Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Ever killed off a main character?
I think the death of a main character, particularly the hero (and usually the POV character) is interesting. You don't see it happen very often, which might be something to do with publishers feeling that it's not a suitable ending, or maybe it's something that readers don't like. Which is odd, since, come on, it's how we all end, isn't it?
Recently, television has done this so, so well. Breaking Bad, anyone? But I can't actually remember the last story I read where the main character died. It happened a fair bit in the classics, but not so much anymore. I wonder why that is. Do modern readers find the death of a main character unpalatable? Or do they feel cheated after investing so much time in a character's journey only to have it end in death?
For me, sometimes it feels too easy when a character survives. Too unrealistic. With all those things going against them, sometimes with an entire apocalypse bearing down on then, the hero still gets out okay. All the damage is collateral And sure, we don't read fiction for realism, do we? But when the stakes are so high, sometimes I'd like to see things go against the main character.
Speaking of collateral damage, supporting characters tend to get knocked down like skittles. Sometimes you can see it coming from a mile off. Wisecracking sidekick possibly nursing some sort of secret heartbreak? Shit. He's got a target painted on him, doesn't he? And I get that. It's because there has to be some price paid to the stakes in the story. But, for the hero, it's rarely the ultimate price, is it?
In real life, death is too often random, arbitrary and largely meaningless. And I think we try and remedy this in fiction. I think fiction is the place we go when real life makes no sense. And that's important. Except sometimes I think it's equally important for fiction to surprise us, and shock us, and take us somewhere unexpected.
What do you think?