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Death in Literature/TV/Cinema/Plays - NIHIL VEL PERTINAX SUM — LiveJournal
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Date: 2014-11-06 03:02
Subject: Death in Literature/TV/Cinema/Plays
Security: Public
There seems to be a recent trend to kill off major characters in TV shows, movies, etc. It's part of a trend of making entertainment "dark" in general. I'm not a fan of this for a number of reasons, which I'll enumerate here.

First off, killing off major characters is wasteful. Presumably you've spent a long time building and developing this character. After you kill the character off, that character can typically no longer play a major role in your work. All the capital you put into that character is, in that one act, destroyed forever. Yes, the scene can be dramatic, a plot point, etc., etc. Sometimes spending your capital in that way might be warranted. But killing a character in the middle of an ongoing work is an extremely expensive act, and one that, understandably, will often annoy viewers/readers who have spent their free time following and bonding with the now-deceased character. Creating and killing off a minor character can often serve the same plot purpose as killing off a major character, and this is much less expensive. This should be considered first.

What about killing off major characters at the end of the work, though? If it's the final act anyway, you might as well kill them off, right? That would add some depth to the work! Well, this is certainly preferable to killing them in the middle of the work, but it has a tendency to come across as, for lack of a better word, cheap.

First, if you're on a soap box, and using the death of the character to illustrate the evils of society or whatever, it will be obvious, and annoying. Find a way to make your case without making a fictional character a martyr for your cause.

The right way to do it, imo, is basically the way it's done in The Old Man and the Sea. Make the character a symbol for something else, something more. A good example of how to do it right is the death of Walter White in Breaking Bad. He died, ultimately, after sacrificing everything he was in order to provide for his family. Or, at least, that's one way to look at it.

The wrong way is how Hank was killed in Breaking Bad. There was no plot reason he had to be killed, barring extreme writer laziness. Viewers had watched for probably over an hour of screen time as he learned to walk again, which was then ultimately for nothing. And his death wasn't really symbolic of anything. Yes, yes, it was "Ozymandias" for Walter White, at least at that moment. But that's really stretching.

Hank's death is a perfect example of the trend I'm talking about. Killing characters is certainly a tool writers, screenwriters, and other storytellers can use to excellent effect. But it can be overused, and there has been a recent trend of such overuse.
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