Re: Revival of the Dead, AKA The Dragon Ball Dilemma

#1
What is your stance on reviving the dead?
We've all heard the complaint about series that use it. That if a character dies in a setting where reviving the dead is difficult but still possible, then there is little to no drama when a character dies. (given there are higher stakes than that and greater consequences for characters dying even if they can be brought back, even dragon ball has them even though I see it as the cornerstone example)
I've seen different takes on it. Some go about the "clone revival." As in the person isn't actually being brought back, they're just a clone with the same memories. Others have the Phoenix Down-type deal. Where bringing the dead back isn't possible but bringing people back who are "mostly dead" is possible; to quote the Princess Bride, "mostly dead means slightly alive."

To use my own series as an example, Retired Warlock, the soul of the dead lingers around the area for a short time, just a few seconds or minutes, it varies, so there is a chance to revive them if their body is intact. Even then it requires some preparation and skill to accomplish. So you can't revive long dead people or people who's bodies are too damaged to be revived.

Qest there is no revival at all.

Re: Revival of the Dead, AKA The Dragon Ball Dilemma

#2
My personal feeling is that if you as the author don't want the character to be dead, then just don't kill them in the first place. The only reason to kill a character and then bring them back to life is, basically, to defraud your readers. Give the character a life-threatening injury instead, and then work to overcome it.

There are times when playing with the readers' expectations can be a good thing--making them think a character is dead, for example, or a finale where the readers learn they've been misinterpreting the story the whole time, and now they go back and look at the events in a new light (let's call that the Keyser Soze rule). But killing a character and then reviving them isn't one of those times. I'm willing to admit there may be a small number of cases where it works fine, but in general, it's bad, and cheapens the experience.

Re: Revival of the Dead, AKA The Dragon Ball Dilemma

#5
There is no problem in raising the dead. The issues that matter, however, are:
-What psychological, social, cultural, and political impact does this have on the world?
-As with the creation of any magical system, it is important to think carefully about creating limitations (otherwise it is too easy to abuse, and too hard to manage in terms of plot, unless it is one of the main elements of the plot). Whether it's the skills, ingredients, situation needed to do it, or as you've talked about it yourself, the physical conditions of the body, its mind or soul, the location, etc., it's all part of the plot.

The problem with DBZ is that these issues were very little discussed, and the manga was based on a major problem. What can the author do with balls that can grant you: invincibility, immortality, almightiness, all the powers of the universe, in short, anything you want. In terms of the plot, it's terrible to deal with without creating plot holes everywhere (yeah SuperBoo was mean, but when faced with an invincible sayajin or one with infinite energy? Wax! You see where I'm going with this, right?

That's why it's so much criticized.

Re: Revival of the Dead, AKA The Dragon Ball Dilemma

#6

Camille Wrote: There is no problem in raising the dead. The issues that matter, however, are:
-What psychological, social, cultural, and political impact does this have on the world?
-As with the creation of any magical system, it is important to think carefully about creating limitations (otherwise it is too easy to abuse, and too hard to manage in terms of plot, unless it is one of the main elements of the plot). Whether it's the skills, ingredients, situation needed to do it, or as you've talked about it yourself, the physical conditions of the body, its mind or soul, the location, etc., it's all part of the plot.

The problem with DBZ is that these issues were very little discussed, and the manga was based on a major problem. What can the author do with balls that can grant you: invincibility, immortality, almightiness, all the powers of the universe, in short, anything you want. In terms of the plot, it's terrible to deal with without creating plot holes everywhere (yeah SuperBoo was mean, but when faced with an invincible sayajin or one with infinite energy? Wax! You see where I'm going with this, right?

That's why it's so much criticized.


Agreed 
As with any thing that appears in writing, it depends largely how it is written.

Re: Revival of the Dead, AKA The Dragon Ball Dilemma

#7
I don't have any particularly strong thoughts on the justification and logistics of revival methods, but like most concepts, so long as it serves a narrative purpose I think anything can work

Reviving a dead character would be totally fine for me so long as it benefits the story and the character(s) involved. If it doesn't make your story better, then you should probably leave it out, but if you use it as an exploration of a character arc or a theme, then go for it

Re: Revival of the Dead, AKA The Dragon Ball Dilemma

#8
The Dragon Ball Dilemma is a topic dear to my heart, so I think I'll give my two cents on this.

I've nothing against resurrection if it is done well. For me, however, I prefer not to allow for it in my stories. I'm in favor of the idea that a soul moves on after death, and once that happens there is no way to retrieve it.

Which leads to an interesting situation when it comes to the undead. None of my posted works have a undead character at the time of writing, but my approach to them is that either they are actually corporeal, living beings that just happen to be associated with death, or they are beings who have used a form of undeath to prolong their lifespan or save themselves from an otherwise certain demise.

On a separate note, I have an unpublished manuscript featuring a world whose inhabitants have a "heartsoul," an organic vessel containing their very being and identity. Each heartsoul is capable of creating for itself a body to protect it. These creatures can afford to be killed in body, but if the heartsoul within is ruptured, the soul within is freed and permanently departs from the world. That being said, killing the body usually causes the heartsoul to be put in a coma-like state. For it to survive, it must be protected for a long period of time -- days, even weeks -- before it can recover and build a new body. It's a clever twist on the concept of reviving the dead, or rather, the Phoenix-Down approach.

Re: Revival of the Dead, AKA The Dragon Ball Dilemma

#9
My third chapter essentially describes the entire mechanics of Necromancy and its limits. The Matriarch has always been a blood mage and necromancer in my lore so I needed a chapter to explain it. I put limitations on it. Similar to DnD where you only get like a minute for a perfect resurrection, my universe gives a corpse all of two weeks. After that, reviving is still possible but side effects begin to occur.

I don't plan on killing a lot of characters off for it to become relevant but eventually there will be a chapter about The Matriarch using her ability to help clear up a guy's vague Will and where is assets are to go exactly. Side plots like that, but not typically there to revive a dead hero. What would be the point if killing them off if my main character is a necromancer to begin with, you know?

Re: Revival of the Dead, AKA The Dragon Ball Dilemma

#10
Well, what matters is how you use the fact that the dead live again.

In my novel "Apocalypse War" the dead come back to life as the undead, if their brain or body has not suffered any damage that would make it impossible for them to awaken. In the same way, the souls of the living can be stolen and devoured by creatures with magical powers (such as Demons and sorcerers, for example). But archimages or priests can resurrect recently deceased people if the body is almost intact.

You can do whatever you want, if you are able to justify it.

Re: Revival of the Dead, AKA The Dragon Ball Dilemma

#11
Wish I could comment on everyone's post, but it would just come down to me saying "thats pretty neat" or "that's similar to what I have going on"

Also, didnt mention it here yet, but the other form of necromancy I have in the world of RW, is artificial souls. Artificial souls plugged into a dead body to give it a rudimentary form of consciousness, mostly as a slave or soldier. If treated well enough, they can become their own person and "solidify" into a legit soul

Re: Revival of the Dead, AKA The Dragon Ball Dilemma

#12
Dragon Ball Z did it right at first.

Characters who die can come back to life, but only after braving massive peril to gather seven macguffins to make a wish--and only one per year. And as the stakes grew, the limitations of this became ever more dangerous. Characters could be brought back once, but not a second time, so after Vegeta wiped out the Z Warriors, Chiaotzu could no longer come back since he had been revived in the original series (not that he particularly mattered, but still). And, in killing Piccolo, the Dragon Balls became useless.

To escape the year limit, they went to the planet Namek where there were other Dragon Balls, one extra set, and that creates the entire tension for the series. Revivals and very powerful wishes DO exist, but they are so limited and so difficult that the entire series revolves around finding or hiding them. And when Piccolo is revived and the original Dragon Balls return, he makes the idiotic decision to go to Namek himself and risk dying a second time--permanently. So now not only do they have to make sure the Dragon Balls on Namek don't fall into the hands of Vegeta OR Frieza, but they also have to keep Piccolo safe or none of their friends can ever be revived for the rest of time.

The once-only revival actually works really well as long as the series very firmly keeps by that rule. It's got some legitimately gripping moments of tension thanks to that... But it degrades over time. The Namek Dragon Balls grant THREE wishes and then two later on... that reduces some of the tension. Then Goku comes back to life in the Buu saga without being revived with the Dragon Balls, circumventing all of the tension that came before it. After that, it completely fell apart and become way less fun. 

However, Dragon Ball, up to the Cell Saga, is actually a very good template for how to deal with revivals in your stories. Make it difficult, rare, and very specific.

Re: Revival of the Dead, AKA The Dragon Ball Dilemma

#13
My series is far future humanity who has beaten scarcity, overpopulation, and even death.

A human has, at the base of the skull, a complex piece of quantum particle linked machinery that makes a backup of the neural pathways, and uploads it frequently to the Soul Uninterrupted Disaster Storage System. The exact mechanism of how this works was lost in a major military strike (The Glassing of Earth), but it still works just fine. The mechanism at the base of the skull, the signal repeaters, have all been upgraded over time.

But it doesn't come without a price. The system only allows six 'rebirths' due to negligence or death seeking. Additionally, deaths during major disasters seem to get stuck in the system somehow and require a re-skin from local backup or a master system request on the handful of worlds that seem to be able to put in such a request.

Additionally, humans are incredibly hard to kill, and even then might not stay dead. They have implanted medical devices that can repair nearly any injury and restart the brain, although the person will need medical attention within a few hours or they go comatose.

I had to handle this in a particular way.

Number One: You remember dying. Dying is painful, frightening, and terrible. If you've ever seen someone die from trauma, you know it's ugly. In the series, you remember the pain, the trauma, the fear. So people try to avoid it.

Number Two: Sufficent trauma or damage to the SUDS uplink can cause lost data or mis-recorded data.

Number Three: There's a thing called "SUDS drift", meaning that the person has lived long enough that the system is starting to suffer compression and storage errors. This usually occurs between 600 and 800 years and resembles dementia.

So, with all that, I had to approach: How do I make it seem risky for humans?

Religion was one way. It's only a small percentage of humanity, roughly 0.001% that doesn't believe in SUDS.

Another group (Called the Harmonous Cluster) did not believe in SUDS.

But that still would reduce the concern a reader might have for the stakes.

I chose to go with: "The majority of the viewpoints are from aliens who are not connected to the SUDS System."

And while recently (in the story) death has been beaten for the Warbound, death is still a big thing. While a human might get killed and show up an hour later, the protagonists of the stories are aliens, and thus are not immortal.

This has allowed me to keep the tension, keep the stakes high, and make sacrifice and decisions have meaning.

But it also made me look at other failure states for characters.

One character considers himself an abject coward and is terrified that if he gets into combat it will be a disaster.

The amusing thing is: He's a high ranking General often put in charge of entire theaters. The other theater commanders, particular the combat arms commanders, worry that they'll screw up bad enough that the character (One General Tik-Tak) will be forced into combat. To quote a Treana'ad General: "All the ice cream in the universe will not help with the ladies to the fool who lets that happen."

Another chapter deals with someone who gave to much. He has to abandon how he has lived for 300 years, or he will start to suffer personality fragmentation and dendrite unravelling.

Another thing I have is "The Immortals". From the Legion of the Damned ("Glory to the First Man to Die" is not the battlecry you think it is) to the Dokigrrlz (Doki Doki Kawaii!) to the Imperium of Wrath and the Immortals themselves. These are people who cannot or will not die. Story background is complex and involved, and part of it does involve the religion of the series. ("His flesh had remembered the warming touch of the Digital Omnimessiah, and as time passed his flesh grew cold, so he had it cut away and replaced with cold cybernetics") It also involves mad science and things that perhaps humanity should have left alone.

I feel like I've handled it well, giving the limitations and scope of what I'm working with.

Re: Revival of the Dead, AKA The Dragon Ball Dilemma

#14
I hate resurrection with passion. It cheapens the stakes, and usually it hurts the plot. The only kind of resurrection I have seen done well, is when the reader is tricked to think that a character died, but later it is revealed that the character in question survived. But even this, I have seen botched countless times by otherwise decent writers. Like the resurrection of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle was probably the lowest point of the Sherlock Holmes franchise, and the series never recovered their former quality in my opinion.

Re: Revival of the Dead, AKA The Dragon Ball Dilemma

#15

Publius Wrote: I hate resurrection with passion. It cheapens the stakes, and usually it hurts the plot. The only kind of resurrection I have seen done well, is when the reader is tricked to think that a character died, but later it is revealed that the character in question survived. But even this, I have seen botched countless times by otherwise decent writers. Like the resurrection of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle was probably the lowest point of the Sherlock Holmes franchise, and the series never recovered their former quality in my opinion.
Good example: Gandalf.
Bad example: Everything else.


I'm inclined to agree, and have similar opinions about Time Travel in media. If the heroes can just erase all the mistakes and save a world that's already ended, then what the fuck is the point of me reading/watching about it all to begin with?

Re: Revival of the Dead, AKA The Dragon Ball Dilemma

#16
I think the comparison to time travel is pretty good. That can have a similar effect when it comes to just taking the tension out of the story and making readers feel like what happened doesn't matter.

One concept I like, that might avoid this cheapening of character death, is reincarnation/revival with a price. For example, if some god, demon, or other higher being makes a deal with the character, and they're affected by this going forward, after their revival. That can introduce a new source of tension and conflict, but not make the death meaningless. Especially if the character still loses something.