Thursday, October 24, 2013

"But you were dead."

"Death can not stop true love.  All it can do is delay it a while."

One of my biggest pet peeve's with writing these days is the overuse of character death in order for us to supposedly feel more deeply for a situation, character, or the novel as a whole.  On the other hand, one of my favorite ability of authors is to seamlessly bring a character back from the great beyond.

Death certainly brings powerful emotions into play.  





All of these things surround death and can pull characters and readers in a myriad of directions.  Authors can therefore use it purposely to create all of these situations.  We have school shootings that bring about sympathy and regret at thoughts of wasted lives and what ifs.  Deaths of young people with egregious diseases brings frustration at our inability to fight these monsters.  But how and why should death be used?

I find that if I only care for a character because they have died that the author has been unscuccessful.  Using death successfully means I need to care enough for a character or story that I believe without that character the story will lose its way.  I stopped reading The Fellowship of the Ring in seventh grade because Gandalf died and without Gandalf my seventh grade mind was simply not interested.  I probably would have stopped reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe when Aslan dies, but it was being read to me, so luckily I was able to see his rebirth.  I was able to get through Rowling's deaths simply because I needed to see the septet through to its finish.  But she walks a razor's edge here with all that fail to make it to the end of both Half Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows.

I guess authors may believe we care for characters before they kill them off, but my cynicism tells me this is not true most of the time.  Death comes to so many because the author is hoping to up the adrenaline and tear jerking hormones in our veins.  

That being said, Sanderson successfully bridges life and death with his character Firefight.  He created a pathway back from death because the story would fall apart without that character.  They were too vital to the story.  Too integrated into the fabric to be removed.  What a triumph! I love it when this happens.  I love it when as a reader I know the character isn't going to stay dead.  I love it when you read on through sheer force of will because you know there is a twist that is coming that will change all that has come before.  

These characters move mountains.  They change stories because they are the story.  They are the heroes.  They have looked death in the eyes and not faltered.  They are just too strong to be removed from the world in which they live.

Wonderful writing Brandon Sanderson! I had stopped reading Robert Jordan's story because I thought that the death of Mr. Jordan created the biggest cliffhanger in many a year, but Sanderson's masterful style needs to be explored in those last novels of the Dragon Reborn series.  

I guess Sanderson has a knack for picking up characters or entire stories that we though might be dead.

Thank you for your mastery!

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