Category Archives: How To

Dying in Fiction 103: Deal with the Supernatural for Long Enough

Within fiction there are certain codes, ingrained enough in our collective psyche that, hypothetically, if we were to end up stranded in a made-up world, we, as geeks and fiction aficionados, would sort of know what to do to stay alive.

It’s a dangerous business being a fictional character. As if life wasn’t hard enough, you’re caught and contracted into the business of propelling along a story, and that means having constant drama flung at you by the godly hands of your writers. They’ve got to keep the audience invested, see, whether that means piquing their curiosity about the future of your love life or scaring the bejeezus out of them with life-or-death suspense. My understanding of television writing comes down to this: it’s a group of people in a room with some pens and paper and a whiteboard, rubbing their hands together and going “Okay, team. How can we mess around with everyone’s lives this season?”

Not even kidding there. I listened to a seminar on it at a writer’s festival I went to, but that’s an irrelevant detail except that it allows me to waft around the fact I visit writer’s festivals and am clearly a deeply cultured human being. The point is, screenwriters are in the biz of cramming as much drama into their characters’ lives as they can to make their creations as engaging as possible. In any long running series, it’s inevitable that at one point or another they’d have to start running out. After all, there are only so many times you can raise the stakes before it gets ridiculous. When scraping the bottom of the proverbial barrel with a creative spatula, writers are often faced with the option of the ultimate dramatic device: kill off a main character.

If we’re talking about anything set in the real world, this can be a serious move that many executives, team members and fans would rebel against in terror. But if your show resides in a universe where the supernatural is putty in its writers’ hands, then you’ll find there’s much more leeway, and, as the hero, much more of a chance you’ll be horribly murdered. Because they can bring you back. Continue reading

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Dying in Fiction 102: Be an Innocent Female Character

Within fiction there are certain codes, ingrained enough in our collective psyche that, hypothetically, if we were to end up stranded in a made-up world, we, as geeks and fiction aficionados, would sort of know what to do to stay alive.

Trying too hard to be a hero, for example, is a sure way to get killed off, so that kind of behaviour is something you as a mortality-conscious protagonist can be careful to avoid. However, there are other deadly conventions that are far more difficult to run from, such as the one in question today, which seems to be a target strapped to the character in question since birth.

While the heroes are running around being heroic, doubtless somewhere in the background there’s an innocent bystander unfortunate enough to have two X chromosomes. She is unassuming and sweet-natured, maybe she’s a love interest or a little sister or a friend. Either way, she’s top of the hit-list.

Especially, apparently, if she has anything to do with romance and superheroes.

Someone’s got to add a more relatable element to the sci-fi struggle between good and evil, and who better than a doting love interest? Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Romance plotlines are not bad by default, and the women and men who lead them are not always unnecessary or obnoxious. That isn’t what we’re talking about here, anyway. We’re talking about how, whether they’re relevant beyond fan service and warm fuzzies or not, they seem to have a startling mortality rate. Continue reading

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Dying in Fiction 101: Have an Honour Complex

[Hello friends. This post has the word ‘dying’ in the title. Spoilers abound beyond this point.]

Within fiction there are certain codes, ingrained enough in our collective psyche that, hypothetically, if we were to end up stranded in a made-up world, we as geeks and fiction aficionados (I wonder if anyone just rocked back in their chair and went “Ooooooh, that’s where her blog name is from!” ?), we’d sort of know what to do to stay alive.

Because let’s be frank, the fantasy world is a dangerous place, filled with high drama, magic and robots, and overseen by the cackling form of some distant author. And you know those people are crazy. You also know, however, that you’ll make it to the end of your adventure if you’re lucky enough to be the hero. Right? Simply act your good-est and you’ll be fine, since the good guys always win, and they certainly always last until the end.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that may not be the case—in many story worlds, it seems to be the go-to to spectacularly kill off the most quintessentially good characters within. Every time you make a heartfelt mention of honour, justice or chivalry, you may just be stepping closer to your untimely and dramatic demise. Continue reading

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