17 October 2013

R.I.P. Part 2

More about death. This is Halloween month, after all, so I thought it would be appropriate.

Last time we talked about the author being mean to the audience by killing off people’s favorite characters.

This time we’re going to go into how killing one character can affect another character.

Let’s take a couple of widely known examples: Star Wars and Harry Potter.

In Star Wars, Obi Wan goes down in the first movie. Killed by Darth Vadar.

This had to happen (according to most coming of age stories) for a few reasons. First, because if Obi Wan had been around, he would have been fighting Darth Vadar, not Luke. Second, Luke needed to figure out how to defeat Vadar (or in this case blowing up the Death Star) by himself, not with the all-knowing mentor calling out plays to him from the side lines.

Obi Wan was awesome. Who cares that he’s old? He’s the only Jedi left living! We need that guy for sure.

Wait, no. Denied. He’s gone. Buh-bye. You’re on your own, Luke.

Harry Potter ends up losing not just one mentor, but two. His godfather—whom he didn’t even know about until book 3—comes to Harry’s rescue in book 5, and gets sucked into a mirror of darkness, never to return.

Harry loved Sirius Black. Sirius was the closest thing he’d had to a father, and the guy had known both of his parents. Harry worshiped him.

So J.K. Rowling took him away. In order for Harry to get to where he needed to go in the story, he couldn’t be relying on a half-crazy godfather whom may or may not be suitable for hero-worship material.

Plus, it was just downright mean to take the guy from Harry.

Then, in the next book, Harry’s head master—Dumbledore—and good friend, is killed. Right in front of Harry. Just after Harry had gotten him back to what he thought was a safe place.

Bim-Bam. Two books in a row, to mentors down.  The two adults Harry relied on most.

And that’s why they’re now gone. In the end of a story, the main character has to come up with the solution to the problem on his own. He can be the only one to do it. And oftentimes the action that provokes them forward is the death or loss of someone they love.

So if you’re thinking of #BeMeanToCharacters by killing one of their friends/family members, pick your victim carefully. Make sure it effects the character in a deep and meaningful way. It’s the worst when an author kills someone just to show the situation is serious.

I still have a secret hatred for R.A. Salvatore, because he “killed the Wookie.”  Not okay, buddy. Not okay. However, the action took several characters in the story to new levels.

Besides, getting death threats from fans because you killed off their favorite character should be a badge of honor.

I think.


Lace and Books said...

It's a time honored play to kill off the mentor.

I have to disagree about Black though, I think she killed him off because he was getting more popular than Harry and she didn't know what else to do with him.

Seriously, I know that JKR has made lots of money on those books, but you have to ask yourself, do I write a good book or make lots of money?

Yes, you can do both, but... I think HP crashed as a series after book 3 and book 7 was a total crap.

I'd rather make less and write something of worth.

-Jo- said...

I KNEW you'd say that. :)
And you might be right.