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Character Death

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Netardapope, Jan 9, 2016.

  1. Netardapope

    Netardapope Sage

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    So I've come across a point in my work in which one of my characters must die. The character in question is probably the most developed of the bunch so I'm not worried of leaving loose ends in his ark once it dies. However, I was wondering if character Death works best if foreshadowed or If it strikes you out of nowhere and there was no way it could have been foreseen

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  2. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    It depends on the story you are trying to tell and what you want to accomplish by having that character die; what do you want that death to do to the reader's experience of reading your story?

    More generally stated, foreshadowing a death can work wonderfully if you want to establish a tragic tone for the book and/or a heroic arc for the character. Foreshadowing can also heighten tension if the character's presence is important to resolving some conflict within the story–or is personally important to some other character who will be key to resolving conflict. If readers suspect that such a potentially significant event may be coming, foreshadowing the death (but still leaving it uncertain) would amp up the tension.

    But a sudden death can also amp up the tension that follows that death. And foreshadowing a death can also sap tension, sometimes.
     
  3. Netardapope

    Netardapope Sage

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    In my case the death is caused by an accident on part of the MC. I think I'm trying to make it likes this for two reasons:
    1. The character in question is a sort of mentor for the MC and helped him out in finding out what his purpose was. I want him to die so that the MC realizes that it's time to make his own decisions rather than rely on others.

    2. To show that the main character is capable of failing BIG TIME

    I think I won't really do any foreshadowing on purpose just so I can capture how shocking it was to see the person die. I'm still not entirely sure however

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  4. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

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    Do not kill a character until their arc is finished. Only kill them after their purpose in the story is fulfilled. Even if their purpose is to die.

    Beyond that: using character death as a shock to the audience can come across as gimmicky.
    Personally, I think you should foreshadow as much as possible in a story but you don't really have to.

    Generally, when a mentor character is introduced, I kind of expect them to leave the story so the protagonist can shoulder more responsibility. That's just a part of the mentor archetype. As such, trying to shock me with a mentor's death is kind of a waste of effort.

    So, I guess if you ask me "foreshadow or out of nowhere", I'd go with foreshadow. But I feel like it wouldn't hugely impact the quality of the story either way.
     
  5. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    Gandalf in Moria. Dumbledore. Obi-wan.

    You might want to make sure you don't create a feeling of simplistic deja-vu for readers. OTOH, it's a useful device.
     
  6. Netardapope

    Netardapope Sage

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    Well I made the character's age gap not be too far apart in order to avoid this. Also he's not really a mentor, more of a person that the MC looks up to rather than is taught by.

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  7. Netardapope

    Netardapope Sage

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    His arc was mainly just to be a bit of an antithesis to the MC. In the sense that he's someone that the MC would like to mature into. By the time he dies the main character has already realized that he needs to take action rather than let events pull him around so I'd say his purpose is complete.

    Also he's more just someone the character looks up to rather than a straight up mentor. I mean he's the closest thing to the archetype but he looks nothing like it. And he does have some differences from the traditional mentor.

    But I think I will do some more foreshadowing now. Out of the cast he's probably the most likely to seem like he'll die so you spared me from making a bad choice.

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  8. JeiC

    JeiC Acolyte

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    I guess to foreshadow or not would be how much this is going to affect the MC afterwards. And if it is going to be caused by the MC, how aware are they of the potential danger to this character? Personally, I would foreshadow it at least a bit, but I think I might have gotten too annoyed with character deaths being for shock value.
     
  9. Russ

    Russ Istar

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    Foreshadowing an accident seems heavy handed to me. If it is caused by a true accident or slip or inadvertent error, I would not foreshadow it.
     
  10. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    Unless it is part of the character arc and he has been told repeatedly "don't do that or you are going to hurt somebody" but he never learns or changes his behaviour and lo and behold accidentally hurts somebody.... Triggering the behaviour change.
     
  11. Baerdling

    Baerdling Acolyte

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    I think it varies on the type of death, if it's a tragic death, then I would foreshadow it. It'll all depend on how you feel about it but a common rule with foreshadowing is to mention it three times. Perhaps with your MC making decisions that lead them on the path that eventually leads them to their fate, perhaps they make the decisions with their heart rather than their head. The only problem is if the reader is invested in the character and they 'trip over and crack their skull' they might feel cheated. My point is that the death has to mean something.

    I hope this helps :)
     
  12. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Auror

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    I'll add that there is nothing wrong with a few 'loose ends' if it's a surprise or unexpected death. Most people, unless they know they're on the way out, are in the middle of life with goals and aspirations--things yet to do. Unfinished tasks have value too.
     
  13. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

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    In my one novel, I kill the best friend of one MC, and then I kill another MC in the very end. I chose that really carefully because while I always planned to have the friend die, I didn't expect the other MC to die as well, but in truth, the story was just too gritty and dark to sustain a happy ending. It really depends on what kind of story you're telling and how the death impacts the story.
     
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