Author Topic: Does this happen to every writer...  (Read 529 times)

R. C.

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Does this happen to every writer...
« on: February 25, 2021, 12:57:54 AM »
...or is it just me?

I ended the story of superpowers and space travel (I hope) at book 11. I could not bring myself to "off" the original antagonist in book one, she hung on to the end. A second antagonist appears in book four, and I could not "off" her either.  Minor antagonists come and go.

Fast forward. I whacked them both in book 11 and they deserved it!

Character attachment? Check.
Knowing your book would be better with the hard choice? Check.
Not making the hard choice? Check.

It took me five years to "do the right thing" on the page. Does that happen to anyone else?

Cheers,
R.C.

« Last Edit: February 26, 2021, 01:33:44 AM by R. C. »
 

Jeff Tanyard

Re: Does this happen to every writer...
« Reply #1 on: February 25, 2021, 04:03:14 PM »
No, I've never been reluctant to kill off an antagonist.  I'll stack villains' bodies all day.

Having said that, you should generally save the Big Boss's death for the series climax, otherwise it might come across as anticlimactic.
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notthatamanda

Re: Does this happen to every writer...
« Reply #2 on: February 25, 2021, 09:51:05 PM »
I've killed a couple of characters. Both I introduced to kill. The first one I did on schedule. The second one I wussied out on. I made him run away, but the book needed more, so the MC got word of his death later. The book needed it, but I still feel bad about it.
 
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JackT

Re: Does this happen to every writer...
« Reply #3 on: February 25, 2021, 10:22:20 PM »
I write mysteries, so I'm killing characters all the time. One thing I learnt early on: don't kill the interesting ones first. Better to bump off a boring character in the early stages and keep the lively ones going as long as possible.
 
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Hopscotch

Re: Does this happen to every writer...
« Reply #4 on: February 25, 2021, 11:52:05 PM »
I take the opposite of JackT's view - I say give the reader a hot character, let the reader invest plenty in him or her, then blow that character away in the first third of the book to shock the reader into breathless paging to find out what unexpected fright comes next.
 
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TimothyEllis

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Re: Does this happen to every writer...
« Reply #5 on: February 26, 2021, 12:05:11 AM »
I take the opposite of JackT's view - I say give the reader a hot character, let the reader invest plenty in him or her, then blow that character away in the first third of the book to shock the reader into breathless paging to find out what unexpected fright comes next.

If you get me invested in a character and then kill them, you've lost me on the spot, and forever.

There was a series started in 2015 which went for 21 books, and I binned it at the end of the sample because the first character was great, and is killed just to set up a plot point for the real main character, who wasn't as likeable. I never read that series, and haven't read anything else from that author.
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VanessaC

Re: Does this happen to every writer...
« Reply #6 on: February 26, 2021, 12:31:56 AM »
My books tend to have a pretty high body count, particularly the "bad guys" - although I write fantasy, so bringing them back from the dead is always a possibility!

In creating / killing off villians, I like to think of it as making way for a more interesting, worse, character to come along that will challenge my heroines even more ...
     



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notthatamanda

Re: Does this happen to every writer...
« Reply #7 on: February 26, 2021, 01:18:18 AM »
I write not-fantasy, so reality, I guess? One character got AIDs in the 80s. Not having him die would have been a fantasy. It was kind of the point of the subplot. The other character committed suicide, which was also part of the subplot.

I see Tim's point though.
 
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LilyBLily

Re: Does this happen to every writer...
« Reply #8 on: February 26, 2021, 02:57:32 AM »
Supposedly, the creators of the TV show "Lost" intended to kill the doctor hero immediately. If they had done so, they would have spared us all a lot of grief over some years, because we would have felt blindsided and bailed right then. Considering how many times they blindsided us later, that would have been fine. Another failed series. But we would have missed Sawyer.
 
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R. C.

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Re: Does this happen to every writer...
« Reply #9 on: February 26, 2021, 03:14:05 AM »
.... But we would have missed Sawyer.

The girls liked them some Sawyer...  :doh:

Gotta have hunk characters to attract the distaff side.

Cheers,
R.C.
 

notthatamanda

Re: Does this happen to every writer...
« Reply #10 on: February 26, 2021, 03:47:18 AM »
I only watched one episode of Lost. The one where the girl had run away and you were waiting to see what bad thing she had done. Then at the end she was like, sigh, "Well I guess it doesn't matter anymore." Didn't watch anymore after that.
 

Gerri Attrick

Re: Does this happen to every writer...
« Reply #11 on: February 26, 2021, 04:19:20 AM »
What Tim said.
 

Vijaya

Re: Does this happen to every writer...
« Reply #12 on: February 26, 2021, 06:46:01 AM »

If you get me invested in a character and then kill them, you've lost me on the spot, and forever.


Yup. This has happened with a couple of standalones and it's brutal. It was a brilliant twist. But so very cruel. I still chafe when I think about it. Not going there.


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Post-Crisis D

Re: Does this happen to every writer...
« Reply #13 on: February 26, 2021, 07:27:23 AM »
I take the opposite of JackT's view - I say give the reader a hot character, let the reader invest plenty in him or her, then blow that character away in the first third of the book to shock the reader into breathless paging to find out what unexpected fright comes next.

 :tup3b

If the reader isn't invested in a character, then what meaning does that character's death have to them?

It does matter what you are trying to accomplish.  A typical murder mystery doesn't require that the reader care about the victim.  The victim's murder is the case to be solved.  So, it may not be necessary for the reader to care about that victim.  On the other hand, if you have a book where you want the reader to identify with the main character, to know what that character feels, and that character is to suffer from the death of someone close to them, then you need the reader to care about that ill-fated character as well.  It's the difference between someone in real life telling you their uncle died and you're like, oh, I'm so sorry, and you kind of know how they feel because you've lost family members and a situation where someone's uncle died and you actually knew that uncle fairly well and liked him.  The former is like, yeah, life sucks while the latter is more of a gut punch because you knew that person too.

Sometimes, too, you just want to keep the reader on the edge of their seat because if you killed off that character, well, is anyone else really safe?  It's more of a roller coaster ride if you know the hero could die as opposed to being certain the hero's not going to get killed off.
 
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Lorri Moulton

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Re: Does this happen to every writer...
« Reply #14 on: February 26, 2021, 09:50:44 AM »
It depends on the story.  I had a lot of fun killing off one character (his horse threw him) but in a fantasy story I ended up leaving two of the 'big bads' trapped between planes of existence.

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R. C.

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Re: Does this happen to every writer...
« Reply #15 on: February 26, 2021, 10:34:06 AM »
No, I've never been reluctant to kill off an antagonist.  I'll stack villains' bodies all day.

Having said that, you should generally save the Big Boss's death for the series climax, otherwise it might come across as anticlimactic.

"I'll stack villains' bodies all day." is going in the current thriller... now I have to invent a Jeff to say the sentence.

Cheers,
R.C.
 
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LilyBLily

Re: Does this happen to every writer...
« Reply #16 on: February 26, 2021, 03:12:33 PM »
I've never killed any characters in a book. Instead I kill them between books.

One thing I don't like is how cavalierly so many books treat grief at the death of a close loved one. The main character doesn't have to go through Kubler-Ross's stages of grief, but at least give the character some time to absorb the shock or else show some compensating feelings and behavior. We aren't machines. 
 
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DougM

Re: Does this happen to every writer...
« Reply #17 on: March 02, 2021, 06:31:58 AM »
In sword & sorcery?  Yes, I usually kill off the main villain. In humorous sci-fantasy, killing off villains isn't funny. They usually get relegated to different fates.
 
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David VanDyke

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Re: Does this happen to every writer...
« Reply #18 on: March 03, 2021, 03:59:00 AM »
If it's a superhero series, you can kill them off and bring them back all day every day.

Whatever serves the story is the right answer.
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PJ Post

Re: Does this happen to every writer...
« Reply #19 on: March 03, 2021, 04:35:55 AM »
People die - so do characters. As with everything else, it's all in the execution. Do it well, and your fans will ugly-cry while simultaneously singing your praises. Do it badly...well, try not to do it badly.

Alien 3 is an example of doing it extra-badly - let's call it Rian Johnson Syndrome. Aliens was amazing. Exciting. Edge of your seat suspense. And in the end...by the sheer strength of Ripley's will, and no small amount of luck, Newt, Hicks and Bishop survive. Alien 3 opens with all of them dead. Du Fuq is that about? It totally negates the previous movie and all of the emotion that went with it. We were invested in those characters.

Han Solo's death is another example. If you're going to go there - earn it.
 
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Crystal

Re: Does this happen to every writer...
« Reply #20 on: March 11, 2021, 05:50:22 AM »
If you get me invested in a character and then kill them, you've lost me on the spot, and forever.

There was a series started in 2015 which went for 21 books, and I binned it at the end of the sample because the first character was great, and is killed just to set up a plot point for the real main character, who wasn't as likeable. I never read that series, and haven't read anything else from that author.

Maybe in a genre where such things are truly unexpected. But not in a genre where characters tend to die. There are no life and death stakes if all the characters you like have plot armor.

I hate to bring up Game of Thrones (enough with the sexual violence already), but that is why the show caught fire. There were many reasons yes, but it really came down to the main guy not having plot armor. He was in a situation where he should have died and people expected him to make it, because we're used to beloved characters having plot armor. When he didn't... woah.

I'm not a fan of high death counts, but if you're going to put your characters in constant peril, and lean on the life and death stakes, then you're going to have to off some to keep the tension. You can't threaten death and never deliver or people will stop taking your threats seriously.

Now, if you don't kill anyone for three seasons, then you suddenly kill a beloved character... that's going to be a little different. It can be very effective, if, as LilyBLily points out, you actually deal with the grief and fallout. See The Good Wife Season 5 (I won't say more because spoilers, obviously). The death is random, the way death is, and that's the point. The characters struggle with their grief, in ways that don't necessarily make sense, because that's what grief is like.

But, of course, when the point is randomness, and struggle that is real and not narratively satisfying... it's often not narratively satisfying.

People die - so do characters. As with everything else, it's all in the execution. Do it well, and your fans will ugly-cry while simultaneously singing your praises. Do it badly...well, try not to do it badly.

Alien 3 is an example of doing it extra-badly - let's call it Rian Johnson Syndrome. Aliens was amazing. Exciting. Edge of your seat suspense. And in the end...by the sheer strength of Ripley's will, and no small amount of luck, Newt, Hicks and Bishop survive. Alien 3 opens with all of them dead. Du Fuq is that about? It totally negates the previous movie and all of the emotion that went with it. We were invested in those characters.

Han Solo's death is another example. If you're going to go there - earn it.

Hah, Rian Johnson Syndrome. That's a definite thing. I'm not a fan of Aliens, myself. Too much a silly action movie. I much prefer Alien. But I think both do a good job with the monster movie trope. Someone has to die for the monster to be scary.

I really could not hate the ST more, but the constant killing of old heroes feels like a kid who can't share their toys. If I can't have them, no one can!

I write romance, so I rarely kill people. Only a few maternal figures and their deteriorating state was part of the plot (i.e. guy marries to convince his dying mother he's happy). I've often wanted to pull a Looking for Alaska across a series, but I haven't been able to do it yet.
 
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