Is Character Death Ever Enjoyable?

#1
Hey everyone! I'm brand-spanking new to RR, but I've been writing privately for a good while already. Now, I know that the title is a bit weird with me using the word 'Enjoyable', but I just wanted to know your opinions on character death in stories? And I don't mean the cheap ones where it's a throwaway character that gets offed. Nah. I mean the situations where a character that has had ample time to grow within the plot ends up dying, and sometimes that death is justified; you'd already seen it looming somewhere in the plot's horizon, but you'd hoped that somehow this cup would pass you by. I'm already pretty set in my plot and not likely to make any changes at all, but I was still curious to know if encountering character death ever made you clench your jaw, shut your eyes and mutter, "No..." but still get a feeling of acceptance.

As opposed to going, "Wow, gee, really?"

Re: Is Character Death Ever Enjoyable?

#2
Admittedly this was satire so it stretches the rules a lot, but there was a zombie show a bunch of years back that featured real-life celebs playing themselves. They all returned from a shooting in the middle of nowhere, only to realize the zombie apocalypse happened in their absence. 

They had fans who loved them already, and got their archs, and their time in the limelight, and were all very likable and relatable. The show also killed off about one or two of them every, every other episode or so. It worked because their deaths, despite being gruesome, really dark, and really undeserved, were also funny. In the choice between "laugh or cry", the makers, and the characters, choose to laugh. It was just so absurd that it was oddly easy to accept it. 


On the non-satirical side.... anyone remember that Youtube short about the flying kiwi bird? I still think about that sometimes. Fulfilling his dream at the expense of his life and dying with tears in his lil' eyes. 

Re: Is Character Death Ever Enjoyable?

#3


Haust Wrote: Admittedly this was satire so it stretches the rules a lot, but there was a zombie show a bunch of years back that featured real-life celebs playing themselves. They all returned from a shooting in the middle of nowhere, only to realize the zombie apocalypse happened in their absence. 

They had fans who loved them already, and got their archs, and their time in the limelight, and were all very likable and relatable. The show also killed off about one or two of them every, every other episode or so. It worked because their deaths, despite being gruesome, really dark, and really undeserved, were also funny. In the choice between "laugh or cry", the makers, and the characters, choose to laugh. It was just so absurd that it was oddly easy to accept it. 


On the non-satirical side.... anyone remember that Youtube short about the flying kiwi bird? I still think about that sometimes. Fulfilling his dream at the expense of his life and dying with tears in his lil' eyes.


Ah, I see! So I guess delivery is the important factor here. Thanks, this example actually helps a lot in giving me perspective.

And I had no idea what video you were talking about so I went looking.

... Feels bad, man. Now I need to go watch mountains of cat videos to balance it out, haha.

Re: Is Character Death Ever Enjoyable?

#6

Leo Wrote: Hey everyone! I'm brand-spanking new to RR, but I've been writing privately for a good while already. Now, I know that the title is a bit weird with me using the word 'Enjoyable', but I just wanted to know your opinions on character death in stories? And I don't mean the cheap ones where it's a throwaway character that gets offed. Nah. I mean the situations where a character that has had ample time to grow within the plot ends up dying, and sometimes that death is justified; you'd already seen it looming somewhere in the plot's horizon, but you'd hoped that somehow this cup would pass you by. I'm already pretty set in my plot and not likely to make any changes at all, but I was still curious to know if encountering character death ever made you clench your jaw, shut your eyes and mutter, "No..." but still get a feeling of acceptance.

As opposed to going, "Wow, gee, really?"

It did, but if I told you where and who, it would be a spoiler. 

Re: Is Character Death Ever Enjoyable?

#7
Absolutely, killing characters off can be an enjoyable experience. I had a character that served the traditional archetypal role of wizard/savant/mentor who possessed a unique understanding of a missing part of the overall narrative puzzle. I felt it served the greater story to frustrate these factors of which he served.
So he had to die. Tragedy would have been gratuitous at this story beat so I made the scene mostly comical and had some fun with it.

Here is the scene.


Quote:He shook his head of the vision once more as Renua cried out a bleak plea. "Help" scraped from his rasping throat. The wizard's eyes bulged ugly. Barathiel rushed to him knowing any stealth was now futile. He grabbed Renua by the shoulder, pushed his chest back to force Renua's spine to arch.
"Easy, my friend, I know what I am doing," he soothed the wizard. "I'll get it out."
As his father taught him the technique to dislodge choking matter from a throat, Barathiel punched the wizard as hard as he could just below the sternum.
A single berry popped out of Renua's mouth. His breath sucked in with a violent squalling heave. The wizard's face was stricken white. As his jowls shook, blood gushed from his eyeballs. Renua faded out of existence.
"Oh, ye gods," Barathiel screamed. "I just killed him!"
He jerked his head back up and he looked around. The wyvern had disappeared.
Did Renua just die on him? The blood bursting through his eyes. Did that mean his brain hemorrhaged?
Would he never know how Rhoethella tethered the moon to her own heart?
Barathiel laughed uncontrollably at the absurd notion that it mattered in the least in the present moment if he ever came to know the answer. He was in mortal danger from a great beast yet he was most concerned how a story ended. He searched the skies once more for the deadly silent wyvern.
Tether her heart to the Moon?
What in this bedeviled world did that even mean?
The sky lit up as if it were suddenly day. A great shadow cast over Barathiel from the southeast. He looked up to see the wyvern beating his wings in what appeared to be slow motion; it stared into the advocate's eyes but to little effect for Barathiel's mind had already snapped utterly.
Laughing, he pointed to the wyvern and shouted, "found you!"

Re: Is Character Death Ever Enjoyable?

#10
That'd be an interesting question to ask Shakespeare fans. Tragic heroes can be quite interesting, as they typically have traits that is revealed throughout the story. For some readers, the fun comes from rather or not they can predict when their ultimate downfall arrives or in the case of readers who did not expect their deaths, they could maybe go back to look for the signs. This adds things like rereadability (if that's a word). A character's death is rarely enjoyable, but it can add exciting plot twist

Although, I do see some cases where a character is killed off and it adds no value or closure to the story, even if it wasn't cheap. I don't like seeing people killed off who didn't really get a chance to shine, although it never really is something that makes me stop reading the story.  Some authors forget that while realism and likelyhood are things to consider, their story is ultimately a story and its purpose is not too simulate conflict, warfare or stuff like that, but to entertain people. The question, "I know that this character would realistically die here, but should I HONESTLY kill him off?" is sometimes ignored.

Of course, I'm not defending dues ex machina or anything, but realism vs entertainment value is one of the many things an author should balance out in my opinion.