Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Just Die Already!

Story clichés bother me.  When I read, I want to be taken off the track that I could personally see coming a mile away.  I want surprises, new characters, and a story that goes in ways I didn't expect.  As such, there's a phenomenon present in writing that I despise - bringing characters back from the dead.

To be fair, it isn't like this is a new phenomenon.  Writers have been doing this for ages, and it has annoyed me just as long.  I find it to be a lazy way to keep a story going, and its value as SHOCK has been so overdone that it's no shock at all when it happens.  It seems that whenever a story reaches a point where it starts grasping at things, the author will bring back an old character to shake things up.

I believe that what's dead should stay dead.  I know I'm an effete snob, but I'm this way for two main reasons.  First, it's just not realistic for folks to keep rising from the dead.  This doesn't happen in real life, and having already suspended my disbelief to read a tome, this trite technique shakes me out of that wonderful escape.  The reason a harrowing escape is so compelling in real life is that it's so rare(c'mon - how many times do people really survive a boat capsizing in the middle of the ocean?)Second, it doesn't allow the story to deal with the new reality of a character's death.  When a dead character returns, it constricts the story and makes any future tension unbelievable.  Why should I care about the characters and their well being if they're going to keep coming back no matter what's done to them?  I'm actually angry that I spent time in mourning, only to have to factor them back into my life.  It gets confusing.

I get that readers and even writers become attached to our favorite characters.  They provide us comfort and familiarity in a world that rarely possesses either.  But it's the uncertainty of a story that gets us going and makes us want to know what will happen next.  There may be the rare time when someone can and should be brought back to advance the plot, but the writer needs to make it clear very quickly that the character's death was part of the plot all along, and not some device reached for at the last minute to extend a story that should've ended.

It's hard to kill a character we write about.  If it's so hard, then don't put it in at all.  You can still give the reader the illusion of tension, even though you know said character is safe.  But if you kill off a character, have the courage to keep that character dead.  Yes, some readers will implore you to bring them back, but resist these calls.  In the end, it'll make a better book and keep readers turning the page rather than rolling their eyes.

No comments:

Post a Comment