Musing: Dead Characters Live Too.

It is a common trend of fiction to have characters die (and stay dead) in the early parts of a story.   This death often serves as the call to adventure for the hero.   Think of how many stories where the hero’s village is destroyed by the great evil and he decides to put down his rake and replace it with a sword.

There’s nothing wrong with this.   However it is startling that so many stories only use those lost as a source of revenge.   Authors quickly forget the people part of the dead.   Anyone that’s lost a loved one knows the pain of losing a loved one.

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Here’s looking at you Ed.

When someone dies they need to remain human.   No matter how strong the desire for revenge, death should not devour what made the person special.  So in other words I’m attacking about every revenge plot ever made.

Why do stories use deceased loved ones as fountains of misery?   The mere thought of them pitches the hero into a fit of rage or the deepest sadness.  You know what happens when I think of my Grandmother.   I smile with pride.   I also get hungry.   Grandma could cook.   I remember her strict manner , something  contributing to what makes me who I am.

Dead characters continue to live.

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The revengiest of revenge characters.  He Ys more Zs than an algebra book,

Because of this I tend to face palm at revenge plots.  They only leave empty and shallow voids that get filled with senseless violence.   (So I guess that’s why this ‘plot’ gets used so much in beat em’ up games) “Grr!  You ‘Z’ed my ‘X’, so now you must ‘Y’.”  It really comes down to laziness.

Because of this phenomenon people are hesitant to kill off characters for this reason.  They shout cries of cliché.  If you are cynical enough, everything is a cliché.   In the example of the dead significant other killed by the great evil, they should be a source of strength, not an excuse to cut someone.  With a bit of a stretch, the same effect can be achieved for a much more noble cause.   The character could simply want to end the threat so no one has to go through the pain of loss.

And right there?  That’s the stuff of heroes.

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2 thoughts on “Musing: Dead Characters Live Too.

  1. Now, in the defense of Kratos, he’s…uh…

    Uh…

    Okay, I’ve got nothing.

    Oh wait, I came up with something! Not for Kratos, obviously, but just revenge plots in general. Or the characters behind them, so to speak.

    “In the example of the dead significant other killed by the great evil, they should be a source of strength, not an excuse to cut someone. With a bit of a stretch, the same effect can be achieved for a much more noble cause.”

    That’s true. And as you can guess, I prefer that to just using it as an excuse to go on a killing spree. But if you’ll let me play devil’s advocate, I can kind of understand why some go down that route. The noble cause is great (preferable, even), but maybe some characters just want, or even NEED that “excuse”. Some characters just NEED to become empty and shallow voids, because — as a wise man once said — “all it takes is one bad day.” So maybe it’s a way to make a statement about the human condition; revenge isn’t exactly something one undertakes for rational reasons, but maybe that’s the whole point. People aren’t always rational and noble all the time. Or any time, in some cases.

    Buuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuut you’ve got it exactly right here. The problem isn’t the concept of revenge, but the application of it. There’s so much more that can be done — keeping the deceased human and alive, like you said — but it seems like it’s too easy, and more common, to devalue those lives just to funnel an audience toward the story beats or “justified” violence. That’s a real issue.

    “The character could simply want to end the threat so no one has to go through the pain of loss. And right there? That’s the stuff of heroes.”

    Dude. Dude. That’s MANLY AND COOL.

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