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Character Deaths…advice?

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  • #102173
    Livi Ryddle
    @anne_the_noob14

    @kari-karast

    Uhm… Yes. *nods* I would venture to say it is. I guess it depends some on which character you like more. But for me…? Yeah. I think it’s worse.

    “Enough! Be quiet! I can’t hear myself think! I can’t hear my teeth chatter!"

    #102174
    Urwen Starial
    @urwen-starial

    @scarletimmortalized

    Ah, yes, character death, one of the most heart-wrenching parts of a story. And also, one of my favorite things to write about! 😊 (Kirat stop looking at me like that, it’s not like I’ve written out your death… Yet)

    I feel like a very common death, is sacrifice. It’s become so common that it makes it hard to enjoy it all the time. As long as it’s written well, you’ll have me welling up in tears.

    A favorite tactic for deaths I use, is reminiscing afterwards, to make the pain more realistic, the character remembering the times they spent with another, to enhance the pain. (Kirat, seriously, stop looking at me like that!)

    I  see WAY too many stories where the characters are too caught up in their own things to properly grieve a character’s death. It doesn’t go deep enough into their pain, it doesn’t show me that this character was important to them, no matter their role in the story.

    All sacrifice scenes have to be written well. I like authors who go deep to show why the character is sacrificing. They have to show a deep expression to show me why they’re making this sacrifice.

    If the hero is making a sacrifice for the villain, there has to be more than a sense of duty, there has to be a reason they’re saving them. A deeper expression of why they feel honor bound and it their duty to save them.

    Y’know? Am I making sense? Death scenes have to be written well, otherwise they seem shallow and unimportant. The reader forgets the death because it didn’t leave some sort of lasting impression on a character.

    if the character isn’t impacted by the death, then it risks being a forgettable death, and a forgettable character. Characters have to change after a death. Who isn’t impacted by death? Even in a small way, it impacts the stoniest hearted character.

    good. Lecture done. Crazy long post. It’s good to know I’m not the only murderer on here! 😉(Figuratively of course. Kirat stop glaring at me like that!!!)

    “Tears sparkle like fallen stars, the world at our fingertips, We didn’t know, It wasn't happiness.

    #102799
    Esmeralda Gramilton
    @esmeralda-gramilton

    Okay, long post coming up:

    The best two deaths scenes I’ve ever written:

    One where a married couple dies together after *spoiler* and their unofficially adopted son is there and can’t do anything to save them when they die. having just a few people there is very emo for me. But i don’t like the helplessness that’s just standing there and wishing.

    Then at the end of the series, a good guy and a bad guy are poisoned together. After about four months, the good guy dies and the bad guy lives. The good guy is a main character but not a POV character or anything, so I was able to add utterly devastated thoughts from the POV characters when they find out. that helps add emo a lot.

    I’d mention some of the most well-written death scenes I’ve read from other authors, but I’ve read and finished a lot of currently popular books series, and don’t want to spoil anything. I’ll just say the one in Book 3 of Keeper of the Lost Cities and then the one in book 5, the one at the end of the second series of Spirit <i>Animals</i>, the fifth and then every one in the seventh books of Harry Potter, especially.

    Okay, long post over.

    “No-one can judge your worth; They can only influence your judgement of your own worth.” ~Elysso

    #115682
    Rusted Knight
    @rusted-knight

    I’ve seen a few deaths (in books and film). Some of the best to absolutely kill the viewer’s heart are when Person A thinks they are going on a suicide mission that will end the problem once and for all. Spoiler. Person B, the people’s favorite, double crossed Person A and sent them to the decoy which is not well guarded while they hit the real target. Person A figures out too late and hears their final words before their death.

    Also, FOR ALL THAT IS GOOD AND KIND, PLEASE STOP HAVING THE ONE WHO DIES TALK ABOUT THE FAMILY. While it makes the death more sorrowful, its been used too much. Try the reveal after the death like they did in Sands of Iwo Jima. That one hurt a bit.

    The Devil saw me with my head down and got excited. Then I said Amen

    #115707
    Arindown (Gracie)
    @arindown

    Ohh, I hadn’t seen this thread yet. I wouldn’t classify myself as a bad character killer. I’m moderate. I find it hurts me just as much or more than readers to really take out someone you spent months crafting and loving.

    There were some very good death scenes mentioned…but my favorites have got to be *spoiler alert* some of the ones in the Wingfearther Saga. Andrew Peterson did an amazing job on them. I don’t know how this is possible, but I think Rudric’s hit me just as hard as the one (not going to say who) at the very end. The elements of Nia, and Esben, and then Rudric…*shivers* It’s horribly good.

    And my other favorite is Boromir in LOTR movie. Not because of Boromir’s death so much, but because that scene really solidifies who Aragorn is through the death.

    I think the most important thing about a death scene is to strive, not to affect your reader, but to affect your character. Death will either weaken them, or strengthen them. It may take away hope, or give determination. They might break down immediately, or it might take a while. Whatever happens, death is a twist you use to make your character more real, and more relatable.

    Not all who wander are lost.

    #123736
    Skylarynn
    @skylarynn

    This thread may be dead but I felt like posting on it anyway.  If I get a response, yay!  If not, I don’t mind.

    I have read my fair share of books, but at the same time I feel like I haven’t read nearly enough to get an idea of what good writing is.  I myself have been writing since I learned how to read, but I think my skill only picked up about 9 years ago (and my practice has been far from regular, so my craft isn’t nearly as developed as it probably should be…).  In the years I’ve been writing I’ve killed my fair share of characters, but I’ve also made the mistake of resurrecting my fair share of characters.  I killed for shock value frequently, but in recent times a lot of my deaths have taken place before the story starts.

    What were some of the best character death’s you’ve read or written?

    The best I’ve read recently is probably the death of Lucy Westenra in Bram Stoker’s Dracula.  The whole time leading up to her death there is this feeling of dread mixed with hope, as you’re pretty sure she’s doomed but simultaneously hoping the Suitor Gang can cure her before she joins the demonic undead.  As to how the death was handled by other characters…Stoker probably could’ve handled that a little better.

    The best death I personally have written is probably the *spoilers* death of the focus character in my High Fantasy series.  They fall to their death from the villain’s tower, alongside the villain.  But the situation was not that they pushed the villain and was dragged down in a Taking You With Me; instead, the hero tried to catch the villain from falling because they related to the villain and didn’t want them to die.  And they both ended up falling.  The other characters were horrified at this turn of events (well, all except the one with a major grudge against the villain and wanted him dead at any cost) and they all grieved the dead hero in their own ways.  In particular the person who was basically the hero’s surrogate sibling carried their dead body all the way back to the foster mother of the hero so they could have a proper burial.  And of course none of this was helped by the fact that the character basically had the mind of a child when they died.

    What cliches involved in deaths do you despise?

    Kinda ignoring the character after the death and also the character coming back almost immediately.  Consider Loki’s death at the end of Thor and his return in the Avengers.  We hear that Thor and his family mourned Loki, but we never get to see it.  Or being absolutely destroyed by someone’s death/disappearance to the point that others can’t function.  Even though Edward didn’t die, Bella’s handling of his disappearance was extremely dramatic.  It seems that in fiction deaths go one of two ways; either the death and character are forgotten, or they are obsessively mourned until they come back from the dead because the other characters cannot function without them.  I hate both results about equally.

    What cliches do you like?

    It is always impressive when you can tell the death was inevitable but yet there’s still some chance you could be wrong and this horrible thing won’t happen to your beloved character.  This can be especially poignant if the character is sacrificing themself for another.  I haven’t read anything like this recently, so I’ll use an example from one of my stories.  I’m going to assign letters instead of names to avoid spoilers, but here goes:  in this world there is an organization of monster hunters (known, appropriately, as the Hunters).  As this is a hazardous occupation, they do not have a high life expectancy.  A father and son, (father) A and (son) B, are both Hunters.  Both expect they’ll die on the job eventually.  A is older, nearing the end of his career.  B is still young and has quite a future ahead of him.  Both are badly injured by a monster and B is dying.  So A makes a deal with a Reaper, his life for his son’s.  He doesn’t tell B.  B recovers miraculously and is able to continue hunting, but A dies of his own, much less severe injuries to the doctor’s bafflement.

    What makes a character death sad for you?

    Sacrifice, resignation, and inevitability.  It is especially sad if the character is aware they might die but it isn’t so bleak as a suicide mission and for a little they think they have some hope of making it out…except they don’t make it out, and they are accepting of this.  Ow.

    What character deaths made you want to stop reading the book?

    This will be spoilers for Ranger’s Apprentice by John Flanagan, but Alyss’s death made me immediately want to stop reading the twelfth book.  In the previous eleven books she had been built up as a clever and capable courier and spy, and the love interest of the main character Will.  Then after a 15-year timeskip we find out she died in an inn fire a year ago and that the cheerful, optimistic, perky Will is now a cold and hardened shell of himself.  The death was off-page, which was an insult of itself, and Will had been completely consumed in grief that he rather callously killed someone who may’ve been involved in Alyss’s death in an inn fight without a shred of remorse.  This is entirely unlike the kindhearted Will of earlier books who, though he often did have to kill in his duties as a Ranger, never would have done so unprovoked or in cold blood.  Rant over, sorry.

    Any misc. info you’d like to share?

    Generally speaking deaths should have an air of inevitability about them, even if it is very slight.  This helps avoid it seem like the death came out of nowhere or was only for the shock value.  The right amount of foreshadowing will help with this.  Unfortunately though no examples of this come to mind at the moment…sorry…

    On a side note though it is very tricky to pull of resurrections and such without cheapening death in your story.  I try to combat this by all deaths being permanent, or by methods of resurrection being rather costly/frowned upon.  For example, in the example with father A and son B, resurrection magic is forbidden by the Hunters because it rarely ever ends well.  In the other story where the hero dies with the villain, an attempt is made to bring them back but their soul looks identical to all the other souls so those trying to resurrect them have to leave empty-handed.  There is a way to bring people back from the dead in that world, but it requires you to be present at the death and to have the very rare, very powerful ability to bind souls.  Unfortunately, that ability belongs to the villain, so there are several dead heroic characters who have been brought back twisted to fight for the side of evil.  People may come back, but they will not come back the same.

    "Remember, you go nowhere by accident. Wherever you go, God is sending you." - Rev. Peter R. Hale

    #123817
    Rose
    @rose-colored-fancy

    @skylarynn

    I can’t agree more about Alyss’ death! It was extremely unsatisfying and downright unfair. If he had to kill her off to drive the plot for the Royal Ranger, at least do it on the page! If only in a prologue! I’m still mad about that one. And Will’s actions were entirely out of character. The plot in and of itself wasn’t bad, but it would have worked better with new characters.

     

     

    *SPOILERS*

    Another bad example from RA is Shukin’s death in book 10. Honestly, it was a competition between “Oh. Okay.” and “Who was that again?” (I had to look up his name XD) I really didn’t love book 10. Hmm, maybe Flanagan isn’t good at killing off characters XD

    Some good death’s I’ve read include:

    *SPOILERS for “Mockingjay” (Hunger Games)*

    Some really good, heartwrenching deaths were Prim and Finnick. I almost cried, even though I’d already been spoiled for the deaths. Prim’s was heartbreaking because Katniss worked the entire series to save her, and now she dies after all. It does show a good shift between trying to save her family and trying to save the country.

    I wasn’t happy about Finnick’s, since it seemed a bit superfluous, (He could have lived!) but it was heartbreaking because he had achieved his goals/wishes, (Surviving the Quarter Quell and marrying Annie) but didn’t have time to enjoy them.

    *SPOILERS for “The Shadow Throne” (Ascendance series)*

    In “The Shadow Throne” I really admired Imogen and Conner’s deaths. (I’m trying to avoid too many spoilers 😉 )

    Conner’s was an amazing villain death, since, as the book said “Conner had died much as he lived, in the grayest shadow between right and wrong.” His death was so perfectly in character, it was downright impressive, and left you wondering about his motivations. You spend most of the series trying to figure out what he’s thinking, and trying to predict him. You’re left satisfied, but slightly puzzled (not confused, just a bit puzzled) like you should be with morally gray characters.

    Imogen’s was a good death because it was so crucial to the plot, and it really showed a lot about Jaron. I got a bit choked up when Imogen’s death completely broke him like nothing else could. I think this was amplified by his personality and constant rebellious determination. He never, ever gave up, even when things looked their darkest. And now he just stopped fighting and stopped caring. It was heartbreaking.

    The cliches I like are resurrections. (Sorry!) It’s something I’ve never really minded if it’s well-executed and the grief doesn’t feel wasted. I understand it’s risky and a lot of people will hate it, but this is one of the things I don’t mind.

    Cliches I hate are when they just drop down dead with no buildup or consequences, or they’re killed offscreen. I hate it when the MC just arrives at a burnt house and everyone’s dead. It kind of ruins the effect it might have had and only makes me frustrated. I also hate it when characters disappear when they’re no longer useful and it’s only mentioned that they’re dead. (Cinna! I’m still mad about that.) Also, when a character mysteriously dies off-screen and the MC is only told about it, I’m suspicious. I understand that sometimes it’s the only way, but it isn’t ideal.

    Does anyone have any ideas of how to show grief in an MC without having a melodramatic reflection for half a chapter? (during which the phrases “My heart broke” and “my soul ripped in two” are absolutely required.) I don’t mean the lasting, long term mourning, but the initial shock. When I write it, it feels either hard-hearted or melodramatic.

    Thanks in advance, this is a great subject and I learned a lot from everyone’s comments!

     

     

    "Stories are light. Light is precious in a world so dark." The Tale of Despereaux

    #123839
    Skylarynn
    @skylarynn

    @rose-colored-fancy

    I actually recently wrote the initial shock of one of my characters finding out his father was dead.  The context is as follows:

    Luke is on a team of monster hunters.  His father Jeffrey is Luke’s dad and a retired monster hunter.  Once, when the team was hunting some Indian demons, Luke went on ahead of everyone and got overwhelmed and captured.  The demons did a ritual to summon their king Ravanna and have him possess Luke, which was interrupted when the team came back to get Luke.  But the ritual still worked so Luke was now possessed and because Ravanna was just evil he tried to kill Jeffrey.  Later Ravanna was killed when Luke was shot in the shoulder with a particular arrow.  Here’s the scene:

    There was a gentle knock at the door.

    Luke opened it to find Mal standing in the doorway. “What’s up?”

    Mal’s expression was somber when he spoke: “We, uh,” he began, then cleared his throat. “We just got a call from the hospital.”

    The younger Hunter felt himself tense, his stomach sinking slightly. “What’d they say?”

    Malcolm cleared his throat again. “Jeffrey’s dead.”

    “Ah.” Just one word, but it still came out shaky. His stomach had plummeted and his heart was starting to pound in his ears. This wasn’t right, this wasn’t supposed to happen…. He felt like throwing up.

    “You alright?” Mal asked, drawing Luke’s focus back to him.

    Luke nodded vaguely. “Yeah. I’ll be fine.” He didn’t sound very convinced.

    “Let me know if you need anything, okay?” Malcolm didn’t look too convinced either.

    “Yeah,” Luke said, nodding again.

    His mentor gave him one last meaningful look before heading back down the hallway. By this point he knew Luke preferred to handle this kind of thing in private, alone with himself and his thoughts.

    Luke waited a moment after he’d left, then quietly, carefully, closed the door and slid the bolt home. He swallowed. Inhaled, exhaled. Numbness settled over him, accompanied by a leaden blanket of dread that constricted his chest. His hands trembled and he took in a shaky breath as he sank down against the door. A lump of guilt had lodged itself in his throat, making it a struggle just to swallow. He exhaled and tried to take a deep breath, fighting desperately against the panic restricting his lungs. There was so much…too much…all this grief, dread, panic, guilt…it was crushing him. He couldn’t breathe, couldn’t speak. His eyes burned as hot tears began to spill down his face. Anger swelled within him. This was his fault. If he’d just stayed with the team, if he’d just fought harder against the demon, if he’d just…but he hadn’t. After all, even if Ravanna had been the one in control, it was still his hands that had pulled the trigger. His hands that had held the knives. His hands that were stained with his father’s blood. And now Jeffrey was dead. Dead by his hands.

    Drywall exploded in a white cloud as Luke threw his fist into the wall. God, everything was so raw. His shoulder ached from the sudden movement, the wound not yet fully healed, and brought him a little closer back to the moment. He needed to ground himself, get his bearings, calm down. Part of him distractedly lamented Maddie’s absence, but he quickly dismissed the thought. He needed to focus on the moment.

    Luke closed his eyes, inhaling sharply through his nose. He could hear footsteps in the floor below, the faint creakings of the stairs as someone went down them. Someone was talking downstairs. Above him the fan hummed lazily on a low setting as it circled through the air. He could hear his own breathing, shallow and jagged, but slowing and steadying. The room was cold. On his arm the pulverized drywall powder felt dusty and dry. The door behind him was solid and hard, perhaps a little cool and leeching heat from his back. He opened his eyes. The weight in his gut was a little less heavy, the constriction in his chest a little less tight. He could breathe again.

    Sighing softly, Luke leaned his head back against the door as the last few tears trickled down. A gentle, quiet relief spread over him. He still wasn’t okay, but he wasn’t drowning either.

    On the stairs below he could hear someone coming up, accompanied by pattering feet. Probably Mal coming to check on him, probably bringing Maddie to help.

    Luke dragged himself to his feet and brushed the dust off his arm. He’d be alright. He just needed time.

    Hope that helps some.

    "Remember, you go nowhere by accident. Wherever you go, God is sending you." - Rev. Peter R. Hale

    #123908
    Rose
    @rose-colored-fancy

    @skylarynn

    Thank you so much! I have to say, that was amazingly well written! It felt very real and believable! Thank you, it helps a lot!

    "Stories are light. Light is precious in a world so dark." The Tale of Despereaux

    #123916
    Rose
    @rose-colored-fancy

    @ally-renee

    Hope this topic helps!

    "Stories are light. Light is precious in a world so dark." The Tale of Despereaux

    #123937
    Skylarynn
    @skylarynn

    @rose-colored-fancy

    Glad I could help!  I meant to add in some tips, but I guess I forgot.  Here’s a few:

    • Use thoughts sparingly.  Focus on the physical sensations; this puts the reader in the body of the character and helps them feel just as overwhelmed.
    • Shock varies from person to person, but it is typically somewhat delayed in onset and rushes all at once.
    • If you have had experience with shock and grief, try to draw from those.  See if you can remember what you felt like; was it hard to breathe?  Was your head spinning?  Did tears make it difficult to see?  Try to incorporate that into your character’s experience.

    "Remember, you go nowhere by accident. Wherever you go, God is sending you." - Rev. Peter R. Hale

    #123960
    Rose
    @rose-colored-fancy

    @skylarynn

    Thank you so much, Skylarynn! It helps a lot!

    "Stories are light. Light is precious in a world so dark." The Tale of Despereaux

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