The other day, I talked about things that really drag down a character’s death. I’ve read plenty of deaths that I just haven’t been satisfied with. And now, to balance the positive-negative spectrum, I’m going to list some things that make me want to cry when I read them.
These are the types of character deaths that make me feel like this:
1. When the MC has a heart-wrenching reaction to the death. You know. Frodo screams when Gandalf falls into the pit of despair. Salai cracks up at Lenardo da Vinci in The Second Mrs. Giaconda by E.L. Konigsburg after a wonderful character passes away. Basically, if the MC feels horror, so do I.
2. When the reader can feel the dread warming up to the event. It’s those times when I know it’s going to happen, but I’m hoping against hope that there’ll be a solution, and… I’m thinking Cinder and The Hunger Games. (24 of them go in: only one comes out. But still. You can’t… there had to be a way…)
3. When the slimy scumbag dies doing something honorable. Okay, so let’s all wave and shout cliche, but it works every time. HE DIDN’T DESERVE TO DIE! HE WAS GOOD AFTER ALL! (I’m actually thinking of one of Cait’s characters in particularly. She knows who I mean. I will not forgive her for it.)
4. When the death twists to bring out a theme I had no idea was coming. In A Small Free Kiss in the Dark by Glenda Millard, I didn’t see it. Sixpence! I’m sorry. It’s just, I knew something bad was going to happen, and I was cranky at this character, because she didn’t see it. And then someone died, and I realized that the book had totally fooled me into thinking it was about one thing, when it was really about another. In the end, it made me think more than a “clear-cut” theme.
5. When the death shocks me. I don’t like to be smacked on the side of the head with, “Where did that come from? Not working.” But in occasions such as the movie Gallipoli or The Shining Company by Rosemary Sutcliffe, the deaths often come as beautiful contrasts. I think some of the best deaths are the “La-la-la-BANG!” ones. It shows the light-and-shade of the world so well, and gives a good theme. It’s hard to balance, though.
6. When it’s so, so in character. I haven’t read Tomorrow When the War Began (I intend to… eventually), but I had one favourite character from watching the movie. A friend told me that she dies in the later books. I had to know how. And when I found out, I thought it was perfect. So, so horribly right that even without reading it, I was shell-shocked.
7. When it’s so, so wrong, it’s right. When previously mentioned friend told me previously mentioned character died, I had an immediate guess. Something that would have gutted me even more than the perfect death. But this is only going to end up confusing, so I’ll try to find an example from a book I’ve actually read. Okay. The resort for any death example. Mockingjay. You can probably guess who I’m talking about. She was too pure to die.
If you want to move me to tears, the MC needs to react, and the death needs to be worth it. (I mentioned ways to make it worth it in my last post.) And I love psychology behind the death. For instance, I’ve heard people say that a lot of the deaths in Mockingjay where unnecessary and pushed the point too far. Which is far enough, but when I think about (most) of them, I can see why the author did it, and how it made the point right. I love it when that happens.
Mime is editing. A lot. Apart from having a gazillion word document tabs open, she’s still squeaking the piccolo. Her mother mentions frequent headaches. Mime is sure they’re unconnected. She’s still reading Sisters Red, which has a remarkably accurate portrayal of how sisters relate to each other. (Cait. Wake Mime up at seven in the morning, and she will kill you.)