1. disasterspark

    disasterspark Active Member

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    Emotional death scenes

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by disasterspark, Jun 4, 2019.

    Excuse my poor choice of words, it's kinda hard to pull off in a simple sentence.

    What I'm trying to ask is, how do I pull off the death of a character and make it really sad, almost like killing off a long term character, but in the first book? Here's how the scene goes:

    So there's a spy who's one of the main protagonists. The Villain took his sister and pretty much brainwashed her, where she goes from P1, which is her original self, Spy's sister, and there is P2, brainwashed servant to the villain. The villain took her because he had a crush on her before his rise to power, but it was unrequited. Now that he's in power, he basically says "I can do what I want now." and takes her by force. Killing her husband and daughter in the process. He even framed Spy for their murders and put him in prison. Spy breaks out and is now looking to both free his sister, and kill the Villain.

    Him and his friends get captured by the villain. And somehow, someway, the only way he can be free is if he kills his sister. He's not much of an emotional guy, but his sister is the only family he has. The person he set out to save, and now he has to kill her. If he doesn't, then he dies.

    Right now, I'm thinking about having it in the first act, or maybe close to the climax. I'm not asking you to write the scene for me, I'm asking how I can make the death scene really sad, almost like losing a character that has been around for seemingly much longer.

    Maybe about as emotional as this scene in Infinity War
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 16, 2019
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  2. Lifeline

    Lifeline South. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    In my opinion, the key to this is that the reader has to feel emotional attachment to the character. If I don't feel something for the character, nothing you write will make me feel sad, however tragic the circumstances of this particular death. How to make me feel emotional attachment? Bad news: There's no set recipe. However, even secondary characters can be well developed. If the writer is skilled, the reader can 'see' the character, know his mannerism and values from a few words of text—and if I feel I know this person, it's much easier to make me feel sad. Death speeches make me yawn. A speech isn't what count. It's what the character does before his death that defines him. What he fights for/what he sacrifices himself for. And again, I need to see actions before I'll shed a tear. Words are cheap.

    With regard to how the writer makes readers feel emotions of the character, try not naming the exact emotions you want the reader to feel. If you must (and I am not a fan of naming emotions), name secondary or even tertiary emotions the character has, let them conflict, and the reader will instinctively search for the underlying primary emotion. Again, it's a question of skill. Good luck.
     
  3. Oscar Leigh

    Oscar Leigh Contributor Contributor

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    I think one aspect that certainly helps is the extent to which the death feels like a bad concept. Even if a person doesn't really deserve to die, there are ways deaths feel less cruel and tragic, whether one means to, by not channelling anything particularly unfair. This is somewhat appropriate really, because in the real not every death causes a sobbing meltdown, and you want the audience to conserve the real deep sad for the worst deaths. It does remind you that that is a thing to consider though.
    One really good example of this for me is in the Sergei Lukyanenko Night Watch series. A certain character I will not spoil is essentially erased from existence for no particular reason it's just the nature of the magic involved. The scene deals with a heartfelt farewell experience for him that deals with his acceptance gracefully but he's clearly torn up about suddenly becoming a non-entity. That sense of the mournful petering off got to me much more than scenes where some mentor is tragically stabbed that feel very omelettes and eggs. That's one aspect you could definitely tap into, that might make the scene worse. It's a little bit more of a random halfway through than a mentor/mentee or bittersweet endnote. It has more of the sting of unexpected suffering that makes death feel more real and relevant.
    The downside of this set-up, other than what you identify with character development, is the aspect of being made to do it. This could come off in a very try-hard way, as a conspicuous attempt at edgyness.
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2019
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  4. peachalulu

    peachalulu Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Build up. And perhaps a tie-in with a past event i.e. you know perhaps when he was little he protected his sister and now he's got to be the one to withdraw that protection or die.
     
  5. Writeorflight

    Writeorflight Active Member

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    I 100% agree with Lifeline's comment. If I'm not emotionally invested, I won't care about what happens to the character(s).

    To me, nothing is more heartbreaking than the death of a likeable/believable character whose life was full of promise and unfinished dreams.
     
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  6. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    also the effect on those around them - if their friends and colleagues don't care then the readers don't care.
     
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  7. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I think you can get away with having the readers not care too much about the dead character if you're able to show that the character the readers DO care about is distraught by the death. That's a bit tricky in this case, since your POV character puts his own life ahead of the victim... one of the literary standards for caring is that a character would die for another, and in this case he obviously wouldn't... but you can still probably show how devastated he is at the choice he's made. So readers aren't necessarily sad because X dies, they're sad because Y is sad about X dying.
     
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  8. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    Oi! Feckin' spoilers, bud!

    Exactly. Readers may be kind of ambivalent towards the character that died, but may sympathize with the loss of characters they can relate to.
     
  9. Richach

    Richach Contributor Contributor

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    This is just my view.

    Without knowing the story it is hard to say how to do this. However, by killing the character you are revealing and playing that card in your story. Choosing when to kill the character is critical. If you do this at the start, the reader will believe that there is a back story. You can always refer back to this, to prompt further emtional and intellectual reaction from your reader. In this way the reader may feel a stronger connection to the character as the story goes on, even though the character died at the begining.

    If it is towards the end, then the story will be wriiten in a completely different way, the reader will know the character by then.

    As long as you know your story inside out and back to front, and more importantly your charcters even more so. The reader will feel what you have wriiten is more genuine and believable.

    A good plot is important, but strong & interesting characters are critical.

    In my experience, an important scene does not necessarily require endless pages, over telling or over showing. Allow the story to unfold over time. Reveal extra nuggets of information over several chapters rather than blast the reader with a heavy chapter. That sets a precedent and can unbalnce the story.

    You seem to write well any how so I am sure you will do a great job.

    Good luck!
     
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  10. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    sorted
     
  11. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

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    Likeable secondary characters can have an impact when they die.
    Might be harder with tertiary and farther out characters.
     
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  12. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    Thank you!
     
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