Sunday, January 18, 2015

THE KILL ZONE: Why do (should) authors allow the good to die?

We have come to the end of The Book Thief.  As a reader, once again, I am traumatized.  Yes, it's true.  I am traumatized along with the rest of you, only this will be my 8th time reading through this book, and the eighth time I have been plagued by this trauma.

I am pretty sure that makes me a literary masochist.

I am pleased to say that time has healed me to the point that I won't feel the need to carry the book around with me like a security blanket for the next month, so I can periodically go to the middle or beginning section of the book to resurrect Rudy, Hans and Rosa, but still, I will, along with the narrator of this book (Death) be forever "Haunted by humans."  That is just the reader in me.

The writer in me smiles through the tears.  I nod in agreement with Markus Zusak, and while this story breaks my heart into hundreds of pieces, I get it.  I understand.  I would have done the same thing.

Now, please don't throw orange peels at me through your screens.  You are, as always, free to disagree, but I must return to a quote by James Scott Bell, mystery/thriller writer, who said this:  "Every story is a resurrection story.  Every single one."

The question is, how does this resurrection come about?  How is the mystery of great truth revealed and internalized?  How is it that our characters who seem, at times, doomed, find salvation?  Often, sadly, the answer is through sacrifice.

Novels are about redemption.  So is, if we are honest with ourselves, the story of life.  We all are broken by the world.  But within us is something pretty amazing:  the tenacity of the human spirit.  It keeps us hoping...it gives us the faith that no matter what happens, no matter what the chaos of life throws at us, no matter how badly we might fail at handling these challenges, there will always be the chance of redemption.

As I am writing my second novel, I am having to make some hard choices about what to do with some of my beloved, messy, beautifully flawed characters.  What makes sense?  What rings true?  What needs to happen so that my reader can find that golden message that we must face the logical consequences of our choices and behaviors?  These logical consequences are tough.  They are cruel.  They are hard.  But through the tears and punctured hearts, (and often ONLY through them) we can discover that  there is ALWAYS (I repeat, ALWAYS) the hope and promise of restoration...of truth, of honor, of love, and of wisdom.

With the death of one, comes the renewed understanding and strengthening of another.
It is the angst that is writing.
It is the raw beauty and brutality of life.

It is what will continue to keep us...


haunted by humans.


Enjoy this article that explains the reasoning behind "killing the good characters."  Please read it with an open mind and understanding that it is relating to fiction writing.  Please comment and give me your thoughts.  What points did you find most true for YOU?

http://killzoneauthors.blogspot.com/2013/03/killing-off-good-characters.html

51 comments:

  1. Mrs. Caraway, I really do think you choose these blog posts just to get a reaction out of me...
    My response to this article is that at first I was a bit defensive when the writer said that "Readers get upset with them" when an author kills of a character. At first I thought, "NO I DON'T!" Then a little voice in my head was telling me, "Tiehen...hush...yes you do." And of course I do! Some people can handle the death of a character better than I can, but even though I understand why sometimes killing off a character seems necessary, I can't help but be distraught over it. Sometimes it's the shock value, and the other times is when you totally KNOW a character is going to die, and it happens anyway. Now, I'm a writer as well...and I have worked with killing off certain characters and dealt with people complaining about how they should have lived. For me, sometimes, the character was used too many times and I kill them off, but when I know that there's a character who has been so important but isn't needed...I just have to let them die. I don't see it as mean when my fellow authors do it, but I do see it, (if done correctly) it can make a piece of writing so much better. The point of a writer, is to make someone react to your words.
    Sometimes something as morbid as death can bring the most emotion out of a reader. Whether it's anger, sadness, or maybe even relief that a character is dead? Any emotion coming from a reader is a prize to any writer.

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  2. Relief when the character is a horrific villain. ;) You are right, though. The writer's main goal is reaction from the reader--hopefully a reaction that leaves them thinking of your story in the weeks and months to come after they have finished it. If they remember it sadly, well, then there's the hope that they understand the purpose of the sadness.

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  3. My favorite point that the author of the other blog was that the death should mean something. That is my favorite point because deaths in books need to mean something. If someone dies for no reason, it doesn't mean anything and I don't relate to it anymore. Although creating the bond between the character and the reader and making the character die is a cruel thing to do, but I think it's also justified. If the character died doing something that the persona would do, it is justified and it makes the loss even more evident. But, if the character dies for no reason, it would make the reader angry, Personally, I like it when characters die in stories because it makes the story justified.

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  4. I thought it was neat how you have the reader make their own conclusions. You are telling them that the character dies and how they die, but I thought it was neat how you leave so much to the reader. They have to determine what the death meant and I feel that helps the reader become closer to the book even after making them fall in love with the character that will die in the end. I also thought it was really neat how a death has to leave a new beginning. I usually think of a death as an end but leaving a new beginning can help the reader feel better and show how beauty can come from death. I thought it was interesting how all those good characters always end up dying but I guess they are all good because the author makes you love them. Otherwise their deaths would mean nothing.

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  5. I like how the author of this article gives us the reasoning behind murdering good characters, and I find myself thinking of all the innocent people who are killed in the novels that I read. Something I feel that I need to bring up here is the book series "A Song of Ice and Fire" better known as "Game of Thrones". The writer, George RR Martin has no Issues with murdering my favorite characters. The novels don't really seem to have a main character, which works for him while he takes off their heads one by one. The thing about these deaths is, they all cause some sort of revenge, or anger toward another character whose fault the death is. The death, in my opinion, lets me connect with the character more. Re-reading these novels as I often do, I find myself savoring every word of these characters knowing their days are numbered. Deaths in these books may seem harsh, but they are necessary to get the characters' goals done.

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    1. Love your answers, and the agreement I am seeing among many of you on this fact: "the death must be meaningful." That is key, isn't it? In real life, we search for meaning in the tragedies. Did ANY sliver of good come out of it? Did our society learn something? Was there some inspiration that came from it? We demand this from our writers, and rightly so. I know for me, it keeps me up at night when I am thinking about "killing" a character. I look at it from every angle, and the one big question is WHY am I doing it? Why is it necessary to the story?

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  6. After I read the article I realized that for me, any death at all whatsoever, is probably gonna make my heart swell up like a balloon.
    The article had very good points about how you need to get to know the character to make the impact of their death important. Also, when killing someone innocent, it enrages people. We get so connected to the story and to the kids or animals that are "good", that we have a mental breakdown and get angry at the author.
    I think it's beautifully genius of the author, they can craft their words into strings of emotions to make people feel a certain way, and by writing and giving little details to break our hearts they unfortunately excel.
    Thank you for sharing this article by the way, I might use it to create an emotional story involving death in the near future.

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  7. I don't often read stories in which main characters are straight up killed off, however, I HAVE witnessed some heartbreaking deaths within novels, and I can honestly say that they do not phase me anymore. In my eyes, when a character is so beloved, or so pure, the only way they could possibly have a heroic ending is by death. One of my favorite stories (I wont say which to avoid spoilers) ends with the main character being shot to death just before the final chapter. Yikes. I was NOT happy with that ending at first. In fact, it aggravated me more and more as I reached the final page and, for the longest time, I considered this story one of my LEAST favorites based on the ending alone. I mean, how could this author have the audacity to kill of the main character, a happy and honest guy, in such a awful way?!

    However, over time, I contemplated the story as a whole; I found myself stuck on the heartbreaking ending. Would I be able to experience it differently if I knew it was coming? Finally, after avoiding the novel for so long, I decided to reread the book. Cherishing every moment that this main character received, I found out that the death of this character actually made me appreciate him MORE! I learned to appreciate his tragic ending by praising his heroic moments further. It was at that point that I realized how much I appreciated this character's death. I figured, at long last, that he had to die. HE HAD TO! It was the only way I would truly be able to notice and admire his efforts while alive.

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    1. A great point. Sometimes, through their death, the characters become immortalized; they achieve a legacy that strengthens their overall character.

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  8. This article brought up some excellent points concerning writing. It is certainly true that the death of a character is often necessary, and good people die, just as the real human beings they represent meet tragic ends. In writing, it is extremely important that every character serves a purpose. A writer won't make the lives of characters pointlessly, and consequently should not make their deaths pointless. The death should advance the story wherever possible, but even more importantly the death should reflect and develop the ideas that the character represents. The reader needs something that the death gives them to be impactful. So Grand Duke Henry Xavier Wellington XVIII, Lord of Hamsbury just died. What does his death mean for the world around him? What changes and realizations does that mean for his brother, his friend, his son? These are the sorts of questions that the article is prompting writers to ask themselves. I especially agree that a character should never be killed to fix a weak plot. Even if, in extreme cases, the character doesn't teach anything in life, have them teach something in death. Don't throw characters away, because it wastes potential and is obvious to the reader.

    The death of a character is often when they are at their strongest. This is very true of Rudy. It creates intense emotion and attachment in the reader. Boromir was a character from the Lord of the Rings that would not have meant much if he had not died in the way that he did. His death, and the meaning behind it, advanced his character more than anything else could have.

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    1. Great example. Plus, a character who dies at his optimal level of strength (for Rudy it was physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual - he had become so enlightened) is even more tragic. There is a fine balance, isn't there, between the need to manipulate the reader's emotion to the extreme AND serve a higher purpose while doing it.

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  9. Ah, the death of a character you loved so much. That has been a pain staking thing for me in past books. When i was younger I used to read a series called Warriors. It's a fantasy series about cats by the author Erin Hunter. While there were many cats who died, the leader named Bluestar drowned and I was devastated. But it really helped with the character development of another main character of the story who rose up and took the place of the leader. It's great when you have authors who fling bodies around sometimes. Especially in Doctor Who. They do such a good job of killing off just the most random people, but still ripping your heart out at the same time. Especially when you have the doctor i tears or traumatized because he thinks that all humans are worth it. The Doctor would definitely give a good answer to Death on whether or not humans are worth it. Another story I read where the author took away one of my favorite characters was Alexandre Dumas. In Man in the Iron Mask, I believe it was Porthos who was killed. I almost Threw my book across the room because i was so angry, especially when before he died it seemed like everything was perfectly fine and he fought valiantly. I mean the guy alone killed off like 100 men or something ridiculous like that. But, of course he had to be crushed by the collapse of the cove they were trying to escape from. I cried, and it sucks when the chapter is named: The Death of a Titan. I couldn't finish the chapters where D'Artagnan dies and all that. Sorry for the spoilers :P if you haven't read it that is. But I think a happy ending would't have suited that book anyway, it was a dark book and it had a lot of issues concerning the characters, and it wouldn't have seemed right for them to have just lived happily ever after like fairy tales do. I could go on forever where characters in my favorite books have died and I quit life for the week because of it..
    Anyway enough of that, Reading that article really helped me understand a few books iv'e read in the past about the possibilities of why the author cut certain characters. It makes me glad almost, because it allows me to look at my favorite books even more and understand them at a whole new level, especially when I can see how so many things can connect due to the deaths of my beloved characters. And death is a special thing. I'd rather share that moment with a character that i absolutely love then to not share it with them at all. Whether it be a good death or a bad death, at least you can look at it as you went through that moment with them, so they never really were alone when they left...

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  10. although I must say it kills me when writers kill off their characters. As much as I hate it, I can understand the points brought up in the article. As much as i hated the ending to The Book Thief, while reading the points given in the article Markus Zusak was able to touch on every point. Especially the first one, Make it worth something. To me when reading a death a character this one needs to happen. I need to have a connection with the character to care about their death. And I definitely cared and had a connection with, Hans, Rosa and Rudy because by the end of the book it had me in tears. As much as I hate crying I realized that if those deaths hit me that hard I can't even image what it must be like to write a death like that.
    I also really like the point about being true to what you are doing. I love this point a lot because although it kills me to read my favorite character die, it just kills all the emotion when the writer brings them back in such a cheesy way. I think once you have killed them off they should be gone because although it hurts it is memorable.

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    1. So agree on the non-resurrection of characters!!

      I am VERY glad that you came to this conclusion. :) The book will forever be precious to you because you felt it so deeply.

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  11. I think one of the important points is the point when you need to make the death worth something. I have read books where one character is just killed off and I have read other books where the death actually means something. I think it's important to have a bond between the characters. If the author wants to kill off an important character there has to be meaning behind it or else the readers will not really care about the death. I also think it is true that the death has to propel the plot forward or affect the emotional arc of another character. If the death does not do that, then there is no point to have a death.

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  12. (I apologize if this is posted more than once, my internet has been a pain lately.)

    I'd like to start off by saying the points that were true to me were the ones that are probably true for anyone else; the death has to be worth something and make it affect the lives of the characters around them somehow.

    To those who think that characters shouldn't die or that they should be revived (ESPECIALLY in movie adaptions, the horror!): Stop. Just stop. They're dead. Can you move on and stop telling the /author/ how to write their story? Thanks.
    I'd like to specifically comment on Big Hero 6 which I saw several months ago; fans were freaking out over (SPOILER ALERT) the death of Tadashi Hamada; however, had he not died, you would have basically lost the entire plot of the movie and all of Hiro's character development. To want to revive Tadashi is to basically want to throw away Hiro and his own story. You were supposed to get attached to the protagonist, the main point of view and the struggles he had as a result of his brother's death — not the brother, the /side character/ that only had maybe 20 minutes of screen time, probably even less.

    Characters die for a reason (for the most part, this doesn't speak for all things, unfortunately) and you have to make do with what you have. The people who can see behind the death and find the value are the golden ones. Those who cannot are shallow and are asking for an explanation or a "re-do" of something that was accurately done and explained.

    For a lot of good stories, a death is justified, it has a meaning for it. Even Death was affected by the undeserved demise of Rudy Steiner, and that is the impact it had on not only him as a narrator (showing how his work takes a toll on him) but on Liesel, the protagonist and the one who was saved from words. I could get a little deeper into this but for the sake of convenience (and appropriate length, I tend to ramble), I'll cut it short. Rudy Steiner is better off with a tragic death, even if he didn't deserve it. I think that giving him and Liesel the storybook ending wouldn't be a good enough conclusion for the both of them and the adversities they suffered. Besides, it's a book literally layered in death, and to say that his death wasn't necessary or unwarranted is just pretty much an attempt to avoid the inevitable.

    If it works for the story, if it works for the characters, by all means I encourage authors to explore that route. Me as a reader may be upset but I won't challenge the choice of the writer who's bringing me a story I like over a personal bias towards a character I enjoyed.

    You can always go back and read the sections where they're alive if you're really having so much difficulty processing their death. It's that simple. A writer shouldn't have to change their plot to cater to the needs of people who can't see the point.

    They may be dead in the story, but that doesn't mean they're dead in your heart. Let them rest in peace along with your passion.

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    1. Excellent points here. Yes--we must trust the writer (if we like his/her story) to lead us through his/her characters' lives. Rudy's death was believable because of the setting and time of the story. You cannot read a story set in WW2 Germany and expect everyone good to live. That would be cheating history, the tragic beauty of the reality, and quite frankly, the reader.

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  13. I love how she points out that the reader has to have a connection with the character because if their isn't a connection that death has no meaning. I completely agree with everything that she is saying; sometimes the author does need to made the decision to kill a character for the purpose of the story. I'm going to use "The Fault in Our Stars" as an example. If John Green wouldn't have killed Augustus Waters, the story wouldn't have really came together. There wouldn't have been a strong connection that we had with Hazel at the end. We went through the pain with her. I think I cried as much as she did in the book. Without the author killing the character the way he did; not only would the story be boring and without it but we have had a connection with Augustus. Mostly all the girls who read the book fell in love with Gus. I mean who wouldn't?! He was kinda perfect. I think it was a great idea for John Green to kill the character. It brought the readers attention and it created an amazing connection. Death also comes in the most unexpected moments.

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    1. Excellent point about the connection. We have to be somewhat invested in the character for their death to be meaningful.

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  14. Hmm. Like usual, I must disagree with people. But seriously, when do I not? So here's my unpopular opinion for the day.
    First off, I will begin by saying killing characters off makes me very angry. And it makes me cry a lot. I absolutely despise it, because I've already been through enough, and now I have to read a book that falsely lured me in, thinking and hoping no one would die? Great. Super Great.
    But on top of that, just overall, I don't like the whole, "Its okay if there's a point/learning experience for the character/other characters." thing. Because in real life, (I'm basing this off of realistic fiction mostly) someone doesn't die, and I learn something, or I believe it was worth it. People's deaths don't change me into a better person, or give me some epiphany. I just cannot believe in the whole "make it worth something". Because do you know something? I have never believed a death of a beloved person to be worth it. Since I consider book characters as real life people, why is it okay to think, "Oh well their death meant something."? (Unless of course, they died saving or protecting children/people/other extremely important things) I just cannot honestly tell myself it was worth it with characters, because I cant with people. And I cant believe that a lesson was learned, or a character altered somehow in some great way as a result, because in my experience that doesn't happen. People just aren't like that. They just really aren't.

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    1. I think though we must be fair to the setting. As I said above, you cannot really be honest as a writer and write a story set in Nazi Germany during war and have all of your characters survive. It has to be true and honest to the setting and the story.
      I think by "death having meaning" we can mean a couple of things. First, it could be a savior situation. But it can also be to honor the whole purpose of art in the first place: it imitates life. Life is full of joy AND sorrow. It has triumphs and tragedies. When I lost my father suddenly, I went through a period in my mourning when I was angry with "happily ever after" and "it's a miracle" type stories. This may sound odd, but they made me feel alone in my grief. Reading about a character who experiences grief while you are grieving is reassuring in a strange and comforting way. It let's you know you are not alone in your loss. See? Someone else understands enough to write it in a story.

      To be honest to our reader, we must present the many facets of real life. Thus, a character sometimes whispers to us, "My time is limited."

      That said, there is a time and place for happy endings, too. I read both and celebrate that they both offer accurate and meaningful images of real life.

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  15. I agree with the author of this article. Authors are doing their job if a beloved character's death makes you never want to pick the book up again. But still, it almost seems cruel to deliver a great book with a great character, develop a one sided relationship between the reader and the character and then rip them away. However, if an author knows what he's doing, he will use that death to benefit the story.

    The hardest death in The Book Thief for me was probably Hans(although Rudy's wasn't far behind). I think most of it is because I can't imagine losing my dad the way Liesel lost hers. However, even the smaller plot deaths affected me. Markus Zusak is pretty darn good at his job if he can touch my heart with a half page description of an American Pilot's last breaths.

    I love writing fiction and I have to say that I have never killed any of my favorite character off because I'M attached to them. I think it's just as hard for the author to kill the character as it is for the reader to read about it. But, it is a very effective way to pull at your audience's heart strings. I might have to go back and kill someone. Darn it.

    I love how she points out why it's important to not leave the surviving characters behind. Use the death to influence them. Make the meaning of the story deeper. Here's a paradox. Show the reader that life doesn't stop with death.

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    1. LOVE this. Yes!! I HATE losing a character like Hans and Rudy, but it made me feel like I was somehow more invested in the story.

      Amen on the pilot comment. Zusak had me wanting to know his entire backstory!!

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  16. I LOVED this weeks blog entry because it really made me question my ethics, and opinions. The Kill Zone blogpost was very intuitive and insightful. In my opinion, killing the "likable" character is a fantastic way to get your audience engaged. The truth is killing the innocent character makes the book more memorable. If Markus Zusak did not kill Rudy, Hans, or Rosa in the Book Thief it would just not have been the same. Killing the likable character puts a lot of stress on the writers shoulders because one word being displaced can make the reader unamused with the authors work. The author has to strategically make sure there is enough time for the reader to connect to the character (the stronger the connection, the more impactful the death will be). In some of my ALL TIME favorite book the lovable character was killed. They are my ALL TIME favorite book for that reason because it makes me want to know more, and more.

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    1. I hear you! I am, unfortunately, most often drawn to tragedies. I read recently though that reading tragedies actually makes us appreciate life even more, so that could be great!

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  17. There were two things in the article that stood out to me in understanding why they kill off characters. There was making the death worth something and leaving the ending as a beginning for something new. Mainly these two stuck out to me because they are clearly seen in The Book Thief. While reading The Book Thief, I fell in love with Rudy and knowing that the author purposely makes the characters so love-able that way knowing it'll crush them when they read about their death. I saw the worth in this death was to show in a time like that there was no happy ending but it also left for a new beginning for Liesel. While reading some don't expect the main character to die but authors do the unthinkable and the heartbreaking.

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  18. I very much enjoyed this blog. It opened my mind to a very new way of looking at fictional deaths of important, like able, innocent characters we fall in love with. Even though some are fictional deaths I will never get over. I agree with what Sam said, killing off the "likeable" character is absolutely a way to keep the reader engaged.
    Even if it's through tears, frustration, and a box of tissues. I must say, every book I have read that has killed off a character I fall in love with, has stuck the most with me. For example, The Book Thief, or Looking for Alaska. Like the blog post stated, creating the connection with a character you come to adore and then reading about their death, makes the death very meaningful. And death should be nothing if not meaningful. If one of my favorite characters dies, I must say I almost admire the art of emotion and tearing apart of my heart the author achieves ending their lives. As cruel as it is, I do believe it takes a good author to kill off a beloved character.

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    1. Love this. You are right...the author must really plot this carefully and with great sensitivity. I agree--the sad ones seem to stay with me, too!

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  19. This blog opened up my mind about certain characters, and how we can genuinely connect with them...Not only on a story based relationship, but as well as an emotional connection. In the book thief, we connect with Max, Rudy, Hans, etc. and usually we would expect for Liesel to be the one who dies but, he did a twist on us and killed everyone else off. Connecting with a character does make their death more meaningful, and it should feel like a part of you is missing.

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    1. Love your last sentence. Exactly how this book made me feel!

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  20. I enjoyed this article because it gave me examples of other authors and who they killed off and why. It showed me for a brief moment that Mark Zuzak wasn't the only heartless author;) I also liked (this is going to sound horrible) how the author of the article enlightened the readers on how a "slaughtering" of a character is preformed, and that the author has to wait a while to make their character meaningful and then take action(this warns me for future books). In addition, I almost disagree that the author has to kill a character in order for other events (like revenge) or reader hatred to take place. For example, in the Hunger Games novels I hated when Peta was brain washed and was working against Katness because of what the Capital had done, to me this was almost worse then death.

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    1. Yes! Sometimes, death is NOT the worst fate.

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  21. To me, I think it is very important for the development of a book to create a character so lovable that it would make someone break down if something ever happened to them. This is exactly what Zusak did with Rudy, Rosa, Hans, and many other people that he made us love within three pages. I believe it's groundbreaking as a writer to be able to create a reaction so deep within your reader that they do email you with teary-eyes and loud objections. I especially love the point of this article where they were talking about the readers getting mad at the author for killing off the character. Yes, it is their fault…but it is a hidden truth the authors do not like killing off characters (*cough* certain ones, anyway). As a writer myself, I hope one day to achieve a reaction out of my readers as great as I got out of 'The Book Thief' when Rudy died. Authors fall in love with their characters; to them, they are real, they are old friends. Most of the time we give characters characteristics of people we know in real life, and others we just create them from our own imaginations. However, that doesn't make their death anymore heart wrenching and painful to us when we're writing that. It's very hard to let go of one of your characters that you build up so greatly. Although, here's the truth of the matter: it's really a test. If you really did build up this character as greatly as you think you did, then their death should make the book. If you don't have people screaming in your face every time you see them, then you didn't do that character justice. Personally, I believe that's what it all comes down to.

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  22. This made opened my eyes as to why characters are killed off. Like alot of people are saying I think that when that does happen it does make a book a lot more memorable. I think also it makes books feel more real, more like reality because in life its not always a happy ending. Also sometimes in books like the article said you kind of have to kill off characters. If there wasn't death I dont think people would feel as attached to characters and I dont think the book would be as memorable.

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  23. Death is a very interesting thing. Lately, because of The Book Thief and because of some personal thing, I have though a lot about death and what it means. We are basically born dying. We wake up every day dying, go to bed at night dying. Laugh, cry, sing, walk, eat. It is all done while we die. It is strange that we always talk about living life when as we are living we are also dying. I find this the biggest paradox in the world.

    People, a lot of times, are haunted by death. They are scared to die. They are scared when other people die. I am not scared of death. I'm not saying I want to die or that I want anyone else to die but it doesn't scare me. I have faith in what comes after death and I believe it is far greater than what is here on earth.

    Now, as far as books go, everything happens so quickly. Which makes it harder sometimes. I sit and read a book with 300 pages it takes me a few hours. The interesting thing is once you open a book and read the first page you are in a different world. You feel like you are living each day with the characters in the book. So while it only took a few short hours it might have seemed like a lifetime. I know I said I wasn't scared of death but it is sad to lose someone you love. Reading books and living a new life in only a short time period is greatly affected when those people die. I believe, Mrs. Carraway, that is why you carry your book around and why I just have to stare at a wall. Because the life we just lived in that small amount of time is now over and when the people we spent it with die it makes it harder to imagine the life inside the book moving on.

    I did like that the article mentioned that writers should not elaborate on deaths and how they affected the other characters because that is up to the reader. The reader needs to be creative and do what it takes to create that closure.

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    1. You need to save this blog post in a special writing folder. :) Beautifully written. The character of Death would nod in admiration and smile at you for your observation of the paradox in living and dying. You are SO right! I had never thought of it that way.

      I am also not afraid of dying. And, because of my faith, I tell myself the characters (like Hans, Rosa and Rudy--and the pilot, too) are going to a far better place where there IS no more death or tragic paradoxes.

      You are spot on as to why I carry around the books that affect me like that. I don't want that world to disappear. It's like a piece of who I now am. I think it is also why I am struggling with finishing my second book. I know what I have to do to the characters and it is hard to write it. If it isn't finished, the characters stay. ;)

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  24. As a reader and even as a writer, I am a firm believer that if you don't feel something after you finish a book then it wasn't a good book. All of my favorite books I have had my heart racing or my heart melt between chapters. I've even had some books where I had to stop reading, put the book down, take a few deep breaths then continue.
    I really liked in the article when it said "Let the readers make their own conclusion on what the death mean't." I never thought about the deeper meaning of death. I do know sometimes death can symbolize things to help further the story along but I'm now wondering was the death of my favorite character for some moral reason that I missed.

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  25. I liked the article, and mostly agreed with it. I like feeling things about stories and a lot of times that may be because of a death and that's disappointing. But it happened, I can't do anything about it, and honestly I wouldn't want to. If an author wants to kill a character off, that's their business. The story is their's and it's a personal thing to let people read your writing. The fact that they're sharing it with me makes me feel privileged. Except when the writing is bad, then I feel they should have held onto it longer... But anyway.

    But of course I don't think the death should be there just for shock factor. It has to be well written, mean something, move the plot along etc. I like feeling like a book could actually happen, like the story could be true in some universe. I like books that portray real life. Sometimes it's nice to read a book with a happy ending where no one dies, but in the end it's just basically a filler book and not one I would read over and over.

    So that's my opinion. Long story short: if you're an author you can kill a character if you want, just do it right.

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  26. Indeed.....
    The way I see things everyone dies at some point unless there immortal or something to that nature. Authors have a right to make that death that everyone get's a little more interesting. I personally look forward to how the author makes those deaths. (Not trying to sound morbid.) In my opinion everyone will love characters, not everyone love the ones others do. And if they die it's not always because the author is looking specifically to rip your heart out, it's because maybe they realized everyone is going to die at some point and they wanted to do it in a creative way.

    Also it doesn't even matter how we want the character to die the author will find the best way to do it, because it's there book. It's up to us on how we take that death.

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  27. I really liked this article. I thought it was funny because I have read most of the books she was talking about and had the same questions or felt the same way about them as well. I felt that the point i liked the most was the "Let the end make room for beginnings". I really liked that because I love thinking about what happens to the left over characters, like Liesel and Max ending up together. You just want to know what happened to both of them and if they end up together. That is honestly my favorite part of novels and the epilogue because you get to find out what really happens to them. I feel like especially in The Book Thief that was really my saving grace as well, just because it is kind of like oh thank God this ends on a somewhat happy note and then it leaves the reader to explore their imagination.

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    1. YES! Without the epilogue, I am not sure I would love this book. Those few extra pages made everything so much more meaningful and bearable. Shows what a great writer Zusak is!!

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  28. I enjoyed this article. It made a lot of sense to me. I never really thought about killing off characters because you have to. I definitely understand how that could make a book very uninteresting to keep the characters alive for too long. Doing so could also take away from the realism of the story especially in the case of The Book Thief. I really liked the point about not killing off characters to fix a weak plot. That can really kill a book and I feel as though it makes the plot that much weaker. I also enjoyed the point on not preaching with the death. That can become old and really cliche. Not preaching makes the death a lot more "organic" as the article mentioned as another point. Overall I thought it was a really good and eye opening article. I enjoyed reading it.

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  29. I have to agree with both what you and Mrs. Parrish said. Deaths in literature are intensely powerful, but they have to have meaning. In the article, the part about how the death has to be crafted in a way to elicit a particular reaction. That sounds horrible, but it makes a kind of twisted sense. We all know those books that just destroyed us emotionally, and there was always some sort of meaning behind it , whether we knew it or not. I have to say though, the part about inevitable deaths was the most powerful part of the article. When I thought about it, it made sense. It's similar to the end of The Book Thief. Death warned us of the ending. Multiple times. And maybe that is what made it so awful. We knew it was going to happen all along.

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  30. For some reason when I was scrolling through these comments I realized mine isn't here! I'm not sure what happened and I am sad because I had a very lengthy and heartfelt post. I am very picky about deaths in a book, that sounds so strange but it is true. There has to be a purpose or I will be extremely unhappy. I hate deaths that are just to be annoying, well I mean the deaths that are just to do something shocking and have no meaning behind it. That is annoying. I have to admit I was mad at first for all the deaths in the book thief but when I thought through it, it had to be done. It wouldn't make a whole lot of sense it they got to live. Plus, Hans was ready to go and if he had to go in my opinion so did Rosa. I was prepared and so unprepared for these deaths. Even though it wasn't shocking, it still tore at a place in my heart. An author is powerful, and with great power comes great responsibility right? I love authors that use that power to aid the story not to just do it "because".

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  31. No matter what happens or who dies in a story, it will always be extremely powerful. I believe that most of the power behind a death of a character comes from looking on the things that the character had both accomplished and also never completed. This can also tie in with saying a death must be meaningful. While I agree with the statement I also do not want to believe in it, because it always keeps you thinking if a character has lived out his usefulness in a story, and if there may be a chance that they can die. I at least grateful that in The Book Thief we were warned, so I didn't have that wandering thought on if they were going to die or not.

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  32. I feel that deaths in a novel are kind of a necessity. If I read a book, and no one dies the book doesn't feel as powerful to me as a book where a main character dies. Maybe that's why Romeo and Juliet, and The Book Thief are such great novels. I think Shakespeare kills his main characters in almost every play he has written. I think death has so much power, that the audience is awestruck over them dying. They will see the author as a great author, and the book will become a best seller, usually. Take Old Yeller too, spoiler alert, when the dog dies everyone is mad at the author and they want to know why he would kill him. Honestly though, if the dog didn't die would it be a great book? Sure it would still be good, but would it be great? Same goes for Romeo and Juliet. If Shakespeare didn't kill them it would just be another same, old love story. The ending is what makes it one of the best plays ever written. In The Book Thief, if Markus didn't have the bombing at the end would it be a good book? I think it would still be, but the book took place during WWII in Germany. If that didn't happen I would see the book as unrealistic. Those three books/plays, are great, but think about them without the deaths and how they would end. I think deaths are necessary in books in order to make them stand out to readers.

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  33. As a reader with no grasp of what it must be like to be an author, and to make grown up author decisions, I have no problem saying I think a lot of authors use death in the wrong way. When reading a lot of books, I feel like the authors only really kill characters for the shock factor, and not for a genuinely relevant purpose. Honestly, I kind of like having my favorite characters die; it prevents them from doing any more stupid things. It makes me feel like a character is serving a more powerful purpose. I really enjoyed reading this article, because it reassured me that there are so many authors who actually have a reason for killing their characters, and that makes me want to read their books!

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  34. Call it what you will, but I find the killing of good characters extremely satisfying. There's just something about a brilliantly introduced and developed character meeting an equally and fittingly brilliant end. Of course, it's sad, but that's the point. Like the article said, to do this takes thinking on the author's part. Mindlessly killing off characters for the sole purpose of shock value is essentially meaningless. I think the most prominent point in the article was to make sure the death was worth something. A worthless death doesn't get a reaction other than annoyance and probably anger. Another point I appreciated in the article was not to kill someone off to fix a weak plot. Unfortunately, throwing in a randomly selected death won't make something more interesting. The only time it works is if it's done right. In all honesty, I find character's deaths to have a lot to do with them as a character. When I make characters, one of the first things I decide is how they're going to die eventually.

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  35. I really like the way you draw images of what you read in the text to support your ideas.
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