Wednesday, January 18, 2017

On Killing Characters

Image from  Winteriscoming.net

A List of Killed Characters off the Top of my Head:

  Numerous characters from Game of Thrones
  Numerous characters from the Walking Dead
  Spock/Kirk when facing Khan
  Mary on Sherlock
  Jack from Titanic
           **I could go on but I have a post to write. (; 

I consider myself a level-headed, thoughtful person. I believe the Golden Rule is valuable and that the commandments were a pretty good list overall. And yet:

1.) I want Arya or Tyrion or Daenerys or Grayworm or SOMEONE to beat the shit out of Cersei Lannister and cut her vile throat.

2.) I want someone to take out Negan.

Let's compare the difference in the level of vehemence in my two statements above. 

GOT: Cersei is a horrible, conniving person bent on keeping her family in power. She reads people well, anticipates their motives and acts to thwart any effort she sees as a threat. She's not afraid to unleash her vengeance-but there's a trigger beforehand. I feel she deserves to die more than most on the show who have been killed, but I have to admit last season they made me admire her inner strength. The deaths and the violence, in my opinion, feel in line with the time period and the social constructs. This 'realism,' I think, is part of what maintains my emotional investment.

**I'm no expert on the historical eras GRRM draws on for inspiration, so I have to note that WILLING SUSPENSION of DISBELIEF is a factor here.


TWD: Negan is a horrible and manipulative person, but I find him crossing the line into evil because he enjoys setting people up to fear him and to fail in order to have the excuse to hurt, maim or kill them. Watching the Walking Dead with him in it is something that must be akin to watching a snuff film. And while my writer brain understands that he is the embodiment of a level of evil that will force Rick & Co. to accept the risks of loss to up their game, I find I can no longer suspend my disbelief. I was emotionally invested until the season opener. Since then, there seems to be a personal distance. I still root for Rick & Co., but the fire has dissipated.


WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH WRITING?

KILLING CHARACTERS SHOULD HAVE UNDENIABLE IMPACT. 


I can prove it with one word:

HODOR


image from  HBO.com

In my series, I killed a character in FATAL CIRCLE (#3) who I liked so much I've thought of going back and writing her story, set a few decades earlier. I did not intend at the outset to kill her. I had a different plan. But when that moment came, I knew it was right. How did I know? See #3 below.

In books, characters die (much as they do in life) in a few ways:

1.) Random/unforseeable accident/health issue or complication
      {Guy killed by raptor in Jurassic Park}
       VALID BECAUSE:
            it happens in real life   ok, maybe not killed by raptor, but you know what I mean
            the aftermath for the survivors will show their character and possibly growth  

2.) Murdered {Abraham, Glenn; Qui-Gon Jinn}
       VALID BECAUSE:
            it happens in real life
            it shows how far your villain is willing to go
            the aftermath for the survivors will show their character and possibly growth
            murder and/or revenge continue to be suscessful stories

3.) Self sacrifice  {Kirk/Spock facing Khan; Hodor; Mary from Sherlock; Obi-Wan}
       VALID BECAUSE:
            it happens in real life
            it shows how far your hero/ine is willing to go
            it shows how far the cult leader & group are willing to go
            in the aftermath if the hero/ine is/isn't changed by this tells us something

4.) Suicide
       VALID BECAUSE:
            it happens in real life
            in the aftermath if the hero/ine is/isn't changed by this tells us something

If you're killing a character in your story, 
the real question to me...the real root of it is:
            
How does the story change without them?

Unless you're writing an out of sequence time tale, or plan to write prequels, once you kill a character, they are gone. Their impact should not be. Whether their death hurt the hero/ine or whether it was a two-paragraph entry that defines the villain, if it is there it should have meaning beyond that death scene. If it was a beloved character, the impact for your readers will resonate. Make it count!




No comments:

Post a Comment