death to you all

I know, it's been awhile. So sue me; I'm busy.

Today I'm broaching POV characters dying. Bernita piqued today's interest in the topic. My feelings? I don't like it.

For one, it ruins my suspension of disbelief. As a fantasy editor and avid reader, I'll buy (figuratively, of course) just about anything. But unless your world includes storytelling ghosts, and it's established early on so that it doesn't reek of deus ex machina, death is the end of the road. I happen to have talking ghosts figure widely in my series, and on about the second page, when Aidan is trying to figure something out, he muses that it can't be a ghost, he'd seen them before and they weren't like that.

Mainly, though, there are fates worse than death, and if you, as the devil of your particular little world (hogwash that writers are gods--good writers are SATAN) don't come up with one, then you're not doing your job. In short, death = cop-out.

It bears repeating: figure out what makes a character tick, and then put the screws to them, taking away all that they love and desire. GRR Martin is an undisputed master of this, and millions of books sold can't be wrong. In his SONG OF ICE AND FIRE series, one anti-hero, arguably the best swordsman of the realm, loses a hand. A romantic, silly beauty hopes to be married to a handsome prince, but ends up with a deformed dwarf. In these situations, the characters very nearly do want to die, but Martin, in his brilliant demonesque fashion, withholds that, too.

There's no excuse to not tackle this in short form, as well. Too many times I see stories in which the stakes are loved ones, death and destruction, or loss of power. Yawn. EVERYONE wants their loved ones safe, they want to stay whole and healthy. Kings want to remain kings. That's every-man, and while they have their place, the really unique, interesting stories are the ones in which the character has a really unique, interesting desire. If that desire, and the achievement of it, stands at odds with his world and his own character, so much the better.

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