Did you recently kill off a character? Do you regret it? Do you want to get that character back but are too good to simply resurrect the character?
Well we’ve got a lesser known, yet equally cheap gimmick for you; take the character from another reality! At the low cost of your writing credibility, you can have you character back without any consequences, retconning, or necromancy what so ever!
Ugh… okay… Like I said above, it’s a lesser known work-around for death, but still a pretty bad one. I think I first saw it in the mid-late 90s early TV show: Hercules. At one point late in the series, we see Iolaus, the lovable sidekick get killed off… and almost instantly brought back as a meager character with a different personality. I’m not sure where they went with this, because I lost interest in the show, but I can’t imagine the gimmick stuck.
As I’ve stated before, we’ve seen this type of thing for a very long time. When a character dies in Marvel or DC comics, mass eye-rolling ensues. Why? Because its seen as a gimmick now. It has no heart, no impact, nothing. Everyone knows that more than likely that character won’t be dead for more than a year or two, AT MOST.
This lackluster story-writing is probably one of the main reasons that comic sales are dropping, second only to the complete over-saturation of identity politics in Marvel and DC comics. (Arguably more so Marvel, but when the Green Arrow calls himself a Social Justice Warrior… ugh!)
Anyway, I’ve started seeing this in traditional writing, specifically in the fantasy realm. Fellow writers, if you take nothing else away from my blog, let it be this piece of advice;
Don’t cater to your writers, but please respect them!
Write what you want to write. Make sure that what you right is something that YOU enjoy first and foremost. If you don’t like what you’re writing, it will reflect in your writing, and your readers are going to pick up on it. At the same time however, if you kill off a character, PLEASE don’t find a way to bring them back just because it was a likable character. If your writing is strong enough, a story can survive a beloved main character dying off (Star Wars anyone?).
We’re not fragile little snowflakes. We don’t need to be treated as such. Will we be upset when a character dies? Did I shed a tear when Asajj Ventress was killed off in Dark Disciple? SHUT UP!
But we get over it and often see it as a bold choice that only served to enhance the story as time went on.
Anyway, that’s just my thoughts on the subject. Let a character stay dead, this cop out isn’t a cop out at all. It’s bad… really bad!
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Catch you on the flip side!
When I was writing Swordsmaster (the first time, 40 years ago) I had a character I really liked heading toward his doom. I didn’t want him to be killed, so I stopped writing for thirty years or so until I coud start over without him having to die. It never would have occured to me to bring him back later. Even in fantasy, when death isn’t permanent, it loses its value as a risk to your characters. Why would your readers worry and hold their breaths (and care) if the worst thing that can happen is the hero gets lost for a couple of pages while he’s being resurrected?
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Yeah, that was my issue with Magnifica when I wrote a certain character’s death. I knew I was going to bring her back as a plot point, but I wanted to be very careful with it. I knew it would take the wind out of her death, but I wanted to make it clear that any attempt to bring her back would be a one-shot. The enchanter’s power was finite and waining as magic was slowly leaving the world forever.
When he tried to bring her back, that would be the end of it. Succeed or fail, he would never have enough power to attempt it again. As you said, I didn’t want them to be able to just bring back characters whenever the heck they wanted. So that was my one exception to my own rule.
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Well, of course I recently killed off a character. As an author, I’m definitely a serial killer. Do I sometimes hate it? Yes, I do. But if the story needs it, I kill, and no looking back. The dead stay dead – as well they should. No zombies either. I hate them. Passionately.
You would not believe the angry emails I get from people who loved a certain character in Drakin.
In the third book, I killed off a character that was extremely influential through two books. However, I felt that this character was becoming the center point a little too much and couldn’t decide on a way that would remove her from the plot that would make sense. That plus the character’s background, to me, it made perfect sense to kill her off midway through the story. She’d become a sort-of Obi Wan Kenobi and the time had come.
It was the right move, but it certainly wasn’t the popular one.
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Yes, sometimes readers will hate you for killing off a character. You can’t please everyone. At least you got an emotional response, so you did a good job.
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