Thursday, November 5, 2015

When You're Dead, Stay Dead

Characters help drive our love of books.  We get to know them, care about them, and want to know what happens to them.  And when they die, we sometimes mourn.  However, like with all deaths that affect us, we grieve and then move on...right up until the writer brings back that dead character.

I'll be perfectly honest - I hate that.  There's little more jarring than when you've gone through something traumatic with a character, started moving on, and then they're back in your reading life again.  Aside from dealing with the emotions associated with reviving someone you thought was gone, you now have to deal with the sudden inconsistencies in the plot.

Bringing back a dead character was cool the first time or two it was done.  Now, on the other hand, it has gotten tedious.  How am I to approach a story like that?  Do I keep reading it in a serious way, or do I now treat it like the silly trash it is?  What other "surprises" should I be prepared for?  I'm not talking about when a character goes missing or their fate is uncertain since that kind of ambiguity is great for having someone reappear; I'm talking about a character takes five slugs to the chest or has his head ripped from his body.  You just don't recover from an injury like that.

This sometimes happens with heroes, but it seems to happen more and more with villains.  I get it - the villain gave the hero such a rough time that some of us want to re-live that tension, but can't we move on to new tension?  Isn't that the point of tension?  Writers should be competent enough to come up with characters who can create complicated plotlines without resorting to the same old characters time and time again.

Besides, moving a story along by keeping characters dead lets me keep a sense of reality, even in a fantastical universe.  People don't just suddenly spring back to life in the real world, so why should it happen in our fiction?  Yes, yes, I know it's a story, so anything can happen, but it removes a layer of immersion and reminds me it's a story with tricks like that.  I want to forget I'm reading fantasy and let it be my focus, something not easy to do when people keep coming back from the dead.

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