1. Tomb1302

    Tomb1302 Senior Member

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    Having the Main Character Die - Thoughts?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Tomb1302, Jul 15, 2019.

    I'm going to keep this pretty vague, as, I'd like to generate lots of discussion in regards to this question, but to you, personally, what do you think of Main Characters dying at some point within a given story?

    Does it depend on genre? Does it cause you to lose interest? Does it have you transition the POV to another character in an exciting and dynamic way?

    Share any and all opinions, thanks!
     
  2. RobinLC

    RobinLC Member

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    I think done incorrectly it will make a reader lose interest. Plenty of authors have had their MC characters die though, and it can be very powerful.
     
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  3. Dan McLeod

    Dan McLeod Member

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    It depends if the main character is the only POV up until that point, and whether the story was being told in 1st person.

    If the death feels like a gimmick it would put me off.
     
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  4. The Bishop

    The Bishop Member

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    I have all my MC's die in my WIP, but it's not just because I feel like killing them. If you're going to kill a character there has to be a reason for it, like an actual good reason. If it seems like it's for a bad reason/no reason then yes, it will make the reader lose interest.
     
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  5. Tomb1302

    Tomb1302 Senior Member

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    In response to my own question, I do indeed plan on killing off many of the MC's in my war-oriented stories. To me it adds a key element; The insignificance of the average soldier.

    I think one of the most important 'transitions' I'll try and accomplish is the perceptual transition of 'Reader is very connected to soldier', and then end with 'In the end, the soldier meant nothing, and, was just another body sprawled on the battlefield'.

    If executed well, it could be really heart-breaking.
     
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  6. RobinLC

    RobinLC Member

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    I think for this to work we have to be emotionally invested in many of your mc's at the same time, not just one at a time. I think for me at least, there must be hope with the heartbreak.
     
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  7. Tomb1302

    Tomb1302 Senior Member

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    Of course my friend! I have that one figured out!

    I plan on investing lots of time into the conversations between the characters, and their backgrounds. The Battle of Amiens happened in 1918, so the hope that the ghastly four year war would end is also a thread of positivity that will drive the attitude of the MC's.

    Thoughts?
     
  8. Matt E

    Matt E Ruler of the planet Omicron Persei 8 Supporter Contributor

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    If an important character dies too early on, then my question would be wether they should really be the main character. It makes sense to chronicle a story from the standpoint of those who live, both to maintain the same points of view across the story, and to help suspension of disbelief a bit (who is telling this story?) Killing off the main character though becomes less risky the closer it happens to the end of the story.

    Out of four main characters in my current WIP, one will probably be killed off this book and the others will come out okay. It's useful for concluding their story arc, particularly in a story with lots of characters. I generally prefer not to though when I don't have a reason. To paraphrase Patrick Rothfus, there are worse things that we can do to our characters than death.
     
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  9. Cirno

    Cirno New Member

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    Stories being very liberal about killing off characters tends to naturally increase my investment in the story because it makes the danger of the conflict seem all that much more real, and that sense of dread and uncertainty is something I very much enjoy;these days we're kinda built to expect at least ninenty percent, if not all, of a story's characters to remain intact.

    That said, I think it tends to work a lot better in stories that either partially or fully make use of ensemble casts, because if I go with a protagonist on a journey only for their efforts to mean nothing my reaction is naturally going to be "what the hell was the point?" It's hard to write a slaughter-fest without it ending up as a "shoot the shaggy dog" story, but the books that pull it off tend to be some of my favorites.
     
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  10. Tomb1302

    Tomb1302 Senior Member

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    Love this response - I feel the same way.
     
  11. cosmic lights

    cosmic lights Senior Member

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    I was thinking about this exact question last night while I was meant to be asleep.

    Does it depend on genre? To me Genre makes very little difference, but obviously some genres are going to require more deaths. It's unlikely that a few characters will die in your ordinary romance novel, but in a War story, if hardly anyone dies, the threat doesn't seem very dominant.

    Does it cause you to lose interest? That depends on how closely we have been encouraged to bond with that main character, but since I'm a reader who reads for the character's story I do tend to bond with them quickly and would lose interest if the character was killed off half way through.

    Does it have you transition the POV to another character in an exciting and dynamic way? No. Not really. I dislike meeting a character you think is the lead then discovering half way through someone else is.

    You also have to remember to for fill your promises to the reader and they need to be satisfied. The death of a main character can be disappointing. Because Hollywood has conditioned us to the "happy ever after" ending, whenever we read anything will automatically assume our main will live. So we feel it's safe to care for them. In a Horror movie you can usually guess who's going to live and who's going to die. Sometimes I think having the character fail at their goal can be a more dramatic, shocking ending than them just dying. It gives the readers mixed feelings. If you've never seen the movie "The Mist" go and watch it on youtube, the ending is not only hard-wrenching but shocking. It leaves you with mixed feelings, because as a society we are victorious but for the MC....
     
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  12. Azuresun

    Azuresun Senior Member

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    For me, that's true up to a point. But in stories that have plainly taken a "kill em all" approach to the point where it becomes predictable, it usually diminishes my interest. I think there needs to feel like there was a reason behind a character death (even if it's only "this monster is really dangerous", or "bad things happen in war"), and their death should enrich the story. If it feels like the author killed them just for some cheap drama or just to raise the stakes, that's when it feels gratuitous for me.
     
  13. Muller

    Muller New Member

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    No, I don't stand for it in the stories I read or watch. As for writing, I'm just focusing on writing for the pure enjoyment of it, and kill the main off every episode. The main normally continues as the narrator, sometimes even being reincarnated a time or two.

    In my opinion, if you kill the main character off, it's best to have a stand-in continue in place of that character, or else use flashbacks and whatnot.
     
  14. Richach

    Richach Member Supporter

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    Not sure about having the main character die. If it is possibe to achieve the same emotional reaction from the reader by other means, then I would say do that.

    Life is precious and things ought to have got pretty bad for a character to reach the stage of death. Unless it was an accident.

    If you know and understand your character and they are well developed, then maybe they get to a point where they die. Readers will only accept the death of a charcter if they believe it to be genuine, so I would be very careful to do it right.

    In certain circumstances, it does work. Look at Obe Wan for example, or Qui Gon Jo in Star Wars. Those charcters are destined to die, or at least they are likely to die. The fact that they are loved and that the reader is routing for them and does not want them to die is a good natural human reaction. In addition to this, these main characters are actually one of many. So the writer is not killing the golden goose.

    Most importantly the readers do not become desnsitised to death, even though characters die through out the stories. That is a sign of a good death well written.

    Good question that is hard to answer!
     
  15. animagus_kitty

    animagus_kitty Active Member

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    For me, it's not a question of 'should the MC die', but rather, how I approach reanimation and a second death.
    Ever since I started this book, Malchoir was always going to die once. As the story went on, it became clear that the only in-character, reasonable thing for him to do would be to irritate (to the point of physical and mortal backlash) one of the, what, four people in the book motivated enough to do something about it? There was no question about it on either side--Malchoir would absolutely anger Miranda, and she would absolutely kill him for it. It would devalue Malchoir's reaction to his world if he didn't do that, and it would devalue Miranda as a character, as a person, if she let him live.

    Problem is, there's still 25-30% of a book left after that incident. So Mal needs to come back, somehow, and it needs to not feel totally cheap and ruin the 'sacrifice' of having chosen personal death over the lives of his crew and ship. Just as importantly, I need to nail his and others' reactions to him getting his life back. It feels bad to just say 'he died and came back and now he regrets everything, but it's too late and everything is screwed all to the Hellplanes anyway', but...it's too late and everything is screwed. So he resolves to do the best he can to fight a war that he personally caused his faction to lose, on top of his original but slightly misguided resolve to fight that war in any way possible.

    If I do it right, I'll be on every Women of Science Fiction panel at every con in every state (not that I think that being a woman in sci-fi is particularly noteworthy, but i'm not so prideful I won't take the easy street cred). If I do it wrong, no one will ever think I'm anything more than a shitty Passion of the Christ meets Star Wars fanfiction.
    Which is completely wrong. This is clearly an Andromeda fanfiction.
     
  16. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    Death is so boring.
     

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