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?
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.
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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