Monday, April 9, 2018

The Book Lover's Den No. 22: WHY did you kill off that character?




Welcome to my renewed literary musing feature! I have decided 
to post it on Mondays now!


In each weekly post, I explore 
my thoughts on several 
book-related topics.



This Week's Topic
Some authors feel the need to 
kill off beloved characters.
I would LOVE to know WHY.


It's inevitable, I know....and it's happened to me several times, with different books.... What reader has not despaired, almost torn their hair out, thrown a book against a wall (now THERE I draw the line), and even given vent to their feelings of outrage and yes, betrayal, when a beloved book character is killed off by its author?

Some readers might disagree with me here, saying that, after all, an author has the right to do whatever they want with their own brain children. However, I'm sure many would agree, especially since, the more skillful the author, the more REAL their characters appear to be. And therein lies the rub..... Yes, characters that really come alive for a reader become beloved -- in the case of good guys, that is. Skillfully created villains might be memorable, but of course they won't be beloved. 

It's precisely those characters who live and breathe and act like real people, and whose adventures we enjoy, that a reader comes to feel are not only REAL, but friends, as well. So it really HURTS when the almighty creator of a given fictional universe decides to get rid of characters that we the readers feel tremendous affection for.

There really oughta be a law.....

Yes, I'm aware that a writer can feel that their novel or short story will have a greater impact if certain characters meet their ends at certain points in the story. Perhaps these writers want to create pathos, or strengthen the protagonist by eliminating certain characters who somehow served as "crutches" to the protagonist, or create greater emotional rapport for the survivors of this deceased character. Whatever the reason, the writer is looking at this fictional demise as a necessary, creative act that will have a positive impact on the plot in some way. We the readers, though, look upon these events as disappointing, tragic, and even totally unnecessary. Surely the author's intent could have been achieved in some other way! And thus we groan, or cry uncontrollably, or, in a fit of anger, throw the book against the nearest wall (again, I don't EVER do this.)

We have somehow been betrayed. After investing SO much emotional energy on certain characters, we suddenly find, to our horror, that they have been done away with. Killed. Gone. Disposed of. We feel a gut-wrenching pain. And we are NOT consoled when others (usually non-bookworms) say things like, "But it's just a story!" or "It's just a fictional character!" That little phrase, "It's just....." really bothers me. No, it actually INFURIATES me! As if these characters weren't LOVED just because they exist within the pages of a book. As if these characters didn't suffer pain themselves, or fall in love, or do any number of things that REAL people do. As if these characters didn't fascinate us, immerse us in their worlds, and even, yes, even make us shake our heads at their decisions, from time to time. 

Bottom line: NO non-bookworm will EVER understand. That's just the way it is. 

Having made my own feelings crystal clear, I would now like to add that, in such cases, I have thought of writing a very detailed, polite, and yet, angry letter to any writer who  has been willing to commit such a DASTARDLY deed!

A case in point: the Harry Potter series. Much as I LOVE these books, I have not completely finished reading the series, because its author, the brilliant J.K. Rowling (yes, I GREATLY admire this woman) is guilty of having committed this literary "sin". Yes, indeed.....she had the unmitigated gall to kill off one of the most beloved characters -- and one of my favorites -- in the entire series.....

This sad event took place in one of the books, but I won't say which one. I will also not mention which character it was. I just don't want to spoil things for any readers who have not yet immersed themselves in this great series, which has become an obsession with many Potterheads. (Needless to say, I'm among their number!) But, in one of these books, this much-loved and admired character sadly met their end.... (I won't even identify this character by gender.)

When I came across this event, I suddenly froze. Just.....FROZE. I stopped reading and stared, zombie-like, at the page. Then I looked down, and read it again..... Suddenly, I burst into tears. I sobbed and sobbed.....great, big, wrenching sobs, too, as if a member of my immediate family had died. This lasted for a good ten minutes, too. I had NEVER cried so hard at the death of a book character before. Yes, I had read such things before, but had somehow been able to take them in stride. With THIS character, though, I was not able to do so, for some reason.....

After I had calmed down a bit, I returned to the book, and attempted to continue reading. I could not go on. Instead, I burst into tears again. So I had to just put the book aside. A few days later, I tried again. Nope! I simply couldn't continue. So I have not been able to finish the series.

Now, I'd certainly LOVE to write Ms. Rowling a letter about this. I would definitely like to express my honest feelings about this sad event. And the letter would sound something like this:

Dear Ms. Rowling,

As an obsessed reader of the Harry Potter series, I would like to very politely ask you WHY you felt it so necessary to kill off this character (if I were to actually write this letter, I would definitely mention this character's name, which I won't do here.) What harm would there have been, Ms. Rowling, and I ask you with the utmost respect and admiration, in letting this character live? Didn't it cross your mind that some of your most ardent fans (such as moi) would have been TOTALLY devastated? How could you have done such a thing to us? We LOVED this character!! I'm sure I'm not the only one who felt that this character was one of the MOST wonderful, fascinating, brilliant, compassionate, and all-around GREAT people in your fictional universe! WHY, oh, WHY, did you do this?! Your world will NEVER be the same again...... 

You could have at least killed off this fictional person temporarily. You could have brought this character back to life. This is one of the most awe-inspiring powers of writers. And many of them have done this before, too. They seem to do away with a much-loved character, only to bring him or her back, to the reader's grateful relief. I would like to know why you did NOT avail yourself of this option. You would have earned my eternal gratitude if you had. And I'm SURE I wouldn't have been the only Potterhead to feel this way, either! 

In closing, I would like to thank you for bringing all of these characters, all of these wonderful, magical adventures, into my life. However, I would have admired and loved you even more if you had resurrected this one particular character..... 

Is there perhaps any chance that you might do so in a spinoff of this series? Do I dare hope that you will do so eventually? Please consider doing so. If I knew for sure that you were going to do just that, I would happily be able to finish your series! I would dance with joy, and celebrate with a post on this blog!! 

Thank you for your attention to this matter, which is of the utmost importance to me, as I'm willing to bet is the case with many other readers of your series, all over the world!

Sincerely,

Maria Behar
A Night's Dream of Books


  

What are your thoughts on
 this topic?
Please leave me a comment
and let me know!









12 comments:

  1. Hi Maria! That's the fun of fan fiction. You can bring back any characters you like or ignore the death altogether. I have read the lot and I can tell you that a number of beloved characters die. Ms Rowling is a kind lady and would no doubt explain to you why it was necessary. Unlike a certain very popular American writer whose stories are now a huge hit on TV, she kills off characters who need to be killed off for the purposes of the - tapestry, shall we call it? I did object to the killing of a couple of characters in the last book, in one case just because she wanted to end the series with an orphan, as she had started it, but the orphan concerned didn’t even get any lines!

    Still, if you mean the character I think you do, there was a very good reason for killing him and you do get to see him again, though in a dream/afterlife sequence.

    I read that when the fifth novel came out, two of the film actors went to buy it to find out if they survived - and one was wailing, “Hey, they’ve killed me off!”

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    1. Hi, Sue!

      True, this is sometimes done in fan fiction, but I have also seen it done in published fiction. I can't recall a specific book right now, so I will mention a Star Trek TOS movie: "The Search for Spock". In this movie, Spock did indeed die, and his casket was even shot out into space. The casket landed on a planet created by something called "The Genesis Device". This device subsequently resurrected Spock, although in the form of a child. The story is rather complex, and made for a totally RIVETING movie! In the end, Spock was completely restored. This is the type of thing I wish Rowling had done with the character I have in mind.

      I think we're both thinking of the same character, so yes, I have heard that he "returns", but in the way you have described. I still wish that Rowling had brought him back in a manner similar to that I have described with Spock. And I can see no good reason for this character's demise. Had she indeed brought him back, I think the series would have been much stronger, and even MORE popular. But well, every reader has their own opinions and reading tastes. :)

      I don't watch much TV, due to my night job, so I don't know which American TV writer you're referring to here. Unless you mean L.J. Smith, of "The Vampire Diaries". I read the first book in this series, and didn't like it at all. I read two more, to see if things would improve. But no. So I haven't followed the TV series. Anyway, my heart belongs to Twilight! Lol.

      Thanks for the interesting, thought-provoking comment!! <3 :)

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  2. Brilliant pose Maria.

    I know the pain of losing a beloved literary character. Sometimes as you mentioned however, it adds pathos, drama or meaning to the book. I tend to dislike, at least in principle when a character is returned from the dead as it seems kind of gimmicky. With that, sometimes I also hope for it. I am also thinking that sometimes characters are brought back only to die again. That happened a few times in Frank Herbert’s Dune series. I am also thinking of The Lord of the Rings series. As he was trying to tell a complete history, Tolkien concluded the series by tracing the lives of all the way to thier deaths, often decades later. I thought that was terribly sad.

    You letter to J.K. Rowling was great!

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    1. Hi, Brian!

      Thanks so much for the compliment!! <3 <3

      It is indeed painful to read about the death of a beloved literary character..... It's like a punch to the gut. I guess that's because this is just MUCH too close to reality.... I'm trying to remember other books i have read....wait a minute! One that is now coming to mind is "Tess of the d'Urbervilles". Another is "A Tale of Two Cities". There were certain characters in both of these books whose deaths really saddened me. In both cases, though, these deaths were a natural outcome of the circumstances in the plot. Or, in other words, the plot could not have developed otherwise, unfortunately.... In the case of the HP character I'm thinking of, I honestly don't think that his death was AT ALL necessary. It could have been avoided, in one way or another.

      I also remember crying when I read "The Yearling", by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, years ago. The character was an animal. I cried more for the character in the HP book, though. I'm also remembering "The Red Pony", by John Steinbeck. I HATED this book because I LOVE horses, and well, you can imagine what happened here....

      Oh, my memory banks are getting fired up! There was another very hurtful demise in Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women". I found out about this years after I had read the book. I was around 8 or 9 when I read it, but it was an abridged version, so this character's death was not mentioned. I came across a Wikipedia article on the book, and then read the plot synopsis. Needless to say, I had no desire to read the complete version of the book, once I had read the article!

      In my comment to Sue, above, I mentioned a Star Trek TOS movie -- "The Search for Spock" -- in which a MOST beloved character is indeed brought back from the dead -- Spock. I LOVED that!! It could have been gimmicky, as you say, but I thought they handled it VERY well, so it was just PERFECT. I don't know if you've seen this movie, but if you haven't, I highly recommend it to you!

      I remember a couple of deaths in "The Lord of the Rings". Again, they didn't affect me as much as the one in HP, that I referred to in my post. It is indeed sad that Tolkien traced the histories of the characters completely, including their deaths. I was not aware that he had done that.....

      Bottom line: I feel that certain well-loved fictional characters should remain IMMORTAL. I heard that Capt. Kirk was killed off in a Star Trek TOS movie.... Well, I will NEVER see that movie!! In fact, that movie does NOT exist, as far as I'm concerned. Capt. Kirk LIVES. And so do Spcck, McCoy, Scotty, Sulu, Uhura, Chapel, and Chekhov!!!!

      "Live long and prosper!!" :) :)

      Thanks for the WONDERFUL comment, as well as for the compliment on my letter to Rowling!! <3 :)

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  3. Maybe because of some of the genres I read, I am kind of used to characters dying. However, I TOTALLY get what you're saying. I think there's a difference between a death that maybe means something to the plot, and ones done randomly for shock effect. Does that make sense? I am even worse though when it comes to animal deaths! There is a certain creature that meets his demise in Harry Potter from which I never recovered...but I guess he wasn't an animal. I did send a tweet to an author once about how he killed a dog in one of his books. It wasn't necessary and the book would have been fine without it. I don't think he ever replied.

    Great discussion!

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    1. Hi, Barb!

      So sorry for the late reply....I had computer problems, and my hubby, who is a REAL computer geek, had to recover the ENTIRE system, then update some stuff. I was unable to log into my blog, so I couldn't do ANYTHING on it....

      You know, I'm NEVER okay with the death of a favorite character. Lol. Rationally speaking, I realize that authors are free to do whatever they want with their characters. As a reader, though, it really does hurt when a favorite, beloved character is killed off.....

      I have read reviews by other HP readers who also were VERY unhappy with the death of this specific character, and thought it was even too contrived. I agree. I don't think it was necessary at all. But well, I have to recognize the fact that I'm not the author of these books, so I can't control what Rowling does or doesn't do with her own created characters. But still, it was VERY HARD for me to read through this event....

      I think I know which creature you're referring to that also met his end in these books. OMG!!! Now, what HARM would there have been in letting this creature live?!

      I don't like animal deaths, either! Forgive me for saying this, but that's ESPECIALLY the case if they're horses, since I LOVE these animals so much! I HATED reading "The Red Pony", by John Steinbeck, because of this! I was SO mad at Steinbeck, especially because of the way he described the pony's demise....

      Another animal death that REALLY hurt was that of the fawn in Marjorie Kinnan Rawwlings's novel, "The Yearling". I cried and cried.....

      Now, in the case of The Twilight Saga, I haVe NO complaints whatsoever! NO beloved characters die in this series! YAAAAAAAY!!!!

      I guess this is just one of the hazards of reading, lol. You will come across the unfortunate demise of beloved characters. This is one of the reasons I sometimes go on extended periods of romance novel reading. These deaths don't usually take place in such novels. Lol

      How interesting that you actually tweeted an author about killing off a dog! And he never replied, huh? Yeah, I guess authors don't take it well when a reader questions their actions regarding characters. But they should realize that we actually fall in love with their characters. Heck, we even BOND with them! This is actually a compliment to the authors! It means that their characters have become REAL to us. Oh, well....

      Thanks for the lovely comment, as well as the compliment on the discussion! HUGS TO YOU AND THE BOYS, AND WOOF, WOOF TO THEM!! <3 <3 <3 :) :) :)

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  4. yup That's exactly how I felt when that character died Maria! I really CRIED> I DID! Which is when I realized the immensity of HP and said WOW this lady KNOWS how to write!

    Love your letter! a spinoff series about this character would be AWESOME!

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    1. Hi, Daniela!

      So sorry for the late reply.... As I wrote to Barb in my reply to her comment above, I had computer troubles!

      Yeah.....that was SO, SO sad..... And you're also SO RIGHT about the immensity of the HP series!! It REALLY touched us readers! It made us want to LIVE in THIS FICTIONAL WORLD!! So yes, Rowling really KNOWS how to write!

      I'm glad you love my letter! And I'm glad you like my idea of a spinoff series on this particular character!! YAAAAAAAY!!!! Now I can only hope that Rowling hears ya!!

      Thanks for the compliment, as well as for the lovely comment!! HUGS!! <3 <3 <3 :) :) :)

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  5. Authors killing off characters is the absolute worst. I've gone through this so many times and there's one that will always stand out to me. In Sever by Lauren DeStefano she killed my favorite character and I remember just breaking down and actually sobbing. I don't cry easily with books but this death just ended me. And then there's author Jay Kristoff who just LOVES killing off his characters. Ugh. And yet I keep reading his books. lol

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    1. Hi, Stephanie!

      So sorry for the late reply.... As I wrote to Barb in the reply to her comment above, I had computer problems....all good now!! :)

      Yeah....it SURE is!! But I don't mind an author killing off a VILLAIN. It's when they kill off characters that we the readers have BONDED with, that I get upset.

      If I didn't like other aspects of the HP series so much, I would just hate it completely now, lol. Thank God she didn't kill off ALL the characters I LOVE!!

      As for Jay Kristoff, since you're telling me that he "LOVES killing off his characters", I will now stay away from his novels! Lol. Thanks for the warning!! <3 <3

      Thanks for the great comment!! HUGS!!! <3 <3 <3 :) :) :)

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  6. I completely take your point, Maria. And I, too, was more than a tad winded by the death of said Harry Potter character - I think we all were!

    BUT - if I can put in a word here for the view from the writer... Each character has a 'niche'. As well as playing their part in the story, they also inhabit a particular space where their role creates a shape. If that character in Harry Potter had NOT died when he did, there would have been places where readers would have been shouting at the book 'Duh - why is this a problem? Just ask (name of said dead character)!' And Harry and his friends also had to mature and grow up a LOT more quickly once this character wasn't there to help them out...

    That doesn't mean there aren't writers who are far too quick off the mark to kill off characters without taking into account how readers bond with them, however! Have a great day and thank you for a really interesting post:))

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    1. Hi, Sarah!

      First off, I apologize for the late reply.... As I wrote to Barb in reply to her comment above, I was having computer problems. Everything's fine now, though! :)

      It's very interesting to get your take on this topic, since you're an author yourself. From a writer's perspective, these deaths that tear us readers up so much can make sense in regards to the whole big picture -- the plot and where the author wants to take the characters. I can understand that, and yet.....it just HURTS SO MUCH when a beloved character is killed....

      Yes, I think the majority of us HP readers were undone by the demise of this particular character.... I see that you do know exactly who I'm talking about.

      The reason you're giving for the death of this character is one that reviewers have mentioned on Goodreads -- that "Harry and his friends also had to mature and grow up a LOT more quickly once this character wasn't there to help them out..." Yes, that's precisely the reason this character "had" to die. But none of the reviewers who mentioned this were happy about it. In fact, they ALL criticized Rowling HEAVILY for doing this. With all due respect to authors everywhere, I must agree. Said character could have simply withheld their support, and let Harry and company find their own way. Said character could have simply and mysteriously disappeared for a while, causing Harry and friends a lot of anguish, but letting them find their own way out of difficulties. Then the character could have reappeared, and let them, as well as us readers, understand the reason behind his mysterious disappearance. I still think he didn't HAVE to die.

      Maybe this is why I've toyed with the idea of writing a novel from time to time, but have never actually done so. I have written some fan fiction, though. But the whole idea of killing off a character I LOVE is completely repellent to me, even if it might be necessary. Lol. So I might never actually buckle down and write that novel....

      Thanks for the WONDERFUL comment!! HUGS!!! <3 <3 <3 :) :) :)

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