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  1. EBohio

    EBohio Banned

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    When The MC Has To Die

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by EBohio, Dec 27, 2018.

    My story just won't work unless the MC dies but I just can't do it to him. What to do, what to do? Even the professional reader says he has to die or it's not the best ending.

    If a professional reader says you should change something to get it sold and you don't want to do it, should you?
    I'm so against this MC dying for me that I'm willing to have an unsold story just so he can live.

    Am I too involved with this character that I need him for myself and to hell with the world out there that they will never know him?
     
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  2. Necronox

    Necronox Contributor Contributor

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    Not much of an expert myself, just voicing my opinion here;

    It's one thing to be mentally invested in a character, but it's another to let that hinder you. At the end of the day, they are just words on a page, nothing more and nothing less.

    Alternatively, you could do an effective-death but not *really* kill him. Write him off story-wise so that he never can, or does, come back but still being alive. However, some people may view that more as a cop-out rather than 'doing what needs to be done'.
     
  3. Cogito

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Yes. Any character's sole purpose is to support the story. If the story requires the characters demise, you are disrespecting the character by not allowing him or her to function at full potential. Don't be clingy and possessive! The story is everything.
     
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  4. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Potatoes again? Supporter Contributor

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    Your answer is right there.

    I don't know your publishing history, but your question is really "Do I want to be a writer, or a published author?" If it's the story and the character as you see it that's most important to you, you'll have to settle for (sorry, don't like the phrasing but it's all I can come up with right now) being "just" a writer.

    Emily Dickinson wrote something like two thousand poems, but only had a few of them published while she was alive.

    But if you want the fame, fortune, and universal respect (hah!) that comes with being a published author, and you believe that your "professional reader"s opinion is definitely worth listening to (especially if they're a publiisher, agent, or someone who can materially assist you), you're going to have to suck it up and write for the market.

    There's nothing wrong with either course, it's a matter of determining what your priorities are.
     
  5. graveleye

    graveleye Senior Member

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    OP, I am going through something similar in my WIP, only it's not about my character dying.
    My poor guy thinks he's losing the love of his life and quite honestly I've felt every single emotion that he's feeling, to the extent that it's kept me up at night.
    But I'm still going through with it, even if it means I have to share his pain.

    I'm not sure how common or uncommon it is to become emotionally submerged in your own characters and stories, but I can testify that I'm experiencing it in a large way.
     
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  6. Selbbin

    Selbbin The Moderating Cat Staff Contributor

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    Kill him if the story calls for it. Otherwise he has no purpose to begin with. It's not reality.
     
  7. Earp

    Earp Rolling Thunder Contributor

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    John Rambo died at the end of David Morrell's book, First Blood, but it seemed to me Morrell just didn't know what else to do with him.
     
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  8. Infel

    Infel Contributor Contributor

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    Are you writing a fantasy novel?

    Just create a separate plane where Characters go when they die, and can earn their way back to their reality a hundred years later. Then you can kill him in the main story and bring him back in your own head later, and your readers will never know! I love cheating!
     
  9. EBohio

    EBohio Banned

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    No, straight drama. But I think that is the answer: I have to bring him back in my own head.
     
  10. Matt E

    Matt E Ruler of the planet Omicron Persei 8 Contributor

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    It is important for us as writers to be able to let go of our favorite characters when we have to. If this character’s death is powerfully emotional for you, it will probably be very emotional to the reader too.

    However, I’m skeptical that the character has to die. To paraphrase Patrick Rothfus, there are worse things that can happen to your characters than death. Destroying the things that they love the most may have the same effect, while still leaving the character for further exploration. Depends on your story and why the reader thinks that the character should die I guess. Ultimately, you’re the captain of your ship.
     
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  11. EBohio

    EBohio Banned

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    It's kind of like in the original "The Poseidon Adventure". The Gene Hackman character is a priest that leads the group to final safety but has to die opening the sealed hatch. He could have lived I guess but ending not as powerful.
     
  12. Matt E

    Matt E Ruler of the planet Omicron Persei 8 Contributor

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    I haven’t seen the movie, but sounds like the point is in having the character make a supreme sacrifice for the benefit of others? That sacrifice could be his or her life. Or could be something else that he or she holds dear. Their death would be either the final completion of their character arc, or a cutting short of it for dramatic effect. If you do not wish to end their character arc, you can still make them sacrifice something dear.

    Be true to your characters, above all else. Don’t make your characters do things they wouldn’t for phony reasons. That’s just catering to a formula. If your character wouldn’t give his or her life, then they wouldn’t, plain and simple. But if they would, they would. Both actions have dire and dramatic consequences. Do what is true to your characters. To do otherwise is to do the character an even greater injustice, even if that means killing them off. You can always write prequels.
     
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  13. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Assuming this is true, not hyperbole I suggest you urgently contact a mental health practitioner, as you obviously have issues that fall well beyond the orbit of a writers forum.

    That aside I'd point out that its fiction, the guy concerned isn't real, and there's nothing stopping you writing more than one version if you want - assuming you aren't actually mentally ill please stop being so melodramatic
     
  14. exweedfarmer

    exweedfarmer Banned Contributor

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    I don't think my MC made it through the first paragraph. .He stays dead through most of the book too. Only one case of accidental reincarnation.
     
  15. LadyErica

    LadyErica Active Member

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    This is why I prefer being an indie writer. I don't make much money of my books, but I have my loyal fans, and I get full control of the books. That means I can do whatever the heck I want with them. But whether it's sci-fi or horror, a series or stand alone books, I always go in with the same mindset: This is the final book, and I'm going all out to make it the best one possible. It's all that matters to me. If a character has to die to make the story better, then so be it. If that means it's the end of the series... then I'll start a new series, or write a spin-off book.

    As an example, I wrote a book involving time travel, and through the story, it was revealed that both MCs had died a couple of times already. One had died, so the other one went back in time to save her. Then the second went back in time to save the first one, and so on and on. Kinda like "The butterfly effect", if you've seen that movie. Fix one thing, something else goes very wrong.

    I always wanted that to be a series, so it made sense to let both survive the first book. Or at least, they were both alive at the end of it. In the second book, though? One MC was having mental issues after the events of the first book, and the story started with her being released from a mental institution. By the end of the second book, she had completely lost her mind (far worse than last time), and the other MC was dead. Not "we can save her somehow", but confirmed dead. She's not coming back. At all. And with the other one now locked up in a mental institution for life, I wasn't really going to write a third book. And even if I was, it would be a spin-off with a minor character from the first two books.

    But know what? The lunatic MC just didn't want to give up that easily. I was done her, but she was not done with me at all. So before I knew it, I was 9 pages into a third story, with her breaking out of the mental institution and going on the run. I wasn't even going to write a third book, and it writes itself. I just type the words. Plus, she is already insane, and are having major issues seperating reality from fantasy. That means she can see and talk to the dead MC, even if it's a figment of her imagination. And just like that, we have an easy way for the dead MC to return from the grave. Not literally, but close enough. MCs. Can't live with them, can't kill them and make them stay dead! :D
     
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  16. EBohio

    EBohio Banned

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    Yeah!
     
  17. EBohio

    EBohio Banned

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    So your POV is that I am crazy for wanting him to live?
     
  18. Infel

    Infel Contributor Contributor

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    I mean... it really wasn't that melodramatic ._.
     
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  19. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I'd say caring that deeply about someone who isn't real is a sign of a certain level of instability... assuming you aren't a kid having imaginary friends is a bit...unusual.

    Like I said its fiction, he's not real... if you want him to live so badly that you'd turn down a book deal not to have to kill him then that's a bit of a loss of perspective on what he is and what he's for.

    my bottom line on this assuming you're not nuts is to just kill him if the story needs it, or not if it doesn't , but lets not make it into some massive deal as if they are asking you to kill your wife to save your daughter or something

    (that said on the wider question the editor isn't always right, so if your gut doesn't want to kill him, don't but make sure its an objective decision on what's best for the story)
     
  20. Matt E

    Matt E Ruler of the planet Omicron Persei 8 Contributor

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    Many writers, and readers, care deeply about characters in fiction. It's part of what we're selling as writers. The ability for readers to invest themselves in a fantastical story that takes them away from the real world for a while. If a writer can't feel for their characters, then how can a reader? These characters we write are woven from real people and experiences, fictionalized in a story that can only be related to where it shares similarities to the real world. When a reader cries for a character who dies in a story, they cry for those they know who have died, and for the condition of death that we all have to face someday. It's perfectly normal to feel emotion about the art we create.
     
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  21. Selbbin

    Selbbin The Moderating Cat Staff Contributor

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    Considering this is the relevant question in the OP, from my perspective the answer is: yes. You are too involved with the character. If you can't re-imagine a similar character again later because you 'need' him, whatever that means, you should maybe re-evaluate what it is you are actually doing.
     
  22. Selbbin

    Selbbin The Moderating Cat Staff Contributor

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    Yes, creating characters we care about is critical. As a reader you should not want this character to die and be upset that he did. As a writer you need the maturity to understand that we are creating situations that deliberately manipulate emotions, and therefore not to fall into the trap of becoming the reader. The problem is, the reader has no power over the story. The writer does. If killing the character will be emotional that's all the more reason to pull the trigger. Knowing the reader will be upset should be exciting for a writer. It's an achievement. It's not something to shy away from, but to aim for.

    Edit: if you don't kill this character you would have wasted him.
     
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  23. EBohio

    EBohio Banned

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    Oh God, Moose, don't you even go read the "emotional while writing" thread, those people are bawling their eyes out, don't crush their spirits.
     
  24. Matt E

    Matt E Ruler of the planet Omicron Persei 8 Contributor

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    I mostly agree. To me, it's about riding the wave of emotion and not getting carried up within it. We should understand the storytelling tools that we're using, and write the truth about what our characters would do. We shouldn't alter the outcome of inevitable events, as that would seem unnatural. Either in avoiding tragedy, or working it in without proper buildup. This is a pantser perspective I guess.
     
  25. EBohio

    EBohio Banned

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    Well, Frank Sinatra certainly would have agreed with you. He was going to quit the movie "Von Ryan's Express" unless his character did die at the end.

    **********whoops probably should have said spoilers if somebody never saw the movie.
     

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