1. Sieglinde
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    Sieglinde New Member

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    Would a death without a physical reason be okay or too unrealistic? (low fantasy)

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Sieglinde, Mar 8, 2012.

    So it's a low fantasy (complicated, tons of characters). There is one man who at some point is tricked into swearing fealty to his lord's arch enemy by making him believe his lord has been taken and yielded, and that he might be allowed to accompany him into exile if he bends the knee. In truth his lord has not been defeated yet at that point but he's desperate to go with him and agrees.

    Later he finds out how he was deceived and also that his lord is fighting a hopeless battle while he is not at his side and believes he has deserted, but still sends him a message saying he forgives him. He can't go back and explain since he's sort of a prisoner in the enemy's camp, and he's overcome with guilt. He has been always loyal and now he feels he faileed in his duty. (And he had an unrequited love for his lord.) I intend him to die of shame/a broken heart. But he's no weak man but a hardened soldier, so I don't know if a total breakdown can kill him. Is that even possible? Still, I don't want him to kill himself, a lot of characters do that in this story after lost battles.


    (Yeah, I'm a Wagnerian. No surprise here.)

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  2. Metus
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    Metus New Member

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    As low fantasy, it very well could be too unrealistic to have someone die of a broken heart/crushed soul/whatever the cause may be. Have you considered having him committ suicide? It's also possible that if you make him ill or something to begin with, he may simply lose the motivation to live and succumb to a disease which he otherwise could have overcome.
  3. Sieglinde
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    Sieglinde New Member

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    Yes, but so many characters commit suicide already... they are kind of obsessed with honour in the old Roman way.
  4. MaybeSomeday
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    MaybeSomeday New Member

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    It could be possible for him to die of a broken heart, but it would be because he no longer has a will to live. It would require he no longer take care of himself (or be in a state of catatonia), including not eating, sleeping, etc. - basic human functions that would eventually cause death. It would be very slow, so might not work if you need it to be, well, speedy.

    As you said, if he is not a weak man, it seems unlikely that he would take this route. Suicide would be a more likely option for him. You could also to look into "hara kiri", or "seppuku", in Japanese history, where a samurai would commit suicide by disemboweling himself because he has dishonored his lord. I would find this much more believable as a reader, I think.

    Hope that helps!
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  5. CheddarCheese
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    CheddarCheese New Member

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    Hi Sieglinde,

    I think I would find it somewhat unrealistic. I did a little bit of research, and I discovered that one can have their life endangered by a broken heart (something like a death of a close family member can increase the chances of a heart attack), however, it's not that significant. Additionally, it's not actually a "broken heart" that causes this, it's emotional shock, meaning that the same thing can happen if something very very good were to happen to the person (like winning the lottery).

    Perhaps you could make him become mentally unstable? That could cause him to accidentally endanger himself. Or maybe he just decides that the shame isn't worth it, and tries to fight his captors to his death? That's not too far from suicide, but it seems to be different from your context.

    Good luck!
  6. Sieglinde
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    Sieglinde New Member

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    Big jidai geki fan here... the point is, too many characters die by suicide already, I don't want to make it boring.
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    People die from curses, mostly because they believe the curse can kill them. You can believe it;s the power of the mind over the body, or you can believe it's a severe stress reaction. I don't know if there is an accepted medical explanation, but it does happen.
  8. superpsycho
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    superpsycho Member

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    Is there a place for him in the story beyond prison? If not and you don't want him to suicide then he can die trying to escape or even food poisoning.
  9. Jowettc
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    Jowettc New Member

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    Yes - he can but it will take time. In a strong person - perhaps a very long time. Depends on the time scale available.

    Let us suppose you pursue a possible alternative i.e. he wastes away to become a shadow of his former self and at some point in the distant future is re-united with his lord, the stress of which causes him to die...just a possible twist to what seems a story full of death, dishonour etc...
  10. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    I was thinking the exact same thing. "Dying of a broken heart" just sounds cheesy, to be honest, but dying of refusal to eat/drink and take care of other survival necessities is actually a concrete way to die that sounds more believable. A broken heart can cause the latter, which in turn would cause the death.
  11. Erato
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    Erato New Member

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    Yes. Frankly. Unless you want to bring magic into it.
  12. James Berkley
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    James Berkley Banned

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    an anciant version of suicide by cop, sound good.
  13. Gonissa
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    Gonissa New Member

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    It's actually happened that people have died of broken hearts. Nothing fantastic about it. The parents of a friend I knew was once in a car crash, and the man of the two survived and was going to be fine. The woman died, and the man, who was desperately in love with her, willed himself to die.
  14. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma New Member Contributor

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    Everyday people drop dead inexplicably. Maybe he had a heart problem that was undiagnosed. It is not unusual for an elderly couple for example to die close together.

    Otherwise do some reading on Australian Aborignes. I seem to remember from when we did Walkabout at school, that there was a phenomenen were they just lay down and died almost by willing it.
  15. CheddarCheese
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    CheddarCheese New Member

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    Cogito actually raises an interesting concept. And it's true; apparently, people do die just by believing they will. It's called the "nocebo" effect, which is related to placebo. I'm thinking Elgaisma's case is also somewhat related to that.
  16. Late Starter
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    Late Starter New Member

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    Goes out, gets drunk, starts a fight he should win and gets sucker punched (stabbed) by an unseen 3rd person. Dies a wasteful, inglorious death at the hands of some random character who vanishes and is never seen again.

    ?
  17. Acanthophis
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    Acanthophis Member

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    I'd use the broken heart as a catalyst, not the reason for him dying. :)
  18. jeffm
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    jeffm Member

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    Someone with that much mental trauma could easily turn to substances to "make them not care" or "make the pain go away", so it would be very conceivable to have the character turn to at least drink or some other common libation. If that didn't do after some time you could see the character using harder and more dangerous substances to get the job done. One of these could weaken the man or kill him if overly abused.

    The other option is the "blaze of glory" route, where the character does something stupid/hopeless and gets killed and they could rationalize it by "it's the only thing left I could do". It's very easy to see that Thoden in LOTR knew he would die when he went to battle of Pelennor and was treating this as punishment for his failure to see the wicked nature of Wormtounge and how it let his people down.
  19. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Why can't he just starve himself to death from depression???
  20. Nakhti
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    Nakhti Banned

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    I like the suggestions on this thread, there's lots of stuff you could use and make work well.

    Personally, my favourite is a combination of the 'stops eating/sleeping/looking after himself' and pretty much just becomes a lifeless husk, and the option where he could have an undisclosed heart defect, so literally drops dead of a 'broken' heart. It's true that people do succumb to natural causes more easily if they have lost their will to live - it's been mentioned before that old couples often die in quick succession, because the one left behind gives up on life.

    You've got precedent for it in literature as well - the first that springs to mind is King Lear. In that you have Gloucester, who is reunited with his exiled son and then dies of emotional shock:

    'I ask'd his blessing, and from first to last
    Told him my pilgrimage: but his flaw'd heart,
    Alack, too weak the conflict to support!
    'Twixt two extremes of passion, joy and grief,
    Burst smilingly.'

    Later in the scene you have King Lear himself expire from grief at the death of Cordelia, possibly from a heart attack - the only clue to the cause is when he says 'Pray you, undo this button' and then presently faints, presumably from breathlessness.

    However, in both these instances the character was aged and had suffered extreme physical and mental trauma. I'm not sure it would be quite so plausible for a fit, healthy middle aged man. But put him through enough physical and mental suffering, then make him suddenly get a pain in his arm before he passes out, and I doubt anyone would question it.
  21. Afion
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    Afion New Member

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    Maybe he's actually magic or part dragon and in his grief he spontaneously combusts. :)
  22. MsScribble
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    MsScribble Member

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    Could he could try to kill his lord's arch enemy, in a desperately one-sided, yet noble fight, in order to prove himself, even if it means his own death?
    Or passive suicide? Subconsiously he feels so guilty he wants to die, so he deliberately puts himself in harms way - a sword fight, saving orphan puppies from a burning building, taking on a dragon etc.
    He sounds like a wonderfully tortued soul, so he should have a dramatic death.
  23. Islander
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    Islander Senior Member Contributor

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    Lots of good ideas in this thread, but here's another one: Someone points an arrow at your character, and his companion yells at him to duck, but your character is so deep into his grief that he doesn't hear or reacts slowly. The arrow goes right into his chest.

    Or instead of an arrow, it could be a large boulder rolling down a slope, or a horse carriage speeding at him...
  24. Salama
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    Salama New Member

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    Yes it is ok.
    A broken heart is a real condition, and a cause of death. Look at the statistics.. young healthy men die with no apparent reason everyday.
  25. Mckk
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    Mckk Contributing Member Contributor

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    How about one of the following options?

    1. He somehow rebels against the enemy camp in the hope of helping his lord, and is killed in the process (you can decide for yourself whether this rebellion actually does anything significant for the lord/story)

    2. He fights in a battle against his lord as part of the troops, and is killed in battle, probably by his lord's own army if you want it to be more "honourable" (eg. it would be sweet justice and your character would prefer this, to die at the lord's hands and finally receive the punishment that he deserves), or otherwise the enemy's army, if you want him to die of shame (like a final illustration of how it all backfired)

    3. He can die of a mistake - he does something that he feels would make a difference in his situation, or help the lord somehow, and dies by accident. Or he could be found out and executed.

    4. He tries to run away from the enemy camp in the hope of returning to his lord (since he has the assurance that he is forgiven, after all) and is killed on the way. This way it would be tragic and you could have a lovely scene with the lord mourning over him.
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