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  1. The Scarred Servant

    The Scarred Servant Member

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    Resurrection and it's effects on tension

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by The Scarred Servant, Jun 15, 2017.

    In my outline for the story of the book series I'm planning, I have the third book end with a confrontation between the villain and one of the MC's. The MC has this moment with the villain where it makes the audience believe he's about to talk his way out of this situation, going into a heart felt speech (The villain is the MC's father) about love and crap that actually seems to be getting to the Villain. So... The villain then impales the MC on his super-maguffin sword (Haven't given it a name yet...) accompanied by the words "I have no son."

    This is supposed to end the book on a shocking note, as well as set up the next book where the story focuses on three perspectives. One is of the main group interfering with the villains plans and searching for a new way to beat him, the second is of one of the characters going through all sorts of hell to revive the MC and the third is where the MC ended up. Which is where the question comes in. Does the fact that the MC DOES get revived at the end of the last book due to the special manner in which he was killed (One which was off offhandedly mentioned to be possible a long time before this part of the story) ruin future tension?

    I like to make it pretty clear how mortal my characters are in my stories, and I kill plenty off by the end (Hell, this MC dies twice, the second time being permanent), but I'm worried this would be like giving my MC plot armour. Do you think I should just change it to, the MC receives a fatal injury that keeps him off his feet for some of the next book? Because this would require heavy re-writing of the ending so the villain doesn't look woefully incompetent as well as it being vital to the plot that character B is going through all sorts of shit to get him back on his feet.
     
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  2. Pinkymcfiddle

    Pinkymcfiddle Banned

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    I dislike resurrection, especially when via deus ex machina (for example, the bible). The problem with resurrection is that it removes the stakes from your piece, and without stakes, there is nothing to be invested in as a reader.
     
  3. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin The game sour like a pickle be.... Contributor

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    Have you written the first book yet? If not I would worry about doing that and seeing if any of the premise works before you worry about book 3, 5, or 7. The question of tension between books 3 and 4 are the least of your concerns. That's kind of like being 20 years old and worrying about whether you should move to Arizona when you turn 50.
     
  4. Jacob MIles

    Jacob MIles New Member

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    That's a tricky one, I don't think it would totally kill tension, but it wouldn't help.
    Also doesn't that sound like a good death? Being killed by his father? It's unexpected, It's sad, It's memorable. I would just kill him here, I think it would be a good death.
     
  5. The Scarred Servant

    The Scarred Servant Member

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    Well, he's the one character who isn't supposed to have a good death. The whole point of his actual and permanent death is in how meaningless it is in the grand scheme of things. It wasn't a sacrifice that did some good. It wasn't a middle finger to the final villain (Hell, the villain doesn't even remember the MC after this point). And nothing was achieved through his final actions. And anyone who would morn him is dead at that point.
     
  6. izzybot

    izzybot Transhuman Autophage Contributor

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    I could have sworn I remembered a thread with a similar topic that you might've found useful, but for the life of me I can't search it up >:|

    Anyway, my thought is this: if you want death to mean something, it has to have stakes even if it's not permanent. In one of my projects, people have the option of coming back to life, but they always come back wrong in some way or another, so there's still a price. It's also out of their control since they're, y'know, dead at the time, so in a couple instances there's the question of whether they wouldn't have actually preferred to stay dead. Plus, I make sure that I only do this sparingly so that it doesn't get cheap and boring, just narratively speaking.

    It seems like you are making death mean something. In my example resurrection is actually pretty simple, so I put all the weight on the repercussions of it, but if you're making it difficult enough that it takes an entire book to make it happen, that also seems adequate to me. And since you mention it's specifically to do with the manner in which he was killed, I assume that means that not everyone can be brought back - so it's not repeatable - and he couldn't be bought back if he was killed again in a different way - so it's not like he's special. Death is still a problem for everyone who's not killed in this one specific way, so there's still stakes.

    That said, I'd suggest potentially cutting the third pov, of 'where the mc ends up'. I think you'd have more tension if there wasn't evidence that the mc's still kickin' around somewhere, in some capacity. Withhold him until he's really back, and it'd probably have a lot more impact. Let the reader think he might really be dead, and the people trying to bring him back could be chasing shadows. Honestly, I agree that it would be more interesting if the mc did die and there was no coming back, but obviously that would be a big change to your plot.
     
  7. Phil Mitchell

    Phil Mitchell Banned Contributor

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    You just have to provide a logical reason why resurrection isn't being used all the time.
     
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  8. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Contributor Contributor

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    I smell plot demand, and it smells like it was pulled out of an ass. :D

    Immortals, and resurrection are kind of a damper
    when it comes to any serious tension. Mainly due
    to the fact that no matter how bad the situation
    is, you know they are not in as hot a water as they
    appear to be. Takes away the fear you have for the
    character when they pop back up from some random
    mumbo jumbo murder death by wood-chipper shit.

    I ain't gonna stop you from writing it, only offering
    up my thoughts on the matter is all. Lots of people
    love the characters of folklore that have such qualities
    all the time. I however find it tedious and a bit comic
    bookish.

    Kill them or do not, there is no coming back. :p
     
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  9. Phil Mitchell

    Phil Mitchell Banned Contributor

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    A-list characters, especially super heroes may be immune to dying permanently, but the B listers aren't. The rest of the world isn't. And these characters take on global threats. This is why fear for the character as an individual isn't what it's about. We know the character won't die for love nor money. But will what the character represents die. Will freedom and hope die, will the world burn with the people caught in the suffering.
     
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  10. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Contributor Contributor

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    We are not talking about the global concerns of the world with wich the character inhabits,
    we are talking about the character directly. And it is a bit of a copout for them to be resurrected
    or be immortal. It means that they can never fail, and that is where I take issue. Give them all the
    opportunity to succeed, no matter how many times they are 'killed', and it is all pointless. You can't
    lose if you are just going to come back and continue. The possibility of them actually being able to
    fail carries more weight, than them just being down for the count for a bit. Does not matter their intent
    if they are never in any real danger, then why worry about things on a larger scale?
    It has greater effect when they have real weaknesses like mortals do, and packs a real punch when they
    have to come to grips with these realities. It is one thing to simply put them on the mat, it is another
    when death lurks around every corner.
     
  11. Phil Mitchell

    Phil Mitchell Banned Contributor

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    It's not a cop out at all. It's more like you expecting every character to fulfill a certain type. It's like the people who say all leads should have character development and be changed people at the end. Never dying does not equal never failing. There are more ways of failing than dying. Failing to save someone, joining the villain, giving up on it all. To name a few. There is also an appeal in seeing how the hero wins. We all knew there was basically no chance of Aragorn being slain in Lord of the Rings because of his destiny and he worked as a character just fine. Why? Because he isn't the vulnerable one we're supposed to care about in that way. Gandalf came back, and guess what, he still worked as a character. Why? Because failure for him isn't death, it's letting Sauron win. That is his failure.
     
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  12. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Contributor Contributor

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    Come now, you are simply giving agency. The stakes are much higher when there is something to lose in
    dying, verses to the enemy and their grand master plan. Their is no peril in just losing a match between
    nemesis, when they will be back to face them over and over again.
    Take the first Saw movie, for instance. (And the only good one in the septology.) Choices affect how the
    protag will win or lose, and that choice has consequences based upon those choices. One misstep and that
    is it. No do over, no chance at redemption, finality. That is how I see things, because that is how they are
    in reality.

    So using Gandalf as an example is lacking. Since we know he is magical and magic adheres to the rules
    governed by the one who created them. And to pull one with Superman would be just as poignant as he
    does not feel bad for the average citizen caught in the crossfire of his enemies and himself. So I stand
    by my position, that coming from the dead is of little consequence to the overall story. As they only
    strive to finish their goals, and be damned those they are supposedly saving.

    The risk and reward system is based upon the prospect of ultimate defeat, not in taking a five minute break
    to recoup and reassess. When you have something real to lose, then winning has much more meaning.
     
  13. rktho

    rktho Contributor Contributor

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    Example, the Bible? Really?
     
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  14. Pinkymcfiddle

    Pinkymcfiddle Banned

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    A joke.
     
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  15. rktho

    rktho Contributor Contributor

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    The way I did it, I turned the clock back a few years, meaning anyone who had died during that time was now alive again. But the person who did it can only do it once, and nobody else is likely to do it because it involves resetting the entire timeline, with no undoing it or jumping forward, and it's considered a dark art. So this mass resurrection, which only affects a few main characters, isn't going to happen again and the characters are lucky to come back because the only person intended to return was the antagonist and their resurrections are just a consequence of his resurrection.
     
  16. Phil Mitchell

    Phil Mitchell Banned Contributor

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    In Superman/Batman Public Enemies, future Superman's Earth was turned into a barren wasteland because of a Kryptonite asteroid. He was the only survivor and spent all his time wallowing alone on that Earth in grief and madness. That is failure enough. Him dying as well wouldn't have added anything. In Injustice Gods among us, Superman fails and becomes a Hitler like dictator. What does death add to that?

    Tolkien's magic had no rules. It was kept vague and did whatever the plot needed it to. If the Vala wanted to resurrect anyone they could have. And that's what we're talking about here. Establishing an entity in story with the power of resurrection.
    Saw is a horror movie. In that genre, the mortality of the characters have to be emphasized because the character is supposed to spend much of their their time screaming and curled up scared.
    If you're saying resurrection works just fine if as the character is magical. I agree with that. The lives of billions is real, all the society is real. The Universe is real. I don't see why you hold onto this dichotomy of either the character seems vulnerable enough that we believe they can be killed with finality, or the character cannot fail and has nothing real to lose. For any story that is set up to where the if MC dies the bad guys win, it's obvious that the character will not die permanently, and so the story needs to work on a different level to that. The only characters that the audience is truly concerned will die permanently at any moment are characters that are expendable and cannot play much role in the final outcome.

    By your logic, all prequels are doomed from the start because we know select characters will survive.
     
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2017
  17. Shadowfax

    Shadowfax Contributor Contributor

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    1/ I seem to recall another story where the villain was the MC's father...Oedipus Rex
    2/ Resurrection so spoils the tension for the next time he gets killed. Unless you want him to be blasé about death, only to discover, in his afterlife conversations with the Reaper, that this time it's for real.
    3/ Mentioning, in the first chapter, that being stabbed with a super-Macguffin can only be reversed by selling all your iMacs and buying an Android is way beyond foreshadowing; it's telling the reader to look out for that super-Macguffin, because you just know there's gonna be a fire sale of Apples coming.
    4/ As has already been mentioned, I'd see how book 1 flies before agonizing over the segue from book 3 to book 4.
     
  18. Arktaurous34

    Arktaurous34 Active Member

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    I think resurrection at no cost is the bigger issue. If the character suffers nothing but the memory of their death than it's not particular interesting to me as a reader. In some cases it's not believable and it defiantly has potential to drain the suspense out of most mortal dangers. It's just my own meager opinion though. You can trap an immortal which would make their blessing a curse. I suppose that could be interesting. I use resurrection in my story at great cost. The tension doesn't come from the finality of their death but from the tremendous cost or danger in attempting to reverse it. Except for zombies of course; they are a whole other ball of wax :)
     
  19. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Contributor Contributor

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    I never said they were doomed. Just that the MC is given a bit more of an edge just to plow
    through the story. Think of it as leveling the playing field, where the deciding factor is based
    more on having a disadvantage to work around. Using resurrection is a safety net, that ensures
    that they cannot fail. Kinda like how in games you can reload at an earlier point and try again.
    There is a bit of demand that says you cannot fail if you can simply try again, and again.
    Starts falling in to the OP category, that no matter what they will never have the chance
    to fail because they have more chances to come back and correct the mistake. There is less
    tension, because we know they have multiple attempts to fix things that otherwise would
    not be possible. Cause and effect, not do, redo until they can finally save the day.
    Each and every step should carry some responsibly for them, that they cannot sweep under
    the rug. Otherwise it is too simple for them to win, no matter what the odds. So artificially
    suspending the rules is a demand that they cannot every truly fail.

    On a side note, I will have to watch Superman/Batman Public enemies, again. I remember in
    Superman vs. Batman, Batman leveled the playing field and could pretty much mach Superman
    in most things due to being smart enough to compensate with technology and intellect. Though
    he never goes as far as the shooting beams from his eyes thing. Though to be fair Batman doesn't
    trust anyone, and has a contingency plan to take out everyone in the justice league should they
    switch sides. And he is still the only Super Hero on the team concerned with mortality, because
    he doesn't have any special abilities outside of being incredibly intelligent and ridiculously in
    shape.
     
  20. Phil Mitchell

    Phil Mitchell Banned Contributor

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    The problem with your position, Cave Troll, is you're starting from a premise that the character will want to try again. Is mentally capable of trying again, or is even physically capable of trying again. That the one doing the resurrecting will want to do it multiples times, can even do it multiple times, and that trying over and over can even accomplish anything. Say if I fight Bruce Lee over and over, I'd just lose over and over. Doesn't matter how many times I try. You're assuming too many variables.

    For a start, I'm talking about the comic book arc, not the animation. They differ substantially.

    Second, Batman can't die with any finality because if he dies, the franchise dies with him. Batman will always come back to being Bruce Wayne. Superman will always come back to being Clark Kent. They killed Ripley in Alien 3 with finality and that and every other Alien movie past that sucked.
     
  21. Safety Turtle

    Safety Turtle Senior Member

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    Unless resurrection is a key theme in your story.
    If just used to get your hero out of trouble, it can take a lot of tension away I think.

    I have had the same concerns though, as I have a main character that comes back to life when he's killed, I tried "getting around it" by the character actually wanting to die, but not being able to and also becoming less and less human every time he comes back, even had it used against him as a form of torture, by being killed over and over again in various ways.
    It adds some different stakes I think.

    If you want to bring your character back to life, you should find some downside to it, don't just let it be "and then he lived again and everything was dandy," there has to be a negative effect from it, whether it's physical, mental or emotional (dying is a horrible experience I would imagine).
     
  22. Shadowfax

    Shadowfax Contributor Contributor

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    I think it depends on how.

    They call viral pneumonia "the old man's friend" because it's such a quick and relatively painless way to go. My wife's experience with cardiac arrest was even quicker and more painless (We laugh about it a lot, now). Heart attack, from my wife's witnessing of her mother going that way, was quick but VERY painful; although the preceding attacks weren't particularly quick, but still painful. I'm sure, if you go through the full list of ways to go, you could come up with plenty of slow and painful ways to go.

    Probably the worst part is knowing that you're going to die, and being unable to do anything about it. The anticipation.
     
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  23. Safety Turtle

    Safety Turtle Senior Member

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    True, but the OP talked about his character being stabbed to death with a sword, I haven't been stabbed myself, but I imagine it's rather painful.

    But when I said that dying is a horrible experience, I meant more after you "wake up again", knowing you died.
     
  24. Shadowfax

    Shadowfax Contributor Contributor

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    1/ From what I've heard, being stabbed is more surprising than painful. What hurts when you're cut is the layer of nerves right at the surface of the skin; there aren't any nerves worth mentioning when you go deeper; and then you bleed to death.

    2/ Having been brought back from the dead on multiple occasions, my wife was fitted with an ICD to prevent it happening again; she was told to contact a support group to help her adjust to it. So she did.

    Apparently, those so equipped go about their lives in constant fear of the thing going off, and giving them the most horribly painful shock. How can you carry on normally, knowing that this could happen at any moment? Great post-resurrection trauma.

    My wife's take on this was along the lines that old age ain't so bad when you consider the alternative. If the damned thing goes off, it goes off; it keeps her alive. She's THANKFUL that this bit of technology makes her continued existence possible, even likely.

    Being brought back to life could get you down, especially if you'd really, really wanted to go towards the light, and frolic with all those fluffy-wimbles and whatever that Moosey mentions. I mean, life's such a drag.
     
  25. Mckk

    Mckk Member Supporter Contributor

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    I like it that the MC dies permanently the second time - that he died and resurrected the first time but does not come back the second can make it kinda shocking for the reader, I think. I should think resurrection can be done, but I think here it depends on how well you foreshadow it. If you only mention the possibility once a very long time ago in a little hint - that's not enough and it will feel like an ass pull at the end. But if you build up to it with lots of hints, in other words, giving the reader a chance to work it out for themselves, then it would become an AHA moment, which would make it awesome rather than awful :D
     

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