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legolasgalactica
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I was thinking of one of the stories I want to tell. My problem is that it begins before the central character is born. Now I could use other characters to fill in that history, but then I thought it might be told better from a different character's point of view who sees it all happen from the side.

The problem is he dies (must die) at the end. I thought it might add to the tragedy of the ending (even though the central character lives on--it's a sad existence anyway)

But then I wondered at the wisdom of killing off the viewpoint character with which the reader would connect the most. On the other hand, there are so many tragedies of this sort that have been successful throughout the ages--I guess I just never really liked them.

[ November 11, 2013, 12:28 AM: Message edited by: legolasgalactica ]

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MattLeo
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Well, sounds like you have bigger problems. One of the most common problems I see with MSS is that they start the story in an awkward place -- usually too early. I've seen a few MSS that start before the protag is born, but it's nearly always a mistake. But as always the one rule is: whatever *you* can get to work.

Same goes with killing off the MC. Beware of the notion that killing off the MC is inherently poetic. If you can *make* the MC's death poetic, then your MS might very well take its place with Hamlet or Les Miserables in the cultural pantheon -- or at least on a few bookshelves. Again, it's up to you to make it work.

Emotional reaction is something never to be presumed in writing. It must be created.

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legolasgalactica
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Well, you may be right. It's these cursed historical fictions... Why do I even have the desire to write them? They make for such inflexible stories, and finding the right time, place, and character to start from is very tricky.
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Robert Nowall
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It's been done, and not always at the end. But probably it wouldn't work if it's in first person singular.

It's been said that "Nobody lives happily ever after in Hamlet! Nobody lives!" So it can work...

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rstegman
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If preventing his birth is the key to the story, where through his life, entire armies are trying to keep him from living, then you might have a story.
Armies of a dozen nations assaulting a stronghold that has a woman giving birth. Another woman with a baby a little older swaps babies and is whisked away through a secret passage and the strong hold is overrun, and all inside is slashed to death and the strong hold is leveled to the ground. Only then do they find signs of the secret passage.
As the hero grows, assassins robber bands, and even armies try to seek him out and kill him, he escapes by the skin of his teeth.
The story ends with him bringing down the opposition with his last breath, knowing that his son was born and will carry on his legacy but in peace.

That, could work based on what you said. The birth shows the ends the enemy will go to eliminate him from existence.

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Denevius
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quote:
I thought it might add to the tragedy of the ending
This is a plot device that's become increasingly common in movies, and I think for the same reason you listed. I had a writing professor once warn us against killing the main character in your story, and against killing a child. Both are manufactured ways to elicit sympathy from a reader that a skilled writer shouldn't need to employ.

There are so many tragedies of life that will garner sympathy from the reader. Yeah, killing the main character is one way, but it just seems kind of lazy.

I just got finished reading a scifi adventure book that I won't name just in case someone here plans on reading it. In this book, however, the main character dies, and I was only left thinking one thing.

What a coincidence!

Here this character that has been through more adventures than one can possibly imagine, has managed to survive more close calls than any hero needs dished out upon them. Danger after danger he prevails over for several hundred pages. This guy had more lives than a cat, as well as the luck of the gods.

I mean, he survived a nuclear explosion!

And yet, less than a dozen pages to the end of the novel, the hero (anti-hero, actually) dies.

This is a problem that all books of adventure have. Allowing your main character to survive all the crap you throw at them to finally die in the last pages is so obvious, and so contrived. Any human put in the dangers we force our characters to deal with would die in the first handful of pages. The fact that they don't is only because we want the narrative to continue.

I think one of the only ways you can successfully pull this off is to not have a main character, but a host of characters, and to have these characters actually die when a normal person would instead of having them prevail close call after close call. This is somewhat what I'm doing, except in doing so, you run the risk of your novel being episodic, and coming off as a series of short stories.

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extrinsic
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E.M Forster's Aspects of the Novel enumerated the famous and ancient writing principle of causation's necessity to plot: "'The king died and then the queen died,' is a story. 'The king died, and then the queen died of grief,' is a plot."

Forster remarks that endings involving a death, a wedding, or both are common and often, as Denevius notes, lazy motifs for wrapping up a dramatic complication that at least has closure, if not a final, relevant, satisfying outcome. Forster allows that tragedy can be more appealing than comedy. Classic Aristotlean drama theory defines a tragedy as going from good fortune to bad fortune or bad to worse. Comedy from bad fortune to good.

However, in and of itself, a tragedy's death outcome is artless unless the death is an inevitable consequence of a self-sacrifice or a poetic justice outcome. If the hero dies because that's the only way to defuse a runaway fusion reaction, so that the hero's loved ones may live, that's artful tragedy. If the hero dies defusing a runaway fusion reaction because the hero set the reaction in motion for self-involved reasons, the hero has been poetically rewarded for the wicked deeds. Both heroic self-sacrifice and poetic justice. The latter example is a height of tragedy few attain and is most praised for its beauty and appeals.

One point of interest: an MC is very much like a circus's master of ceremonies, or emcee. A main character is central to the action so that he, she, or it is present to report the action. An MC is not per se an influence character or a protagonist, though an MC may fill either or both those roles as well, as well as other roles.

An MC who dies as an outcome is problematic from killing off an objective character: objective in the sense of a camera's lensing eye, not per se a detached, neutral, unmediating viewpoint, which is another sense of objective's meaning for narrative. A protagonist can die if the protagonist isn't the observing viewpoint character, but not if the protagonist is MC as an objective character. A main character, though, can die if another persona is the observing and reporting persona, like a narrator following the MC, which comes with another set of challenges from developing narrator identity.

[ November 11, 2013, 12:21 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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MAP
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Killing the MC is risky. It needs to be done right or it will make very dissatisfied readers (although some readers will be angry no matter how you do it).

It needs to feed into the themes of the story, and essentially be the whole point of the story. You also need to hint at from the beginning by a darker tone. You can't start a story as a light-hearted adventure and end it in the death of the MC. You need to make sure you are promising the right story.

When done right, it can result in a powerful story. Just make sure you do it right reasons.

Good luck!

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Merlion-Emrys
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Do it however you feel you need to do it. Perhaps most importantly, write it how you'd want to read it. Chances are there'll be others who feel the same way.
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MattLeo
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quote:
Originally posted by Merlion-Emrys:
Do it however you feel you need to do it. Perhaps most importantly, write it how you'd want to read it. Chances are there'll be others who feel the same way.

While this is often sage advice, particularly to writers who've over-analyzed their way into writer's block, lg asked us a specific question here, which is whether he can achieve a certain effect -- presumably for a reasonably large percentage of potential readers. We all understand that it's futile to try to please everybody.

The answer so far to lg's question has been a resounding "it depends". I think it's safe to say that to maximize your chances with readers you have to prepare them. Suppose you end your story with the MC walking down the sidewalk and being crushed by a falling piano. That might work if you've prepared the reader to expect ironic twists, say if a theme of the story is that you as much as you prepare for things, the unexpected will mess up your plans. Or if the reader has some reason to prefer the MC dead, e.g. the theme of the story is the importance of returning home to the MC, and the MC is on his way to take a ship into exile.

On the other hand, you can have your character die a *heroic* death, as a result of a choice he makes that seems logical to the reader and which validates his values and the themes of the story.

Take Spock's death scene in Star Trek II THE WRATH OF KHAN as a familiar example. The chief characters (Spock and Kirk) have articulated conflicting philosophies. Spock's philosophy is that the needs of the many out weigh the needs of the few. Kirk's philosophy is that it's always possible to cheat death. Already we writers should see where this is going: a comparative test of the truth of these ideas.

It also behooves us as writers to study how mightily the screenwriters have stretched the bounds of coincidence to make this death scene possible. Let's start with the obvious: the warp drives practically never fail except when the ship is in danger in which case they almost always do. But note how the failure occurs in a room we've never seen before, a room with a convenient glass wall through which the two characters can play the scene. The engineering department has apparently never prepared for this particular failure, by installing remote manipulators or providing the engineers with a suit made out of the same material as the transparent wall.

The chief engineer who surely understands that the ship is doomed does not take it upon himself to do the suicidal deed, nor does he order a junior officer to do it. One of the two principle characters chooses to do the deed, and since it is consistent with his philosophy it seems to us like a natural choice and we fail to notice how contrived the situation is.

On top of that the death is satisfying because of the way Spock's value of altruism totally defeat's Kirk's "cheat death" philosophy. Spock even rubs Kirk's nose in it by referring back to the "Kobayashi Maru" exercise, the scene that opened the movie. Right from the opening scene the screenwriters were preparing the audience to accept this death as poetically "right".

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Merlion-Emrys
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Well, if the goal is primarily to appeal to the largest number of readers, simply avoiding killing off the main character at all is probably the best way to go.

But if the story you want to tell requires that, then that's what you do. It sounds like this story has several requirements that are difficult to sort out. The story beginning before the birth of the "real" main character is solved by making another character the "viewpoint" character...but the story calls for them to die.

It sounds like a rather unusual possible story already broken away a bit from generic narrative conventions. And so perhaps a bit removed from the largest audience segments anyway.

I guess my philosophy just often ignores that whole issue, since I often don't feel we have a huge amount of control over how many people are or are not going to like a story regardless. So I focus largely on making the story the way I want it to be, using critiques to filter in some general audience info where it doesn't totally conflict.

Are we talking about a short story or a novel length project or something?


Also...it seems like Spock's whole thing was a little more situation specific and under normal circumstances they might have been able to deal with it more safely...but also more slowly, which wouldn't work in the situation they were in...and I seem to remember some nod to the idea that Spock's Vulcan biology made him resistant enough to survive exposure long enough to do the deed, or something like that...

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MattLeo
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quote:
Originally posted by Merlion-Emrys:

Also...it seems like Spock's whole thing was a little more situation specific and under normal circumstances they might have been able to deal with it more safely...but also more slowly, which wouldn't work in the situation they were in...and I seem to remember some nod to the idea that Spock's Vulcan biology made him resistant enough to survive exposure long enough to do the deed, or something like that...

All reasonable by in-universe logic. But by writing logic it's clearly all stuff the writer conjured out of thin air with the express purpose of making Spock's death both necessary and meaningful. That's my point: the business with Vulcan physiology was fabricated with a purpose that has direct bearing on lg's question.

If you think back to the time when the script was written, the writers had a metaphorical gun to their heads. Spock was far and away the fans' favorite character, it was unthinkable to have anyone but Nimoy play him, and Nimoy wouldn't do the movie unless they killed Spock off. Necessity is the mother of invention, and the result was a story that *I* think was considerably better than it would have been if the writers hadn't been under pressure.

Or perhaps rather than "better" I should say "acceptable to more viewers." I'm sure there were plenty of people who shook their fists at the screen and cursed the writers, "You just made that up!" Of course the writers did; that's my point.

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Denevius
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The death of Spock was surprising but not unexpected as set up by the plot. I think that's why it works in that movie, though of course if you look at the Star Trek universe as a whole up to that point, you can't help but note that somehow Kirk and Spock managed to survive every encounter up until this one. The only thing that made this adventure different is, to my understanding, Leonard Nimoy wanted to get out of the Star Trek franchise.

So, there's that. But let's face it, it's one of the best death scenes in cinematic history. I know it's coming, and even now I still can't help but get dust in my eyes at exactly that moment in the movie.

quote:
One point of interest: an MC is very much like a circus's master of ceremonies, or emcee. A main character is central to the action so that he, she, or it is present to report the action. An MC is not per se an influence character or a protagonist, though an MC may fill either or both those roles as well, as well as other roles.
You know, I guess I missed this point. Though at the same time, from the OPs description:

quote:
I was thinking of one of the stories I want to tell. My problem is that it begins before the central character is born. Now I could use other characters to fill in that history, but then I thought it might be told better from a different character's point of view who sees it all happen from the side.
It almost sounds like a "Moby Dick" type of scenario. I was supposed to read that book in university but didn't, and off hand, I can't think of a novel I read where the story was about one person, but narrated by a character actually on the page in the same universe. Not a narrative voice, but an actual individual. There seems to be a lot of inherent problems with trying to pull this off, first and foremost that the POV is limited to that character, which means we as readers are spending all of the narrative time in that individual's world within the story. And if we as individuals are spending all of the narrative time in that person's POV, the story may as well be about him/her, and not whoever they're observing

I tend to consider the narrative voice a character in the story, whether it's disembodied or not, and the more intrusive it is, the more I consider it being a main character. And I still think killing the individual isn't the best way to create tragedy.

quote:
Do it however you feel you need to do it. Perhaps most importantly, write it how you'd want to read it. Chances are there'll be others who feel the same way.
This is the advice of someone who has absolutely no intention of editing their writing. And as this is a section called Open *Discussions* About Writing, it's also not even very useful advice.

Just imagine if every time someone put up a question here in this Discussion section, the first person to respond said, "Oh, do whatever you like, I'm sure it'll get readers if *you* like it."

What does that mean if you write something and no one wants to read it, which is probably true of 90% of everything written? Does that just mean you have awful taste?

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MattLeo
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quote:
Originally posted by Denevius:
This is the advice of someone who has absolutely no intention of editing their writing. And as this is a section called Open *Discussions* About Writing, it's also not even very useful advice.

I would't go there. You have to take things in context; I don't think it's reasonable to characterize M-E's participation here as that of someone who has no intention of ever editing his writing. He's just giving advice he thinks would be helpful in this situation. I've often heard similar advice from Meredith, and she's one of the hardest working revisors I've ever come across. Don't worry too much, get the piece done *then* fix it. That's how she does it, and it works for her.

The trick with advice, I find, is not coming up with good advice, but recognizing when a particular piece of advice is useful. There is a time for selling, and a time for buying. There's a time for analyzing, and a time for banging away with the mental censor turned off. Different people have different approaches that work for them; plotters vs. pantsers for example. Neither of them's "right".

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rcmann
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One thing you might try that could make it a little more palatable is doing what I try to do. My protagonists ar ealways mortal. They get into dangerous situations and they get *hurt*.

One my heroes took a sword through the chest. He instantly dropped and started drowning in his own blood. He lived only because he was in a large military group where a trained healer was available to perform emergency surgery, and he still suffered a lingering recovery period and an extended period of weakness. He gets his butt kicked, and is too sore to move the next day. He gets cold, suicidally depressed, and worn out, and bruised until he's black and blue.

The reader knows that he is vulnerable. So when he goes up against something huge and heavily toothed, his survival is by no means assured. At minimum, he is nearly certain to suffer severe damage. If he gets killed, it won't be a total shock.

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Denevius
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To my ear, this:

quote:
Don't worry too much, get the piece done *then* fix it.
and this:

quote:
Do it however you feel you need to do it. Perhaps most importantly, write it how you'd want to read it. Chances are there'll be others who feel the same way.
sound different. As much as I dislike Nanomonth, I think the spirit of the idea revolves around the former: write the d*mn thing, and then edit. Lots of people simply have that problem, getting a big project finished, which means they can never get to the actual work of writing, which is revising.

The latter quote, however, seems to be saying that if *you* like your writing, that's all that matters. It's like that quote from "Field of Dreams": "If you build it, they will come".

And you know, if that's one's attitude, groovy. Except it makes little sense to post something for advice, as the only one that seems to matter is your own. Because if you like, then someone else will.

Anyone, however, who has tried to publish know this isn't the case. You liking your writing means little to actually selling your writing, or publishing it. Which reminds me of another quote: "Kill your darlings".

Sometimes the things that you love the most about your writing is the very thing that needs to go to make the piece actually work.

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Merlion-Emrys
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I guess it all depends on how one defines "actually work."

Stories are not boats that either sink or float. They are mental constructs that exist for a variety of reasons, some on the part of the author, others on the part of those that experience them (much like basically all art, be it a painting, a movie, a statue or a piece of literature.)

So, unlike a boat, which either sinks or floats for everyone, a story can, and indeed will, work for some and not for others. In the end much of what we debate here comes down to numbers: how many, what percentage, of people will a given thing work or not work for.

The common wisdom is to try and appeal to the largest audience possible. But there are some whole categories that already don't do that...horror fiction, for example. There are plenty of folks that don't like anything even resembling horror.

I, however, like horror. And I'm not the only one. There is a considerable market for it, just not as large as straightforward action adventure, or romance, or comedy. And I personally tend to feel that large content-based things like that are going to be the major effectors of your audience size, not the smaller structural details we often discuss here.

So, sorry but I reject the notion that your liking your writing is irrelevant to selling it. Most of us write things similar to what we like to read...published stuff, that we like to read. So chances are, if you like your story, there will be others who do as well. Also, apart from that, I don't personally have much interest in writing or selling stories that I dislike or have been changed into something entirely other than what I want them to be...and once again, I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one. If you take out the things you love most about your story...what, exactly, is the point, since there are much easier ways to make more money, as far as that goes, and why have you name out there on something you don't give a flip about?


That being said, my initial response was perhaps overly simplistic. Although, there are really no good answers to questions such as those posited by the original post and I think, in the end (having posted more than one similar thread myself in my time) that we usually do so less to get highly specific answers and more to brainstorm and see other peoples thoughts on the matter in a general way to help us understand what we truly want for our story. Both what we want as artists for our work to be for ourselves, and to satisfy the desire we have to entertain and bring enjoyment to those who read our work.

I just often find it difficult to give detailed advice without knowing more specifics of a given story, because each one is different and my advice and critiques tend to be more tailored for an individual story than based on general principles.

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MattLeo
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Well, it's up to the asker to pick over the advice and do something useful with it; and we can't be sure the "write for yourself" advice isn't what he needs to hear.

For example lg could simply try killing off his MC because he thinks this is right. But suppose he decides it *doesn't* work. What then? Well then he goes back tries having the MC survive. But now suppose he decides *that* ending doesn't work, either.

Notice we've had an unhappy outcome either way, and we haven't brought another soul into the conversation yet. Writing to please yourself is no guarantee of success! That's why it's helpful to solicit advice from other people about what they've seen work or not work. You don't have to take that advice at face value; you might even set out to prove that advice wrong, but even then the advice has been useful.

Writing-for-yourself is the embryonic stage of writing; but that doesn't mean it's not important to return there frequently. The rarest quality in a MS is originality, and that's because there's too many writers shooting at the same goal. On the other hand that doesn't mean that writing-for-others isn't an important thing to try. Readers tell you things about a MS you never imagined, and that in turn enriches the goals you set for yourself, even if your plan for the MS is to finish it, then burn it.

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Merlion-Emrys
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I have to disagree with the "embryonic stage" bit, and I think most "professional" writers would as well.

You're always writing at least partially for yourself...why, again, would you write something you don't like? On the other hand, we all want to share what we do with others, and have it appreciated, therefore, why would you not write for others as well? It isn't as if they are mutually exclusive.

I think questions like these are often a combination of seeking ideas to help us figure out exactly what we want for a story and/or to find validation for what we know we want. Since my preference is to read and entire story and give thoughts on it in its own context, and because I know that in a thread like this, plenty of folks will chime in with all sorts of views on the right or wrong ways of doing whatever it is and examples of different ways it has been done, I often choose to simply remind the person that it is, in fact, perfectly okay to just decide what you like and write that.

So in greater response to the initial question about the wisdom of killing off the character whom the reader will likely have grown most attached too...it depends entirely on the reader and the context of the whole story in my opinion. Therefore, I say, determine what works best for whatever you are trying to achieve in the story overall and do that. If it is killing said character...yeah, some folks aren't going to like that. But, chances are your story will have any number of other things some people won't like anyway.

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Reziac
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quote:
Originally posted by Denevius:
quote:
Do it however you feel you need to do it. Perhaps most importantly, write it how you'd want to read it. Chances are there'll be others who feel the same way.
This is the advice of someone who has absolutely no intention of editing their writing. And as this is a section called Open *Discussions* About Writing, it's also not even very useful advice.

Just imagine if every time someone put up a question here in this Discussion section, the first person to respond said, "Oh, do whatever you like, I'm sure it'll get readers if *you* like it."

I don't think that was what was meant. Rather, more akin to this gem from Samuel R. Delany:

"No one was writing books that I wanted to read, so I had to write them myself."

(I may not remember the quote exactly, but that's close enough.)

quote:
Originally posted by Robert Nowall:
It's been done, and not always at the end. But probably it wouldn't work if it's in first person singular.

I've seen a first-person MC done-in more than once, and done well. Couple years ago I beta'd a novel that nicely foreshadowed so when it happened, it felt right. Lights out.
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legolasgalactica
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Wow, I missed the whole show.
@ merlion-emrys: I got what you were trying to say. And I would imagine I'd get a full novel (or two) from this story. And maybe that's a possible solution--to break it into two books and thereby avoiding the time issues.

I guess my real problem is choosing an MC. I have a cast of several characters for my historical fiction. Two are central to the story (a father and his son). But the problem is that everyone dies except the son who lives on alone and in exile the rest of his life.

I'm not sure either the father or son would be the ideal viewpoint character. I have a lot more leeway with some of the other characters plotwise and I suppose I could bend the story and contrive a way for the one I choose not to die, but perhaps it's more fitting to just let history take its course (so to speak).

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extrinsic
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Younger and less sophisticated readers favor a main, central, or focal character to associate with or identify with or follow throughout a narrative. That narrative choice overlooks longer fiction's tendency to portray numerous character viewpoints with or without a singular focal character central to every given scene or chapter.

Orson Scott Card's M.I.C.E. quotient principle accounts for other choices, and yet other choices are available as well. Though the MICE principle doesn't address what readers get from a central character in terms of consistency, consistency is on point, especially for and as organizing and unifying features.

Milieu centrality in and of itself may function as a backdrop feature in terms of organization and unity, if the milieu is emotionally engaging. The milieu in that sense is a dramatic persona tangibly influencing a drama.

Idea centrality as a MICE principle develops an idea as an organizing, unifying, and influencing feature. Say an idea like a religious progress's wants and problems wanting satisfaction is central to a historical fiction. Behind the idea is a want to convert heathen pagans with unseemly morals to a religious belief system. Or a corporation wants to develop commercial space flight. Whatever the idea, the idea is central, an organizing, unifying, influencing, and dramatic feature.

However tangible an idea's centrality, an intangible thematic idea may or should also develop. Take Cold War thrillers or murder mystery puzzles, their intangible ideas accentuate their tangible ideas.

Character centrality likewise organizes, unifies, influences a narrative. Humans are social beings. The conversation that literature is is a social activity. Interacting with social dramatic personas through reading has strong, perhaps the strongest appeals. By default, humans favor interacting with humans or at least human-like personifications.

Event centrality is likewise a narrative organizing, unifying, influencing feature. Narrative theorists allow a narrative may not absolutely require characters or settings, though without them steep challenges present. Event, however, is a near absolute necessity. A story's events are the kernel of a plot structure.

Killing a main character may be necessitated by milieu, idea, or event centrality. How to manage a long timeline and develop a later arriving main character's centrality to it beforehand might look to developing milieu, idea, and event centrality as well. For example, a prophesy developed before its, her, or his arrival on scene might preposition a main character's development. The character has not yet been born but is already influencing current now moment events of the character's preexistence.

[ November 12, 2013, 01:18 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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redux
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Legolasgalactica - you could try making a distinction between your PoV character and your focal character. These don't always have to be the same individual. Take Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. Nick is the PoV character but the focal character, the one readers are meant to identify with, is Gatsby trying to win back Daisy. Sherlock Holmes follows a similar structure. Watson tells the story, but the focal character, the one doing things, is Holmes.

So, you could try making the PoV character different from your focal character. Your focal character can still die, but using a different PoV character would allow you to tell the story starting from focal character's birth.

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MattLeo
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quote:
Originally posted by redux:
So, you could try making the PoV character different from your focal character. Your focal character can still die, but using a different PoV character would allow you to tell the story starting from focal character's birth.

That's a good way of doing it. It also makes a lot of things that you'd have to do with subtext explicit, e.g., how other people see the protagonist.

I hesitate to mention this, because it can come out kind of cheesy, but it's also *possible* to have a dead person narrate his own story.

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by MattLeo:
quote:
Originally posted by redux:
So, you could try making the PoV character different from your focal character. Your focal character can still die, but using a different PoV character would allow you to tell the story starting from focal character's birth.

That's a good way of doing it. It also makes a lot of things that you'd have to do with subtext explicit, e.g., how other people see the protagonist.

I hesitate to mention this, because it can come out kind of cheesy, but it's also *possible* to have a dead person narrate his own story.

Or a whole other narrator: overt or covert, omniscient, limited, or detached, objective or subjective, mediating or nonmediating.
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Denevius
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I've seen people give examples of this here, but if you notice, it's all kind of classic literary fiction. I said "Moby Dick", someone else said "The Great Gatsby". An MC observing the lives of the central character also happened in "The Virgin Suicides", though the MC was the town people.

In genre fiction, though, are there many examples? Genre fiction tends to be a lot more straight forward, and this MC observing the main character sounds like complicated business. I can kind of imagine this happening in children's literature, with a story teller telling the story. But usually, the story teller exists outside of the story they're telling.

I tried going back to see how "The Princess Bride" began. I read the book,and I saw the movie, but now I can't remember if the book was set up as a grandfather reading to their grandson. I don't think so, however.

I still think the problem you'd run into is that if the reader stays in the MC's POV throughout the narrative, why not just make the novel about the MC?

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extrinsic
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Algis Budry's "The Stoker and the Stars" is in a first person storyteller voice. At Project Gutenberg. Strong overt and meditating narrative voice reporting a specimen, one of Jerome Stern's story shapes.

A specimen shape portrays a character different from the narrator character persona. However, through portraying or reporting another persona, the narrator reveals as much if not more about the narrator as the character the narrator reports or portrays.

Kurt Vonnegut's "Harrison Bergeron" is in a third person mediating and omniscient storyteller voice. It's online posting is at a dubious site, probably a pirated publication.

I have many thousands of varying narrative voices I could point out. Project Gutenberg hosts many, some with copyrights that expired, others with eligible for at one time, no more, though unrenewed copyrights from publications that went out of business in the late 1950s, prior to changes in copyright law. More recent narratives are problematic due to continuing copyright protections.

However, in terms of convention-based genres: science fiction, fantasy, horror, mystery, thriller, romance, western; the narrative voices of recent titles are as variant as they've been for years, with an overall tendency toward closer and closer narrative distance and less overt, mediating narrators. The traditional summary and explanation, lecture narrative voice is alive and well, though.

Many recent exceptions to closer narrative distance have enjoyed popular and critical acclaim. Susanna Clarke's Dr Strange and Mr Norrell is a standout example of a recent though traditional overt and strongly mediating narrative voice.

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kmsf
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Yes it can be done to good effect but:

1. Don't do it until the very end (Sounds funny, but if the writer has to drone on and on for another umpteen pages to give us the meaning, then the story either wasn't fully dramatized or wasn't there to begin with).
2. It should seem inevitable
3. The death should add a meaning to the MC's life (extrinsic made some good points about poetic justice, etc)

Some examples:
For Whom the Bell Tolls
All Quiet on the Western Front
The Sufferings of Young Werther
Danton's Death
King Lear
Romeo and Juliet
Old Yeller

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Reziac
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quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
Kurt Vonnegut's "Harrison Bergeron" is in a third person mediating and omniscient storyteller voice. It's online posting is at a dubious site, probably a pirated publication.

It's an English teacher's site for an online class; presumably the story is part of the curriculum.

http://www.tnellen.com/ted/

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