main thing i need to decide is what kind of pain i want to put my MC through. long and dull pain or sharp and diminishing pain.


    Thanks everyone for your help, really appreciate it you've given me allot to think about.
     
  13. Xatron
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    Xatron Contributing Member

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    Returning to find his family dead would indeed introduce a factor of guilt to some degree in the manner of "what if" and "if only i was there", but in my opinion the second case is vastly more detrimental. From what i gather from your description your character is a fighter trained to some degree. So watching his family getting murdered while being unable to lift a finger to help them would maim him for the rest of his life. He would always feel weak and powerless and may very well seek death himself in some manner (like attempting revenge in thoughtless and dangerous manners).
     
  14. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Watching them die has got to be worse than already seeing them dead. Once they're dead, there's nothing you can do about it. But if you watch them die, you must struggle to save them, and then fail. The failure is now concrete - you ACTUALLY failed. You were there, you witnessed the whole thing, in the same room with the murderer, and you couldn't save your family. You have failed. No amount of forgiving yourself or reasoning could lift that.

    But if you arrive home and found your family dead - sure there's still gonna be self-blame and guilt involved, but the failure is purely psychological. You have not actually failed because you physically could not have done anything about it.

    You see, if you have to also WATCH them die, and fail so concretely to save them - that's double the trauma. If you only find them dead, that's only one thing.
     

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