Another Writing Question!

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  • #122733
    Joelle Stone
    @joelle-stone

      Hi guys! I recently read Brandon Miller’s amazing article on killing your characters without making readers mad (thx for that, @mischievous-thwapling. ;)), and I realized I have a question for anybody.

      In that article, Mr. Miller says,

      When a character dies, readers say goodbye. If the character returns, readers’ feelings toward him will have changed.

      Resurrected characters are shells of their former selves. Safeguard your story and your characters: let the dead rest in peace.

      I totally agreed with that, then I realized a main part of my story has one of the main characters “dying” (but not really, it’s just assumed that she’s dead), then being seen again as a prisoner of the villain. I thought about having her whole “death” scene just to evoke emotions of sorrow in my readers, then, in the epilogue (which is directly after the “death” scene), hint that she’s still alive. Would that be too much? My goal is to have readers cry over her “death”, then see the hint and look for signs of her until she shows up. Good idea, or cheesy?

      Making something beautiful in a broken world can be harrowing work. And it can’t be done alone.
      ~AP

      #122736
      Taylor Clogston
      @taylorclogston

      Unless rebirth is a major theme in your story, if you want readers to believe your characters actually die, it’s almost universally recommended to keep characters dead.

      When you bring a single character back, you are then an author who brings back dead characters.

      As to your specific question, I think the sadness of a dead character lingers and sweetens as time passes. Immediately following up with hope that they’re still alive only allows for the initial sadness and then tells the reader to stop being sad.

      "...the one with whom he so sought to talk has already interceded for him." -The Master and Margarita

      #122743
      Joelle Stone
      @joelle-stone

        @taylorclogston,

        Ooh, that’s helpful, thank you!

        Making something beautiful in a broken world can be harrowing work. And it can’t be done alone.
        ~AP

        #122744
        Arindown
        @arindown

          @joelle-stone

          I personally am not apposed to characters coming back…as long as it’s done properly. One thing you might want to keep in mind is how you kill your character. If you have them stabbed in front of everyone and someone checks their pulse and announces them dead, it’s going to be hard to bring them back believable. But, if you, for example, do it like in Lord of the Rings, where Gandalf falls with the Bullrog, but nobody actually sees him die, it’s easier to bring him back.

          I think what I’m trying to say is how you kill someone will give the reader a hint of whether or not you’ll bring them back. If your story is in third person (he, they, Sam, etc.), and the narrator says, “And Sam died,” it will leave no doubt in your readers mind that Sam did, indeed, die. If you bring him back later, they’ll be skeptical.

          But, if it’s the same story, and Sam’s friend Jerry says, “He died,” after Sam apparently fell of a cliff, your readers will subconsciously realize that Sam’s death is Jerry’s opinion, not fact. They will still be surprised if you bring Sam back (especially if characters mourn Sam’s passing), but they will realize that it’s not a supernatural act to have Sam alive, he probably just caught himself on a ledge on the way over the cliff.

          I think bringing characters back can be a good (and enhancing) thing, actually, as we see in stories like Lord of the Rings, and the Wingfeather Saga (I’m talking about the Spidifer in Throg😄).

          Forgiven. Loved. Creative.

          #122746
          Zee
          @zee

            Like others have said, I think it all depends on how it’s done. An actual resurrection-type scene would be extremely hard to pull of well. In fact, Gandalf’s is the only really good one that comes readily to mind.

            If I’m led to believe that a character really has died, and then that character reappears, I think I’m more likely to feel tricked or manipulated than relieved, unless of course the idea of a return is subtly seeded into the death scene–in which case you simply won’t be able to play that “beloved character dying” drama for all it’s worth.

            That being said, a major plot point of one of my stories centered on a character who’s supposedly dead–nobody actually saw him die, but given the circumstances in which they did last see him (rather like Sam disappearing over the edge of a cliff) they all assumed he had been killed. And this was what he wanted them to think…until the night he had a little more than was good for him and called his “widow.”

            So it really depends, I think, on the kind of story you’re trying to tell, and your purpose for “killing off” the character and then bringing her back.

            #122748
            Joelle Stone
            @joelle-stone

              @arindown,

              Good points! And YES, Wingfeather Saga!!! (Spidifer is like THE WORST character on PLANET EARTH. 😛 )


              @zee
              ,

              Thanks for your tips! They’ve been most helpful (and your story sounds quite interesting). *bows*

              —————

              I will certainly keep all of this in mind as I tweak the idea. I’ll probably bring up your guys’ points with my brainstorming team when we talk on Friday, and I’ll see what they say. 🙂

              Making something beautiful in a broken world can be harrowing work. And it can’t be done alone.
              ~AP

              #122763
              Chelsea R.H.
              @seekjustice

              @joelle-stone

              I think her going “missing in action” would be your best option. For example, something happens and everyone assumes she’s dead, but one of the characters holds out hope that she’s still alive. This will sow doubt in the reader that she really is dead and when she’s proved to be still alive it’s pay off rather than a cop out. Does that make sense?

              I use this tactic in my war novel. The MC receives a letter saying that her brother is missing in action, presumed dead as his plane has failed to return from its mission. While everyone accepts this and advises MC to move on as he is almost certainly dead, she refuses to believe this. In actual fact, he’s been taken prisoner by the Turkish and later escapes and returns to her. Since the point of view character doesn’t believe he is dead, we don’t want to believe he’s dead either and when he turns up at her doorstep we are happy instead of skeptical or annoyed.

              Mahalo keia huiʻana

              #122764
              Joelle Stone
              @joelle-stone

                @seekjustice,

                Wow. I never even thought of that, and it weaves in PERFECTLY. Thank you so much! I think you gave me just the right answer. Combining this with everyone else’s response will definitely smooth out my kinks. 🙂 Thanks!

                BTW, what language is your signature in? I thought it was some form of Elvish, but now I’m not sure. 😉

                Making something beautiful in a broken world can be harrowing work. And it can’t be done alone.
                ~AP

                #122781
                Chelsea R.H.
                @seekjustice

                @joelle-stone No worries! I’m glad you found it helpful!

                It’s in Hawaiian! I started learning it for a book of mine quite some time ago and I got really obsessed. It’s possibly my favourite language.

                Mahalo keia huiʻana

                #122785
                Joelle Stone
                @joelle-stone

                  @seekjustice,

                  Hawaiian? That makes sense. 🙂 For names in my stories I tend to translate some kind of character trait into another language, and Hawaiian as been helpful. 🙂 Oy, I can’t believe I thought it was Elvish! *facepalm* 😛

                  Making something beautiful in a broken world can be harrowing work. And it can’t be done alone.
                  ~AP

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