Quickbronze

I have a writing problem

5 posts in this topic

The problem is thus 

If I ever become a full-time writer, I want to never, ever bring back someone from the dead. I want everyone who pays attention to my work that if someone should be dead, they are dead, and dead for real. 

However 

also want to play a trick like this at least once-someone thought to be dead returns, only it turns out the person really is dead and the returned person is an impostor 

I'm sure you see the problem, but I'll spell it out anyways: If I always kill my characters for real, then everyone's immediately gonna know something is up when someone returns from the grave. I won't get the proper, "WHOA, THEY'RE ALIVE AFTER ALL" reaction, but instead, a "okay... what sorcery is this that someone who is obviously dead is back? the author is obviously messing with us" reaction.

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Just to check, are you saying that you want the characters who readers see die to be clearly dead for the reader, or for the readers not to be sure? If a character seems to come back does the character say they were dead and are now back, or that they didn't actually die?

So, for the first, if you have a point of view from the character that they died, the perception of the character being that something is taking them away, or their bodies fully destroyed and this shown to the reader, with the being taken away part working for fantasy based stories, and the narrative following them as they die or their bodies completely destroyed working for all genres. This can be a way to show someone is dead. Ways around it, however, could be their souls coming back, or their bodies not actually having been destroyed but made to look like it.

To expand further, if a character died and looks like they died, it could be explained by the impostor that they didn't actually die but escaped, teleported away, etc.

Or, they are a clone or backup of the character, or the dead soul was returned, or someone else died and it seemed like it was them.

In essence, what is the excuse given by the character who is the impostor? Is it plausible? And is this a story with a fantasy or science fiction or science fantasy orientation? And does the setting establish that no-one knows how to bring someone back from the dead without making it sound like the problem is a challenge that can be solved rather than a statement of fact?

 

As quoted in Dune:

"There is a Bene Gesserit saying," she said.
"You have saying for everything!" he protested.
"You'll like this one," she said. "It goes: 'Do not count a human dead until you've seen his body. And even then you can make a mistake'."

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I see two ways that I might personally use to avoid this issue. When most characters die, make sure you show that they are dead. (No heartbeat for a long time, beheaded, frozen, rotting, etc..) With the character that dies, then later "returns" (as an imposter) Only imply that they are dead. (rumors of found body, watched bullet fire, and character fall to ground, not breathing for a short time, etc)  Then you never show that the character died, even though they did. But reader will not be completely certain.

Or, make the death happen early in the book or series, before readers can determine a pattern of everyone dying, or some come back to life.

 

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