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Kirby
August 23rd, 2002, 03:41 AM
Only once have I seen it employed to good effect - in the first few books of Wingrove's Chung-Kuo series.

I won't say who bites it, only that some characters who have been given full development from the start (as opposed to "just before they get taken out") get knocked out of the loop, a couple of books later :)

It's a risk, to be sure - especially if the character is liked - so having more than one likeable character is a good idea.

How many different ways have you seen the death topic handled in stories?
Holograms, spirits, Immortals, recordings, empathic inserts, re-incarnation, are all very popular for throwing the character back nto the story for a bit.

I'm not sure if there's really a purpose to this post, other than I happened to be thinking about it :)

A writer friend of mine , who is married to a partner who also writes, described their relationship as thus - "I make him save some of his characters, he makes me kill off some of mine!"

How do you feel about the topic?

Does it give a character more dimension? A rounded conclusion? (like the fate of Boromir who realised his flaws only before he died) or give more dimension to the living ones as a result?
How about the emotional resonance of a well written death?(as in, you knew the character very well / you associated with the character / had empathy for them, first)

I think that's why I like the description of the end of Aragorn and Arwen, in the appendices of LotR so much - I'd had three books to get to know them in.

And how do you feel about "throwaway" characters that are set up just to die - ? Would it make more impact to kill off just one properly developed character, than to (commonly) kill off many half baked characters instead?

(and hey - it worked a treat for Darth Vader and Obi Wan ;) )

Violent death v's peaceful death?

I think if a character has undergone enough of an emotional arc (change/growth) to be interesting, then their death has more impact.
How much development is enough? At what point do we begin to care?

Okayokayokay - that's enough for now :)

Holbrook
August 23rd, 2002, 04:17 AM
Hmmm.... death of characters....

I think Raymond E.Feist uses the life and death of his characters very well in the "Riftwar" and the "Serpentwar"

Most of the characters we are introduced to in "Magician" have died by the end of "Shards of a Broken Crown." some deaths are heroic, others a plain waste. Some when they are old, some never given the change to grow old....

Janny Wurts also uses death and the meaning of it very well in her "Daughter of the Empire " series. Dying well or with honour is a main theme within the story.

"The warlock in spite of himself" by Christopher Stasheff, though a very tongue in cheek fantasy story, the death of the character "Big Tom" has a profound affect on the hero.

The biggie for me is "The Forever War" by Joe Haldeman. Each death, of main or minor character impinges on the mind, as you read the book. And at the end the believed loss of a loved one sounds thoughout the whole text.

In my first monster I killed off a lot of characters, some the affect was what I wanted in others it didn't seem to work....

It seems a matter of checks and balances......

Oh and I have killed off Albert *g* at least twice..... but he won't lie down for some reason

Hobbit
August 23rd, 2002, 05:31 AM
Try also Dan Simmons' Endymion books - two books (Endymion and the Rise of Endymion) (.....and Sf, I know) but the ending is SO sad. Simmons has spent two books developing characters, and then.....

Aik Haw
August 23rd, 2002, 07:45 AM
Hmm, death of a character. In some of my short stories, I tend to use death as a way to close a storyline, though I find this style slightly on the uncreative side. In others, I use death to emphasise certain storylines. All the characters who I will "kill" have been long preplanned to be killed, not done out of a spur of the moment inspiration.

As for returning characters back to life, I really have no problem about doing it( being a firm believer of reincarnation and ascendants kinda have it's benefit ). I do however plot it sparingly though. The last thing you want is to make "return from the dead" such a common phenomenon that death=a temporary exit from the storyline.

Do remember, death is supposed to be final( or close to it). The return from the dead tends to either reflect hope or divine intervention or something "large" on the scale of things. This should not be as common as your character loading a weapon canister or hurling fireballs.

Fyre
August 26th, 2002, 08:25 PM
I belive that the death of a main character in a novel usually leaves me feelings as if the story is 'closed'. Even though I enjoy books in which the main character meets a tragic and heroic death I rarely read them more than once. However, the death of a secondary but important character (such as Borimer) really adds flavor and emotion to a story. But for me it is not the loss of a character that affects me emotionally. It is the way the characters who are still living react to the death.

For example:

In one of my novels a character that you never meet, has no known name, and only about three lines is killed only three chapters in. His death is witnessed by my main character Jonas. Watching someone die changes Jonas so drastically that it continues to influence his every decision throughout the entire story.

The way I presented this story does not make the reader sad that this man died. The reader knows little to nothing about this man and his life. It is the reaction of my main character that is interesting.

I belive that when we die we go on to a better place. That gives me no reason to feel sad for the person that died. I feel sad for myself because I no longer have them in my life. You see, to me if a character dies it makes no difference unless the reactions of those characters he associated are genuine and heartfelt.

Fyre

Giroth
August 27th, 2002, 10:54 AM
In all the books I wrote in, I always had trouble killing characters.I killed one with poison, but had to bring him back.I add characters to just kill, and not get attached to, but usually, I can't kill anyone cause I'm too attached to them.:(

manticore
August 30th, 2002, 02:14 AM
i quite enjoy building up characters and killingthem off suddenly. might sound a bit brutal but i think it adds to the story if one of the main characters suddenly cops it.

for example, when i first read lotr 10 years ago at the age of 12, i remember being totally shocked when gandalf fell in moria. realy hadnt expected that. but wasnt sur[rised when he returned-the old boy was just too cool to die like that.

An8el
August 30th, 2002, 04:26 AM
Yes, I still remember my first reaction to Gandalf too - that he couldn't be dead but maybe he was. Then I remember thinking, "Oh, he had to go because then Aragorn would get some leadership status."

Better when the characters who are left go through the classic stages of grief, such as shock, self blame, anger, despair, bargaining and other coping reactions as denial and bitterness, and eventually accepting the larger purpose of what happened and the celebrating the dead person's memory, values and purposes.

That said, most stories just have their characters register shock and denial - and the effect of death seems to end there...as if the writer has experienced little of personal grief. I think that it's almost theraputic for a reader to write a more realistic narraction of the death of a character - but it's not often done. In stories where the character's thoughts are revealed to us, it's easier to work in. Many fantasy and action stories seem to exclude that.