On Character Deaths

Hello lovely readers!

The (probably) last snow of the year has cleared, and spring is well and truly on its way. With it, comes a whole host of new stories so today I thought I’d talk about… endings. Specifically, character deaths.

This has been spurned by two books, both finales in a trilogy, which I won’t go into too much detail about because I know they were both highly-anticipated and not everyone will have had the chance to read them yet. It’s also been spurned by the upcoming release of The Avengers: Infinity War movie where it has been rumoured key characters will die (Captain America, Iron Man, etc.)

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I’ve been writing recently and trying to plot out a novel has led me to consider the deaths of characters. Deaths in real life are never just a plot device, never just glossed over and never mentioned again for the rest of the book. Deaths in books (especially of major characters) tend to be dramatic and untimely, sometimes mysterious, sometimes gruesome. Ultimately, what they do is they move the story on, shock the reader and develop the remaining characters. They have to happen for a reason, whatever that might be.

George R R Martin’s ASOIAF series (turned into the Game of Thrones TV series) uses character deaths to leave readers on the edge of their seats – absolutely anyone could meet their untimely end at any time, and it may not be for the most violent of reasons. What Martin does at the end of the first book in killing off main character Ned Stark, is shock readers into believing anything is possible. In many books, it doesn’t make sense to kill off your main character, but with a multi-perspective story, Ned’s death ramps up the tension for books to come. Arguably, now we are into the final books and final season, there are many characters it doesn’t make sense to kill off at this late stage (we’ve followed their stories this far, it’d be painful not to see the conclusion of all these intertwining plots), and it will be interesting to see who survives the Game of Thrones.

What stood out for me when talking about these two books whose names I won’t mention, both different genres but ultimately YA, is that a lot of people died. A lot. We’re talking thousands here. Both had a scene where it seemed our main love interests had died, but – surprise! – they were absolutely fine in the end. (Perhaps not as dramatic as the dream fight scene in Breaking Dawn Part 2!). Ultimately, a series of couples we had been rooting for the entire series all survived, and absolutely no main characters died. And that’s disappointing to me.

I think part of this has to do with not being too attached to our main characters, and I’m also not a huge fan of these grand happily ever afters. Some of these couples simply aren’t good together, and it wouldn’t be the end of the world if maybe one of them perished in a grand battle. It might anger some fans, but it would also probably make the story more memorable.

So, dear readers, I want more shocking deaths please – but the type where you realise afterwards that it had to happen all along. Endings with a sense of satisfaction because everything is right in the universe – even if that meant the death of a love interest or best friend. There’s nothing worse than multiple deaths being teased, and then, SURPRISE, everyone is right as rain and ready to fight another day.

annalsie

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