Pandragon Dan

Pandragon Dan

Author/Reviewer/Blogger

Protagonist VS Hero

When it comes to writing fiction, it certainly goes without saying that (nine times out of ten), your book needs a protagonist. The protagonist is the main character in your story, of which the vast majority of the story covers. They are the ones whose journey you follow, support them, cheer for them – even cry for them when danger comes for them. In short, they are the ones who hook you into the story.

 

So in short, they are the good guys, right? Not necessarily...

 

I mean, yes. Generally, the protagonist is the hero of the story, fighting an antagonist, which is the villain. However, let’s look at the definition of both protagonist and hero and look at their meanings a little closer. These are the meanings taken from Wikipedia.

 

A protagonist...is the main character (the central or primary personal figure) of a literary, theatrical, cinematic, or musical narrative, who enters conflict because of the antagonist. The audience is intended to most identify with the protagonist.

 

A hero (heroine for a female)... refers to characters who, in the face of danger and adversity or from a position of weakness, display courage and the will for self sacrifice—that is, heroism—for some greater good of all humanity. This definition originally referred to martial courage or excellence but extended to more general moral excellence.

 

So, a protagonist is the one whose story you follow and a hero/heroine is someone that does heroic actions. But that does not mean that they are one and the same. Therefore, the protagonist is NOT the same as a hero!

 

Now first of all, I should start by saying that there is absolutely nothing wrong with having a central character that is a good person. After all, heroes are generally considered to have a moral and ethical message to the people of the world – they are what inspire us to do good with our lives and rise above our normal human characteristics to achieve great things. However, in this writers' opinion, I don’t believe that, in real life, you can characterise people as heroes and villains in the traditional sense. Because human beings are just as capable of acts of cruelty as much as they are bravery. And people who are normally kind and caring can show acts of selfishness and malice on occasion, just as much as people that are wicked and cruel can show acts of kindness on occasion.

 

Personally, I like to think that the ideas of heroes and villains represents the mortal battles that we have to go through everyday – be good to people and you will end up doing well, do bad and you’ll end up paying the price. But, as we know, real life doesn’t always work that way. But I’m getting off topic somehow.

 

So, as I said previously, the protagonist doesn’t have to be a hero. In fact, the popular character type these days is the anti-hero archetype. These are the types of characters that defy a lot of heroic characteristics – and usually have darker and more sinister reasons for their actions. A common mistake is that anti-heroes are villains, but this is actually not always true. A hero will always fight for the greater good and the sake of humanity – an anti-hero will often fight for themselves and do things because they want to (usually out of revenge or some other personal vendetta). This doesn’t mean that they can’t become heroes in their own right, but they are not really in it for others – just themselves.

 

 

One character that I think perfectly captures the elements of both hero AND anti-hero is Jack Bauer from 24. He is a protagonist that is both a hero AND anti-hero. Hero in the sense that he will fight to protect his country and his loved ones – anti-hero because the way he goes about it is somewhat questionable. He’s not above torture or murder to get the information he needs and will sometimes even put innocents in danger to achieve his goals. But Jack is a pragmatist and will often go the best route to resolve a situation – which means he has to make some pretty hard choices! We both cheer and revile him because he will do what it takes to save the day. But he’s not a completely emotionless monster and at times (such as the end of series 3) we see how much his choices affect his mental state.

 

So as you can see, a protagonist doesn’t have to be a full on hero, they can have some villainous tendencies and the audience will still cheer for them. But, what if we went to the OTHER end of the scale. What if your protagonist WAS a villain?

 

In a lot of dramas/films, such as Breaking Bad, Boardwalk Empire, The Godfather films and Scarface, the main character is an absolute monster. An utterly despicable human being that has very little morals and does a lot of evil actions – but, because they are the central character, you follow their story and actually get a deeper insight into their character and thought process. So even if you don’t agree with their actions, you can still appreciate why they do what they do because of the life they lead.

 

 

I’ve mentioned the character of Tony Soprano from The Soprano’s many times, but again I’m going to use him as an example for this – I think he is perfect for this trope (I would also mention Walter White from Breaking Bad, but as I’ve only just started watching that show, I don’t really think I can go into his character as much as I hoped). As I’ve said, Tony Soprano is a villain, plain and simple. A mob boss, he is sociopathic and extremely violent – able to snap at the smallest provocation and hurt and kill anyone that crosses him. But at the same time, he is also a caring family man (despite his adultery) that does genuinely want to provide for his family. It’s that mix of loving father and violent mobster that makes him one of the most complex and fascinating characters in fiction. You don’t want to support him, but you do anyway. And anyone who has seen The Soprano’s knows that Tony is NOT the most wicked character in there. Just goes to show that, with the right amount of thought process, a character can be utterly wicked and monstrous, yet the audience will follow them.

 

However, there is a danger to creating these characters – and a trap that I myself have fallen into with one of my first novels. If you make your central characters TOO monstrous, the audience will end up hating and not caring what happens to them. Remember, a protagonist is someone that the audience has to follow and support. If you don’t give them anything they can latch onto, then they won’t care for them and end up despising them. Bottom line – even monsters needs to have something that makes them appealing to the audience.

 

One final type of protagonist I’d like to mention is to what I like to call the “Don Quixote Hero”. These are the types of hero you’ve probably seen in every situation comedy out there. They are neither heroes nor villains – but rather failures, people that go from one failure to the next without any real hope of redemption. These are the types of characters I think we can relate to most, because not everyone can achieve their dreams and goals and we’ve all felt like losers at one times or another. We can support and sympathise with these characters because they all have hopes and dreams, but never achieve them.

 

 

For this, I choose David Brent from The Office. What a fantastic character this guy is! Many people see him as a monster, but I don’t agree. He’s harmless at heart, despite the fact he is utterly selfish and self-centred, often making up big stories to make himself better and convincing himself that he is the centre of attention – when in reality no one really cares for him. I actually feel really sorry for David Brent. All he wants is to be popular – something we can all relate to – and he’ll go to any lengths to get that. No matter what he does to look cool, it just ends up isolating him from his colleagues further. And let’s be honest, who HASN’T told bold stories at one point or another in an attempt to be popular with people?

 

I hope this will help give some insight into the protagonist idea. Just because your protagonist is the main character, doesn’t mean they necessarily have to be the hero. And even if your main character is the hero, that doesn’t mean that they have to be sugar and spice and all things nice. If you read my books, you’ll see that my “heroic” characters aren’t always as nice as they put themselves out to be and even my main heroines can snap on occasion.

 

The idea is to make your protagonist someone for the audience to follow – and if you can give them many layers of characteristics that will help in this, then it will definitely make them stand out a lot more.

 

 

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PANDRAGON

 

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Top Five Tips For Overcoming Writer's Block

So, my previous Top Fives have recently been about a lot of different stuff – but I noticed for a long time I haven’t done any writing tips blogs. So, to change it up a bit, I decided to do that today.

 

 

If you’re a writer, be it full time/part time, professional/just for fun, traditional published/self published – well, you get the point – then at SOME point in your life you would have suffered from Writer’s Block. Everyone gets it – even the professionals. And for anyone that has had it knows that it can be really crippling and put a cramp on your day. Believe me, there is nothing is more frustrating than sitting in front of a blank screen for hours and nothing comes to mind. Hell, my favourite band Dream Theater even did a song about it (it’s called Wither, link to it is here if you're interested - there is also a hirlarious Gangnam Style and Never Gonna Give You Up parody as well), so people from all walks of life can get it.

 

Now, sadly, there is no “cure” for Writer’s Block as such, due to the number of factors that attribute to it, especially if you have a number of real life issues going on whilst you’re trying to write. But luckily there are ways to combat it. And these are MY ways of how to do that. These are the top five things that I’ve done when I’ve come across Writer’s Block and my way of combating it. Seeing as Writer’s Block is a real issue, I thought I’d let guys know my own ways of dealing with them.

 

Note that this is NOT a guarantee that it will cure your Writer’s Block. These are just things that have worked for me and I do not claim these to be fool proof – and so some of these may not work or apply for some people. But feel free to try them to see how you feel.

 

 

1. Take a break from writing

 

As I said previously, sometimes real life issues can get in the way of writer – especially if you’ve got family and work related things going on. It can be so hard to concentrate on your next masterpiece when you’re worried about that bill electricity bill coming up – or if your kind is going to pass their GCSE exams. Sometimes, it could just be a case that you’ve been working long hours with little time to relax and you don’t feel like you have enough energy to write. Or sometimes, you could just not be in the mood to.

 

Don’t panic if this happens. Just take a break for a while. I know this one can be a little hard as, if you’re like me, you want your writing done yesterday – but sometimes it’s best to sit back, take a little rest and just chillax for a while. Even if you have an important deadline to meet with this novel, taking a few minutes away from your computer won’t hurt. Think of it this way – if you study for an exam (and try to cram everything thing at once), you just end up doing more damage than good. Taking a break from things will help you recharge your batteries and get you back on track.

 

This is also quite helpful if you have other stuff that needs to be done – something that may be distracting you from your writing. Get that stuff done first, so it’s out the way and then get back to your writing. Authors work best when there are no distractions so it’s best to get this out the way.

 

 

2. Find inspiration from somewhere

 

But let’s say that, even after taking a break, you STILL don’t know what to write. Not to worry – go find some inspiration! Take another break from your computer, go out and do your daily routine, read a book, watch some telly, play a video game, go for a run – whatever. Before you know it, you’ll soon find a spark of inspiration come to you when you least expect it.

 

Inspiration doesn’t just have to come from the books you read – you can get inspiration from ANYWHERE. For myself, my stories aren’t just inspired by the books I’ve read. In fact, they are mainly inspired by a lot of TV programs and Films, and also comic books and video games. And sometimes from real life as well. If, for example, I meet someone that pisses me off or gets on my nerves, I’ll most likely create a character based on them (see, being a writer is the best form of revenge!) By the same token, if I discover a person that I admire, I’ll also use them as a basis for one of my characters.  For example, Daniar Dragonkin was inspired by Princess Diana – a person who I had a lot of respect for.

 

One word of advice, don’t DELIBERATELY go out looking for inspiration – let it come naturally. The more you force yourself to look for something, the less likely it will come. Inspiration is like a wizard – it arrives precisely when it means to! Just make sure you have a notepad nearby when it does happen.

 

 

3. You don’t have to write in sequence

 

Contrary to what some believe – you actually DON’T have to write a book in chapter order. So, if you’re having problems with a particular chapter, but have some great ideas for the next few – jump ahead and write them first!

 

Think of it this way, do film crews’ film scenes of a film in chronological order? No. They always film the scenes in the order that they can do them in (depending on budget, location, time restraints, etc) and then go back and edit them together to go in order later. So don’t feel that you have to be stuck on one chapter – leave it and come back. A lot of writers do this – George R R Martin, for instance, didn’t write the dreaded “Red Wedding” chapter until last as it was too painful for him. In fact, I myself tend to write a lot of the chapters out of order – doing my favourite ones first and then going back and doing the others later.

 

And don’t worry if, after writing the later chapters, they don’t match up to the earlier ones first. You can always find some ways of linking them together later on. This is what the editing process is for. Just write the things you want to write and the rest will follow suit.

 

 

4. Ask yourself, am I really enjoying this book?

 

This one may be a controversial entry and one that may raise some eyebrows. After all, the general rule of thumb is “stick at it” when writing. But, on the other side of the coin, if you’re not feeling it – well, you’re just not feeling it.

 

Sometimes, when we have an idea for a book, we start writing it – then some way down the line, we realise that actually this isn’t as good an idea as we first thought. Again, I’m using myself as an example as I have a few novels that I have started, but never finished. Whether it’s because I realised that it doesn’t work as a story, it doesn’t have the desired effect – or simply, it’s just not a good idea. For whatever reason, I have a few books in my abandoned pile that I have started, but never finished for one reason or another.

 

Writing should be fun – I know that it can also be serious business, but I believe that it should also be about fun. I felt this same way when I did music. Too many bands out there take it too seriously and are more focused on their image, how they do things, how they set up, etc – but if you take the fun out of it then what’s the point? Oh sure, I understand that they want to make it big and everything, who doesn’t? But they have to enjoy what they are doing. I’ve actually quit bands because they took themselves too seriously and I just didn’t have any fun with them. Writing is the same. You must enjoy what you are doing. If not, then you need to ask yourself – is this the novel for me?

 

If you don’t enjoy what you’re writing, then the audience certainly won’t! So if you’re writers block is brought on by the fact that you aren’t enjoying it, then maybe it’s time to go back to the drawing board and start again with a fresh idea. I know many authors baulk at that idea of starting again, but I say don’t be afraid of this. Starting afresh is sometimes a good thing and can help you a great deal.

 

Now, I’m not saying you should completely abandon any idea that you start. Keep a copy of it saved. Then, years later, you may come across it and have PLENTY of fresh ideas for it. I’m sure there are lots of stories out there that were abandoned for many years by the author, then they went back and redid it. So you never know.

 

As I said, this should be done as a last resort – but if you aren’t feeling the book, then maybe it’s best to move onto something else.

 

 

5. Ignore all this and do your own thing!

 

Yup, that’s right. I’m actually telling you to ignore everything I just told you? Why? Because what I mentioned above is just MY ways of coping with Writer’s Block. And I know that what works for me may not work for anyone else.

 

So does that mean that this blog was a gigantic waste of time? Well, maybe. But at the same time, I know a few people that find Writer’s Block really painful and they have no ways of coping with it. These points are just pointers to help with those writers that do suffer with it, but at the same time, you also have to work out what’s best for you – in the same way that you need to work out what style you want to write in and what stories you want to tell.

 

If you do get Writer’s Block, don’t panic! You’ll get through it in the end :)

 

 

What are your ways of dealing with Writer’s Block? Please leave your suggestions in the comments below, I’d love to hear from them.

 

Thanks for reading guys. Have a great weekend!

 

 

 

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PANDRAGON

 

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Can Fantasy Deal With Real Life Issues?

When people think of Fantasy, usually the first thing that comes to mind are swords and sorcery, dragons, monsters, evil empires – you know the usual. In fact, pick up most RPG game set in a Fantasy world pretty rely on this trope to build their story and characters. But here is a question that I’d like to put forward to you all – can Fantasy deal with real life issues? Can you have a story that deals with problems like, for example, family problems? Lost love? Lack of direction in life? Or maybe just something basic like trying to fit in with the in crowd?

 

I believe that the best Fantasy stories aren’t  loved because of how fantastical and magical they are (although that does play a part) but how BELIEVEABLE they are in terms of their story and characters, because it helps us relate to the characters much easier if they go through the same problems as we all do.

 

In actual fact, Fantasy has included a lot of real-life issues in it over the years if you look carefully at them. Take the Harry Potter series for instance. That intercuts the idea of magic and mixes it with the idea of going through school life, and the stresses and challenges it can present. Though I’m not a fan of Harry Potter, I must concede that this is a brilliant idea and one that a lot of children can relate to – the magic element just adds a whiff of imagination and the Voldermort story serves as the main challenge Harry must overcome.

 

Another example of real life issues in a Fantasy context is the Spider-Man movies/comics. That is a coming of age story about a teenager (who is by all accounts a loner and very unpopular) who learns about power and responsibility. But even though he has great abilities that can help him fight villains, he still has his own problems to deal with – also adding to the fact that some people hate Spider-Man, despite the good he does, it’s a real life lesson and shows the reader that sometimes you have to make tough choices for the greater good. And when you add into the mix the amount of people who have died thanks to Spider-Man (Uncle Ben, Captain Stacy, Gwen Stacy and Harry Osborne to name a few), the pressures of life can really get to Peter Parker, making for a rather depressing story on occasions!

 

I personally love it when a story (Fantasy, Sci-Fi or otherwise) puts in real drama into the piece and makes the characters more than just the usual archetypes. So many Fantasy stories I’ve read just seem to go with traditional tropes and go with the idea that the characters should only perform their duty within the plot. But by adding in real issues and needs that the everyday human has can certainly do it’s bit to help the audience appreciate and support your characters. I always try and add in some real issues to my Draconica novels and usually my books have an underlining theme to them that is relative to the real world. Trapped on Draconica had an underlining theme of friendship and that no one was above redemption. In future books, I intend to focus on the theme of family and the bond between mother and child – and in a future book it will be a kind of social commentary on the effects of war on the families of the soldiers fighting for it.

 

I’m not saying that stories have to necessarily be “Authors Tracts” (which TV Tropes list as basically an author using a story to put their own belief systems across rather than tell a story), but taking inspiration from real world issues can be a powerful writing tool and give your story a more accessible hook and will entice your readers in. This will help them accept the characters as they are and even become emotionally invested in them. As such, they will suffer the same pains as them and revel in the same joys that they do.

 

A couple more examples I’d like to use to show that Fantasy can be used for real life stories. In Lord of the Rings, the best character is (in my opinion) Sméagol/Gollum. Corrupted by the ring, he is as treacherous as they come, but he is also so sad and tragic a character that we both hate and feel sorry for him at the same time. Gollum can be considered a metaphor for drug abuse, in the sense that he needs “the precious” ring in order to be happy, but at the same time he wants to do good, but keeps slipping into his wicked ways. His character is a mixture of humour, treachery and heart wrenching sadness – all perfectly captured by Andy Serkis in the films. The Hobbit film’s best scene by far is when Bilbo meets Gollum for the first time and I actually remember a few in the audience being moved to tears by the performance. Much like a drug user, he isn’t a bad person per say, but he is forced to do bad things due to his desire to be with the thing he needs the most. He’s not a villain in my eyes, but a victim.

 

One final example I want to use is Robert Baratheon from the A Song of Fire and Ice novels and the Game of Thrones TV series. I actually find Robert Baratheon one of the most interesting and tragic characters in the book that I wish could have got more mileage in the story in some way. Robert is king of the Seven Kingdoms and is generally a good king (despite making some poor choices), but is quite a tragic character that has let himself go considerably. In his youth, he was a strong, handsome man that had a great sense of humour and a knack for battle – but in recent years he has become fat and lazy, often doing little more than eating, getting drunk and screwing women. But behind all this is a sad, tragic man that is still pining for his lost love, the sister of Ned Stark whom he loved from afar and lost during the rebellion that won him the throne. Though he defeated the Mad King and brought peace to the land, he is forever haunted by the fact that he can never been with the woman he loved. It’s a good character trait in the sense that he has to deal with his own problems – whilst at the same time dealing with the stress of running the kingdoms.

 

So, in answer to my earlier questions, yes I do believe that Fantasy can deal with real issues beyond the usual “good and evil” trope and can help create interesting and believable characters for the reasons I’ve listed above. If you need further proof, check out the writings of Mysti Parker – she writes a lot of stuff in a Fantasy setting, but the characters still have real life needs and desires. She has a couple of books out already so be sure to check them out.

 

Hope you enjoyed reading this, please feel free to leave a comment below if you agreed or disagreed with me; or if you have any other examples I might have missed.

 

Thanks.

 

 

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PANDRAGON

 

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Deux Ex Machina - Hackneyed plot device or underrated story saviour?

Chances are, many of you would have heard the expression Deux Ex Machina (pronounced Day-oo Ex Mack-in-na) at some point, however, some of you maybe never knew what it meant before. Indeed, I only learned the meaning of Deus Ex Machina myself less than a couple of years ago, reading a Spider-Man comic of all things!

 

To explain what it means, here is a quick example:

 

Our hero (or heroine) has been tied up in an abandoned building with a bomb set to explode. They are tied up pretty tight and have no way of escape, their only fate is to wait until the bomb explodes. Then suddenly, a rat comes along, chews through their rope and helps them get away in time.

 

To basically sum up, it’s when the protagonist is stuck in a seemingly inescapable situation, and then something comes along (whether it be a person, creature, object or whatever) and helps the protagonist win the day. No doubt you’ve seen this many times before – whether in films, books, comics, TV, etc. It’s a pretty common trope, but one that has mixed reaction from writers and watchers alike.

 

The term Deux Ex Machina was first coined during the old days of Greek Theatre – the phrase being Latin for “God From the Machine”. In the old days, an actor, playing a god, was lowered down by a primitive crane (a machine) onto the stage to save the hero from death or a similar problem. This was used by the writers/poets of the time to resolve a plot that they could otherwise not resolve – using “cheap” writing to help get the hero out of a situation.

 

 

As a plot device, writers tend to have mixed feelings about the Deux Ex Machina. Some consider it “hackneyed” and even “lazy writing”. There is a school of thought that believes that Deux Ex Machinas ruin the tension and drama of a piece if a hero is stuck in a hopeless situation, and then is saved by a convoluted and utterly implausible solution. Some consider it a lack of creativity on the part of the author and a cheap way to end the story. Believe it or not, J.K Rowling has often been criticised for her overuse of Deux Ex Machinas in Harry Potter. Mainly in Harry conveniently learning to use a new spell when he was previously unable to before, but when the situation calls for it, it saved his ass!

 

Myself, I actually don’t have a problem with Deux Ex Machinas. Whilst I can understand why people don’t like them, I’m of the school of thought that believes that if it helps resolve the plot satisfactorily, then do it. After all, the general rule of thumb in writing is that the protagonist must overcome all obstacles and end up saving the day – so if a Deux Ex Machina helps save the day, why not use it. We can’t all be GRRM and kill off our main characters all the time.

 

Hell, I myself have been guilty in using a Deux Ex Machina in my books, because I genuinely could not think of any other way to end it. To be fair, Fantasy and Sci-Fi by it’s very nature has tons of Deux Ex Machinas, usually involving a new spell or something like that. So really it would make me a hypocrite to say that I don’t like this plot device.

 

Having said that, if you are going to use a Deux Ex Machina, it MUST be plausible and still fit in within the context of the story. It can’t just be shoehorned in for the sake of it. The worst kind of Deux Ex Machinas are ones that appear from out of nowhere and just feel rushed. Remember, a story must still work within the concept of Suspension of Disbelief and if you throw something in that is too implausible and outside the context of what you have set up in your world, then that could be considered lazy and stupid.

 

 

Here’s what I mean. Let’s say we have a story set during a zombie apocalypse. The main characters are trapped all sides by zombies and about to be eaten – then Deux Ex Machina enters. A good way to do this would to have the military come in suddenly and blast them to pieces. That would still be considered realistic within the context of the story as it stands to reason that the military would be mobilised during this kind of event. However if, say, the Justice League (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc) came down to save the heroes, this would be utterly ridiculous and beyond the Suspension of Disbelief (unless it was a story set in that Universe, but for the sake of my example, let’s say it isn’t).

 

Ok, maybe a better example would be to give a good and bad version of a Deux Ex Machina. Let’s start with a good one. (Minor Spoilers follow).

 

In the film It’s a Wonderful Life, the main character is about to kill himself at Christmas due to the financial problems he is in – until an angel shows him what life would have been like if he never existed. Realising that he actually does have something worth living for, he returns to his family, only for all the townspeople to arrive at his house and donate him money to pay off his loans. This actually works because, if you think about it, the people are paying him back for all the good he’s done over the years. Also, this type of Deux Ex Machina helps bring the film to a happy ending – and considering the last hour or so has been really depressing, this is one of those feel good endings. So this works in my opinion.

 

However, a bad version of the Deux Ex Machina is the film American Psycho. For the most part, this is a pretty good film – and the killings are brutal and uncompromising. It ends in a brutal display where the main character goes on a killing spree and then decides to turn himself in. Only to discover that all the killings were in his head and they never actually happened. This, for me, was a cop out and I felt it made the film sorta redundant in a way as most of it didn’t actually happen. It’s still worth watching as a film and has some interesting insights into the human mind – but this ending spoils it for me and ruins an otherwise great movie. I think it would have been a lot better if he actually DID do all the killings and ended up being arrested. They way it ends just leaves me scratching my head and wondering what is going to happen next.

 

In conclusion, I say the Deux Ex Machina isn’t so bad really. So long as it fits in with your story, and isn’t just put in for the sake of it, why not use it? After all, there’s an old saying here – “when all else fails, send in a guy with guns blazing!”

 

Agree, disagree? Please leave your comments below.

 

Thanks for reading!

 

 

Pandragon

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Why Character Deaths have to matter

(Warning: This post may contains spoilers for Star Wars, Final Fantasy, The Land Before Time and To The Moon. If you are either planning on watching or playing any of the above, please read at your own risk)

 

For some reason, I’ve been a little down recently (insert violin music here) – so I figured what better way to cheer myself up than making everyone else depressed! Don’t worry, that’s just a joke.

 

Seriously though, today I wanted to talk a little bit about a scene that, in fiction terms, many consider somewhat overused and clichéd – but in actual fact I still believe that this is one of the most powerful writing tools that a storyteller has at their disposal, if it’s done correctly.

 

The death of a character is something that can be both shocking to the reader and upsetting – especially if it’s a character they are heavily invested in. Sometimes we get so attached to a character that when something bad happens to them, we feel like we’ve lost a part of ourselves – and that is one of the things that makes a character death so powerful, moving the reader to tears when they realise that their favourite character is no longer going to be with us.

 

One example of this that I can use is in the video game Final Fantasy VII. Perhaps everyone knows of the shocking death of Areith halfway through the game at the hands of Sepiroth. I was SHOCKED when I first saw this as I never saw it coming and it took me by surprise. Areith may not have been the most powerful character of the bunch (In fact I rarely had her on my team), but she was genuinely likeable and so it did make her death rather sad. What’s even sadder is that she STAYS dead – making her death all that more powerful. But, I will admit, Cloud does kind ruin this scene a little with his dialogue. It just sounds too cheesy and silly.

 

But at the same time, it doesn’t always have to be a main character – sometimes the death itself can bring on huge emotions. I recently played a video game called To The Moon, which dealt with a dying man reliving his childhood memories and his dreams of going to the moon. This was a really emotional video game and one of the first to REALLY move me (proof that video games can have emotion), mainly because we get to see the man’s life, all the way back to his childhood and saw the struggles he went through in life. And the ending... well, let’s just say you will need a box of tissues for it. So sometimes, just a way a character dies (ie, old age, cancer, etc) can have a big effect on us, especially if they have gone through an experience like that. In the case of the above example, death is something we ALL have to face – and I guess the scariest thing about death is how we will face it when the time comes, and did we live our lives the way we should have?

 

For my Top Five Memorable Death Scenes blog (see here for the original post), I mentioned one of the most memorable death scenes in film was the death of Littlefoot’s mother in The Land Before Time – and I still do. Main reason being is that Littlefoot now has to complete the journey on his own, and he’s still only a kid. Prior to this scene, Littlefoot’s mother sacrificed her own life to protect him from the villain, Sharptooth, so it makes this death all the more sadder. We feel for poor Littlefoot in this case, because I think a lot of us can relate to this kind of death. We’ve all lost loved ones and family members in our life so this does affect us emotionally – I’ve never watched anyone I loved die, but even so I know that some people have and I’m sure these types of deaths in films/books/etc can have a great impact on them.

 

But the one thing that really get me is when a character dies and then gets brought back to life (usually through convoluted reasons). I always found this a cop out – although, again if it was a character that I really liked, I loved the idea of them coming back into the story – and in some ways it completely negates the emotion behind their death the first time. Sadly, this is all too common in fiction these days and this is one of the reason why the death scene has become less impactful. I’m actually with George R R Martin when he said Lord of the Rings would have been a much more interesting story if Gandalf stayed dead, seeing as he was pretty much overpowered. I’m not saying this is wrong, I just think it undoes the character death a little. I appreciate that sometimes, for the sake of the plot, a character has to be brought back, but I’m just not a fan of it. Myself, if I kill a character off, I try to make sure they stay dead and if they DO come back, it’s usually temporarily. The exception to this rule is villains. They are usually deceitful and so it makes sense that they would deceive people into thinking they were dead.

 

Now onto one of my biggest pet peeves – storytellers that try to shoe-horn in a death scene just for the sake of it. Sadly, many Hollywood blockbusters do this in the hope of showing that their movie has substance. Sorry, but it DOESN’T WORK THAT WAY! As I said before, for a death scene to work, we have to care about the character and be emotionally invested in them. But if we never cared for them in the first place, then why should be care if they are killed off? One example of this is in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, when Qui-Gon-Gin n’ Tonic (sorry, Qui-Gon Jinn) gets killed off. At the risk of upsetting Star Wars fans, I REALLY didn’t care for this character. He had no personality and only really served as a plot device for bringing Anakin into the story, though in my opinion the story would have functioned just as well without him. So when he died, I was like “meh”. But that’s not the reaction you should have to a character death!

 

Worst still, in some stories, sometimes a character dies and then they are forgotten about. A death of a character should have lasting consequences – so when I see a character die and forgotten about, to me this just screams lazy writing. I actually read and reviewed a book once (of which I will keep the name and the author name secret) and in one scene one of the main characters was killed off – quite an important character as well. After that, never mentioned again – the hero didn’t even seem that affected by it! This annoyed me because why would you kill a character off and then forget about them? It just didn’t feel right. I think that when a character dies, you should honour them and show how it effects the rest of the protagonists.

 

That being said, as a writer myself, I will admit that these scenes are – for me personally – the hardest scenes to write. As a writer, my preference has always been for Fantasy/Science Fiction with a lot of action, larger than life characters and exciting storylines – but I don’t  consider myself good at doing emotional scenes. That’s not to say that I won’t try every now and then (because I believe emotion is just as important as comedy), but I do have worries when I write a character death scene (for example) and wonder if I will capture the emotion perfectly for the piece. There is a death scene in Trapped on Draconica that I was worried about when I first wrote it, worrying that it wouldn’t come across with enough emotion. Thankfully, a few reviews I’ve had seem to like this scene, so hopefully I did it right.

 

To sum up, a character death should have a lot of power and impact behind it – but it just seems to get overused these days to the point where sometimes it just comes across as laughable. But I still believe that a character death can have meaning – as long as the character is cared for enough for it to work. In the hands of a talented writer, it can be equally as moving as the death of Romeo and Juliet. In the hands of a band writer, it’s just another Qui-Gon Jinn.

 

Thanks for reading and please leave a comment below if you agree or disagree or have any further thoughts to add. Just to give you guys a heads up, due to certain circumstances in my life, I’ll no longer be able to blog three times a week like I was doing before (due to thousands of commitments that I have at the moment, not at least reviewing and, of course, writing). So I’m purely just gonna blog once a week, usually around Friday time. Pandragon Reviews and guest blogs will still be on Wednesday as and when, but regular blogging will be restricted to once a week from now on.

 

Thanks for reading. Have a great weekend!

 

 

Pandragon

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