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    Default Major Character Death in Fiction

    This is something that often bugs me in books I read and shows/movies I watch. Personally, I really dislike when an author writes out the plot to have an important person die as part of the story. I know that character death, especially when they are important to the main protagonist, can be a great driving force/motivation, but it still bothers me.

    So, I'm curious, what are your stances on a main character's death?
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    Default Re: Major Character Death in Fiction

    Main character death can be good or bad, like any other writing tool. What I personally hate more than brussel sprouts is when the author kills off a character, then takes it back. Over, and over, and over again. Until all drama is gone. You stop worrying about whatever situation the characters are in because you know the author wont let bad things happen. Or if it does, it will just be rolled back.
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    Default Re: Major Character Death in Fiction

    I feel as if character death needs to be in line with the story itself. If you have a squad of soldiers going into a suicide mission and they all make it out alive...? I don't think that's right unless we're talking light-hearted storytelling or even outright satire.

    If the death is not meant to reflect a world's realism or to provide motive force for the protagonist, what's the point?
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    Default Re: Major Character Death in Fiction

    Quote Originally Posted by Strife Warzeal View Post
    So, I'm curious, what are your stances on a main character's death?
    Depends on what is lost and gained from that death, dramatically and narratively. All too often I find that interesting characters who are on fascinating arcs die midway because the author(s) figured they needed a death to get things moving. It's a waste of a good character, that. The other extreme is, of course, when a completely story-irrelevant, uninteresting character dies and you can't care care because who the hell was that guy anyway.

    It's hard to find a happy medium where the character is important/interesting enough that the audience cares enough to feel bad about the death, but not so much that they think all the fun has been taken out of the story now that said character won't be showing up again.
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    Default Re: Major Character Death in Fiction

    The death of a main character can create an extremely memorable and emotional scene. Many of my favorite stories would be a tiny, or a big big worse if they didn't contain such an element anymore.

    Of course, this has to be handled carefully. Making it look like the writer killed off the character to spite the audience and/or for cheap drama is a big no. Other characters getting over the death too quickly or forgetting about their fallen friend is bad too. What requires even more care is bringing the character back to life - generally, if you're not certain the audience's reaction will be "hell yeah, he's back!", it's better not to do so at all.

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    Default Re: Major Character Death in Fiction

    It can be done well or poorly. The way it's done in ASoIaF, it doesn't bother me so much because it adds to the sense that nobody is really safe/immune. Nobody has an irritating set of plot armor that turns so many characters with potential to be great into Mary Sues.

    The way it's done in comic books annoys me. Oh, Superman is dead. Just kidding! He was sleeping. Wolverine died. Oh, wait, he was just hiding behind the sofa. Someone managed to kill Magneto! Or rather, his clone, who apparently was hanging around for years without producing any evidence of his existence until he got into that fight.
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    Default Re: Major Character Death in Fiction

    Quote Originally Posted by Tengu_temp View Post
    The death of a main character can create an extremely memorable and emotional scene.
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    Default Re: Major Character Death in Fiction

    Quote Originally Posted by Tengu_temp View Post
    The death of a main character can create an extremely memorable and emotional scene. Many of my favorite stories would be a tiny, or a big big worse if they didn't contain such an element anymore.

    Of course, this has to be handled carefully. Making it look like the writer killed off the character to spite the audience and/or for cheap drama is a big no. Other characters getting over the death too quickly or forgetting about their fallen friend is bad too. What requires even more care is bringing the character back to life - generally, if you're not certain the audience's reaction will be "hell yeah, he's back!", it's better not to do so at all.
    Best done version of this (in my opinion): Gandalf. Major hero moment when he goes out, cries of joy when he returned - but the experience has changed him and didn't seem cheap when I first read LotR in high school and is still fitting, thematically, on later readings.
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    Default Re: Major Character Death in Fiction

    If it's handled well, it can be one of the greatest parts of the work (like John's death in Red Dead Redemption)
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    Quote Originally Posted by mangosta71 View Post
    It can be done well or poorly. The way it's done in ASoIaF, it doesn't bother me so much because it adds to the sense that nobody is really safe/immune. Nobody has an irritating set of plot armor that turns so many characters with potential to be great into Mary Sues.
    Selectively killing off a few characters is alright, assuming that the only one killed off isn't the obvious one (the wise old mentor). My issue with ASoIaF isn't the killing off of characters, it is that too many of the characters I liked got killed off. So, I don't have much interest anymore.

    So, there's a possible danger in going overboard.

    Also it can be distracting:

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    In the "Fortress Draconis" trilogy by Michael Stackpole, the protagonist is killed off in the second book (the third chronological book as a prequel book was added). However, the death is one of those "hanging" deaths in that the character may return. The character doesn't, and this subplot kinda hangs over the last book. I'm not sure if Stackpole wanted to throw a curveball or if as the trilogy progressed, that he didn't like the protagonist's arc so he decided to cut costs and shift focus onto the secondary protagonist.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Traab View Post
    Main character death can be good or bad, like any other writing tool. What I personally hate more than brussel sprouts is when the author kills off a character, then takes it back. Over, and over, and over again. Until all drama is gone. You stop worrying about whatever situation the characters are in because you know the author wont let bad things happen. Or if it does, it will just be rolled back.
    Meh, depends on the circumstances. I thought it worked in Dragon Ball.

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    Default Re: Major Character Death in Fiction

    Full Metal Alchemist. That is all I have to say on this matter.

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    Default Re: Major Character Death in Fiction

    Killing off major characters has been going on a long time. Ever seen Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Julius Caesar, or Macbeth? In every single one, the title characters (and others) end up dead by the end. Would these stories be as powerful without major character deaths?

    Aside from that, in real life, people die. If art reflects life, it only makes sense that, in some stories, characters are going to die.

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    Default Re: Major Character Death in Fiction

    It depends on the story. Sometimes is highly dissatisfactory. In other stories it pretty much needs to be there. I know, I'm not going deep into the high art of plot writing here, but Halo: Reach is based on the premise "You already know that there will be a massive invasion and only a single ship will escape, and that this story is going to be all about watching as the last human army gets wiped out".
    And that means pretty much everyone HAS to die. If they somehow escape on a tiny ship and don't make it in time to join with the characters of the main series, then the entire story does not work. And that involves main characters getting killed by a random bullet on the way to the dropship. (The only reason for disappointment is, that it happened to the one character who would probably have been the most entertaining to watch going down in a blaze of glory.)

    Metal Gear Solid made major characters dying into an art. At the end I did I final tally and was all like "What? Almost 20% of all named characters are still alive?! How can it be that many?!"
    But it fits the story. It's all about people knowing they won't live happily ever after and hopefully be able to get over with it in a reasonably good way. It's a great series, because it's incredibly fatalistic but always gets some decent closure for all characters.

    When we were reading Elfen Lied when it was released, a friend and I both cheered when one character was not able to be redeemed and just died when mortally injured. And then we were both quite pissed that the same character was reincarnated in the epilogue. That was not neccessary.
    And in Monster there is also one of the good guys who dies. Tragically, but it's okay. But yeah, he could have been straight out of Metal Gear Solid.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fragenstein View Post
    I feel as if character death needs to be in line with the story itself. If you have a squad of soldiers going into a suicide mission and they all make it out alive...? I don't think that's right unless we're talking light-hearted storytelling or even outright satire.

    If the death is not meant to reflect a world's realism or to provide motive force for the protagonist, what's the point?
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    Default Re: Major Character Death in Fiction

    I like deaths when they're done right. Example of it being done wrong:

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    The Dark Knight Rises: Bruce Wayne.

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    Default Re: Major Character Death in Fiction

    For me it can go both ways. Sometimes, a character death is emotionally important and lets the story go in new directions that it might not have otherwise.

    Other times, when it's done it's drama for drama's sake alone. This really annoys me, especially when it's very transparent.
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    Default Re: Major Character Death in Fiction

    Quote Originally Posted by Strife Warzeal View Post
    This is something that often bugs me in books I read and shows/movies I watch. Personally, I really dislike when an author writes out the plot to have an important person die as part of the story. I know that character death, especially when they are important to the main protagonist, can be a great driving force/motivation, but it still bothers me.

    So, I'm curious, what are your stances on a main character's death?
    Killing off a main character isn't a bad thing. For one, it shows that anyone can actually die, something that mimics real life. Though if you do it just to evoke an emotion and make it exploitative, then it can become trite or bad.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lord Seth View Post
    Meh, depends on the circumstances. I thought it worked in Dragon Ball.
    Hah, for me Dragonball is the epitome of death scenes done wrong: there is no tension and no drama, because you know everyone will just be returned to life at the end of the arc anyway. Same with Marvel and DC comic books.

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    Default Re: Major Character Death in Fiction

    Yes, Shakespeare wrote many tragedies. But the point being raised is that, in modern storytelling, it's become rare for non-villains to die. That's part of what triggered the reactions to the later Harry Potter books, particularly Deathly Hallows - the audience was freaked out by the good guys suffering losses because we're used to getting Hollywood endings where everyone that deserves to lives happily ever after.

    Then you have games like Alpha Protocol, in which the player decides whether or not almost every important character dies. Some of those characters are friends, some are enemies, and you don't always know which camp someone falls into even after finishing the game the first time. And, of course, some can be either, depending on the choices you make as you play. It's top-notch roleplaying but the shooty bits are pretty glitchy, which drove the reviews way down.
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    Default Re: Major Character Death in Fiction

    Things that usually do it poorly are comic books. The only people that stay dead are Uncle Ben, Thomas and Martha Wayne, and Jor El. (And there are even exceptions to this rule.)

    George R. R. Martin does a good job with character death, but I wish that he didn't kill of so many of my favorites before what I think their character arc is done.

    Battlestar Galactica did a fine job with most of the character deaths during its run. There are a few I dislike, but I won't go into detail potentially spoiling the show for the select few that haven't seen it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by mangosta71 View Post
    It can be done well or poorly. The way it's done in ASoIaF, it doesn't bother me so much because it adds to the sense that nobody is really safe/immune. Nobody has an irritating set of plot armor that turns so many characters with potential to be great into Mary Sues.

    The way it's done in comic books annoys me. Oh, Superman is dead. Just kidding! He was sleeping. Wolverine died. Oh, wait, he was just hiding behind the sofa. Someone managed to kill Magneto! Or rather, his clone, who apparently was hanging around for years without producing any evidence of his existence until he got into that fight.
    The thing is that in reality Superhero deaths usually do stick. And the ones that don't usuall still last at least a couple of years.

    Superman was never ment to stay dead and we were never supposed to think that. The story wasn't so much about his Death but in evaluating how the world gets on without him. The crux of the story was following those people left be hind and what happens when someone that importaint is lost to them.

    Thats why the storylines Funeral for a Friend and A world without Superman were so poiniant. We were told almost immediatly following his death that he would be coming back and to wait for it.


    Villan Death on the other hand never stick.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tengu_temp View Post
    Hah, for me Dragonball is the epitome of death scenes done wrong: there is no tension and no drama, because you know everyone will just be returned to life at the end of the arc anyway. Same with Marvel and DC comic books.
    Actually, the way Dragonball did it kinda worked because they had firmly established rules which limited how much a person could come back to life, at it wasn't like collecting all the dragon balls was super easy. Especially when the enemy that was killing you was ALSO after the dragon balls, and losing the fight meant losing your team's ability to bring you back to life.

    At least until the end of the Frieza Saga when they got new dragon balls and the rules changed to allow unlimited ressurections, and finding all 7 dragon balls became something they could accomplish in a 5 minute musical montage.
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    Worst character death-resurrection in my experience, ever. That was also a milestone in making me hate American comics:

    Wolverine issue #78:
    http://loganfiles.com/WOLVOL1num78.html

    In this issue, after an issue-long chase, Wolverine defeats and apparently kills Bloodscream. The entire narrative was constructed well with flashbacks explaining the pair's history, and adorned with visual and text poetry and prophesy. Cemented my respect for Kubert as an artist. Comic book as narrative art. I loved this issue as a stand-alone Wolverine tale.
    Bloodscream's death was an integral epilogue to the narrative, and was done very well. He's a minor minor character AFAIC, but this issue and this death elevated his status in my memory. He had a purpose and he served it well.
    Then, in the next issue, he's back to life. Completely negating everything that was prophesized in the previous issue. We don't know how he's alive. He just is.
    At this point, I mentally said F U to Wolverine comics. Never bought another one again.

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    Default Re: Major Character Death in Fiction

    It's one of the more powerful tools in fiction. Killing off a character can ultimately be the moment that makes a story truly epic and amazing. It can also completely destroy whatever respectability your story has.

    Should it exist? Yes for without it there would be no tension. Does it need to happen in every story? Not necessarily.

    For those comic book death take-backs I don't mind those if it's immediately done. Like next page it's revealed or at least by the end of the issue. It still needs to be addressed though. It can't just be ignored.
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    Default Re: Major Character Death in Fiction

    The death of a major character can be good or bad for the story depending on how the author handles it, just like anything else. It happens to be one of the things where if it's done poorly, it's done really poorly, but it also can make a story great if it's done right.

    It's hard to do it right, though.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Xondoure View Post
    Full Metal Alchemist. That is all I have to say on this matter.

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    Good Lord, yes. If there's one thing the series does well, and it does alot of things well, it's making the death of a main charecter feel important, emotional, and (most importantly) permanant... Especially that one everyone remembers

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    I like deaths when they're done right. Example of it being done wrong:

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    The Dark Knight Rises: Bruce Wayne.
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    he didn't die...
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rake21 View Post
    Good Lord, yes. If there's one thing the series does well, and it does alot of things well, it's making the death of a main charecter feel important, emotional, and (most importantly) permanant... Especially that one everyone remembers.
    Which is... which one?
    I know FMAB is the author-canon anime, and basically no death in it affected me in any manner. You mean that person Envy killed? Well... meh?

    1st FMA series (the non-author-canon one), however, WOW. So many character deaths I was affected by, and many of those either never died in FMAB, or died in shonen ways that you wouldn't think twice about. But in FMA, full-on emotional "OH NOOOOOES " impact.

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    Default Re: Major Character Death in Fiction

    Sometimes a death has to happen for the story to advance. Or it won't be something the author really planned, but realized was the natural course for the story to take.
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    Quote Originally Posted by MLai View Post
    Which is... which one?
    I know FMAB is the author-canon anime, and basically no death in it affected me in any manner. You mean that person Envy killed? Well... meh?

    1st FMA series (the non-author-canon one), however, WOW. So many character deaths I was affected by, and many of those either never died in FMAB, or died in shonen ways that you wouldn't think twice about. But in FMA, full-on emotional "OH NOOOOOES " impact.
    FMA just had a ton of heart wrenching scenes period, character death was just one of a long list.
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    Poor Rose. Seriously, Poor freaking Rose. Its been awhile since I watched the anime, but iirc, first she is tricked by a charlatan that promises to bring her love back to life, Ed doesnt exactly help much there with his attitude. Then later on we run into rose again, and apparently she was horribly raped and abused and doesnt speak anymore, oh, and she has a rape baby too. Then I THINK Dante takes her over, or was planning to. I think she even sacrificed Rose's baby to open the gates at one point right? Her life was a horror show.



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    shoved a sword blade through a gap in als armor, to kill the person hiding inside of him. HOLY. CRAP. Maybe horror is the wrong word, but just the way that entire scene went down, brrr
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