Not this kind…
But this kind.
(If you’ve been living under a rock for the past week, here’s what I’m talking about. Go ahead and catch up. I’ll wait.)
If you’re too impatient/lazy to click on the link (no judgement here, just sayin), here’s the gist: a lot of people are upset because [popular book-based TV show, name redacted] killed off [a bunch of seriously important main characters, names redacted] suddenly and with little or no cinematic warning, thus *apparently* violating the trust of its fans.
So. Let’s talk about slaughtering beloved characters for the greater good of the story. Shall we?
***Spoiler Alert: if you are a fan of the HBO series Game of Thrones–or may become a fan–and have NOT read the Fire and Ice series by George R.R. Martin, you might not want to read on… because I’m going to be making fun of you in this post. A lot.***
William Faulkner once said, “In writing, you must kill all your darlings.”
I’m a firm believer in the fact that, as a writer, it’s extremely dangerous to become too enthralled by any one of your characters. And not only because it makes it difficult to acknowledge their flaws, and therefore create a realistic/believable character (eheh, Twilight…eheh eheh)… Sorry about that, something got stuck in my craw there for a second.
ANYWAY, it’s a good idea to learn to let your favorite characters GO sometimes–ESPECIALLY your favorites. Because, for whatever reason, (reader expectations, predictability, believability/realism, dramatic irony, symmetry, etc. PICK ONE) the story will suffer (or at the very least, fail to reach its full potential) if that character continues to exist in his/her current form. And like it or not, YOUR self-serving, short-sighted feelings (“Oh, but he’s so strong / charming / pretty!” …”B-but he can’t die! He just CAN’T!” …”Nooooo! Not the only courageous ginger in the book!!!”…) are only getting in the way of the moral or point of your story. Which is, sort of redundantly, the point. Right?
Courtesy of my husband, the Photoshop Pirate
So you say goodbye, and you bid that character sayonara. Either by cutting them from the story, or killing them off Martin Scorsese style. Either way, it’s not going to be a picnic.
(See: ridiculous and also hilarious reaction GIFs to GOT Red Wedding. I seriously wish I knew how to post GIFs on WordPress, you guys.)
And, yeah. OF COURSE people are going to be upset, bordering on extremely pissed off when everything doesn’t end up fitting together the way they (and you) really secretly wanted it to.
But guess what? That’s ultimately a GOOD THING.
WHY? Because it means you’ve done what ALL writers set out to do. You’ve made people CARE.
(Maybe even a bit too much. After all, this isn’t REAL LIFE.)
So. The point, you ask? Sometimes, it’s more important to make your readers UPSET than it is to make them HAPPY. Because at the end of the day, it’s ALWAYS more important to tell a story that makes people care. (Sometimes, even in spite of themselves.)
Here’s what the author of Game of Thrones had to say about this divine writerly truth:
“Just as you grieve if a friend is killed, you should grieve if a fictional character is killed. You should care. If somebody dies and you just go get more popcorn, it’s a superficial experience.”
(Link to the full article here.)
As for the ridiculousness of myriad viewers’ outrage at HBO? I really couldn’t say it any better than one of my favorite indie writers (Elle Lothlorien) did the other day on Facebook:
As always, let the inspiration flow like innocent blood in a George R.R. Martin novel and kill those little bastard darlings without mercy!
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15 thoughts on “Thursday’s Children 6.6.13: Inspired by A Red Wedding”
We’ll see. I haven’t killed any of my protagonists, at least not yet. I’m not against the idea, but I haven’t thought that doing so would make a story “better”, although certainly it would be less predictable.
I should probably add that you don’t ALWAYS have to kill a character, protagonist or no, but if the story really WOULD be better off without one of our favorites, we should always keep our eyes open to that possibility, yes?
EX: Wuthering Heights. If Heathcliff and Cathy would’ve ended up together and lived HEA, would it still have been a timeless classic? I’m thinking no.
Squee! I’m glad to connect with another Game of Thrones fan. I love and hate George RR Martin’s stories because of scenes like the Red Wedding–so wonderfully heartbreaking. And don’t even get me started on John Snow’s situation.
I love this. In one of stories, I kill off a sparkly, sweet, main character that no one thought would die. Not only did I kill him off, I did it fast (like snapping down a piece of popcorn). No blood. No gore. Just dead and gone.
It worked really well. And it really jacked the stakes in the readers eyes, just before the story’s climax.
LOL. That should read: in one of my stories. I swear I make typos every time I comment.
You’d think WordPress would spell check for us. Also, I’d like to see a “did you really mean to say that?” feature. Especially on news sites like Fox and CNN.
That was a fantastic post Veronica. Watched it last night *sob* – I loved those characters 😦 But you’re absolutely right; it can often be a good thing to surprise everyone by killing off some characters. I have to say I’d already felt with George R R Martin (there I’ve said his name!!) that he’s not afraid to kill off popular characters e.g. Ned Stark (another name!!) and I think it’s a brave thing to do, especially when you’re risking upsetting some VERY obsessed fans! Maybe I should think about killing off one or two of my characters some time…
Okay, we haven’t gotten that episode on HBO Asia yet so I skimmed over the spoilery parts, but I totally agree that if you make people care about killing someone off then you have done your job as a writer. Thanks for joining Thursday’s Children!
That reminds me. When are you coming back to the USA, if ever?
I think being able to inspire that sort of reaction from your readers is a sign that you did a good job. I personally tried to read Game of Thrones and it didn’t grab me (too many perspectives; I lost interest), and I tried to watch the show but the end of the first episode was too confronting at the time. (What happened to Brand, not the rumpy pumpy.) That being said, I can respect George RR Martin for being able to pull off that sort of shocked reaction from his readers/viewers. Go hard, son!
ROFL! Dare I ask what “rumpy pumpy” is?
Slang for sexy time. Except, being Game of Thrones, it’s sick incest sexy time!
MUST remember to use that in a sentence.
I almost didn’t read this because that episode is still too raw for me. I totally agree; it was perfection, really, to traumatize so many with a scene about 15 minutes long.
I know. I have to admit, I really didn’t think HBO would do the scene verbatim. At least there was no self-inflicted face clawing. (Or so I kept telling myself, over and over, in a soothing voice while rocking back and forth in a corner.)
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