This is a feature my brother came up with— wherein we tackle certain topics on books, young adult or not, and give you guys the low down on our opinions of them (which, mind you, generally differ). I’ll be encoding our conversation, and if you guys have any opinions of your own on the topic, or on the heated discussion, feel free to once again make my day and comment!
My brother is seventeen, a college sophomore, approximately one year and two days older. His name is Juan (that’s pronounced like the number, one), and he’s my best friend. No matter what anyone else says.
Jasmine: Are you actually trying to tell me that we’re agreeing for once?
Juan: No, I’m trying to tell you that you’re agreeing with me for once. Achievement unlocked!
Jasmine: WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO MY BROTHER.
Juan: Gagged then tied him up. ***evil laugh***
Jasmine: I should rename this feature and make it ‘Day of Debate Unless Brother Gets Kidnapped by Agreeable Cyborg’.
Juan: Let us stop this nonsense at once and get to the meat of the conversation.
Jasmine: Since we agree, I’m going to have to incorporate external opinions on the topic. Some, okay a lot, of people don’t find this their cup of tea because they don’t think it’s helpful to kill off characters left and right, especially the important ones. They attest to not being given the chance to connect with these characters, and once they do, they don’t relish the thought of not keeping them alive. What do you have to say to that?
Juan: I disagree. I believe that there are times that you connect to the characters the most when they’re already on the brink of death. When your life is about to end, that’s the time that you make the choices that define you as a person. Do I save this person I care about? Do I save the world? Do I save myself? Do I fight for my life or do I give myself up? Characters are sometimes defined on their (metaphoric) deathbeds, even more than when they were alive and kicking. It also helps because I believe that a writer’s skill is put to the test the most during death scenes. Writers get to choose whether to dramatize the scenes or to keep them conservative, and write them as they write all scenes.
Jasmine: I think you have a point, though my reasons for agreeing are different (okay, achievement semi-unlocked). We have to remember that these characters, though fictional, are based on human beings, and unless they’re aliens, immortals, or immortal aliens, they’re not given the fast pass when it comes to dying. I don’t think it’s right to assume that just because they’re classified under ‘main’, it gives them the ticket to salvation repeatedly, through deus ex machina. I get why people are skeptical, because it does break my heart in much the same way that it breaks everyone else’s, but I have to say that many of these characters, though doomed, become loved and understood, and like you said defined. The story does get interesting after that, more often than not.
Juan: I think the operative word is ‘many of’. Not all death scenes are written well, and that’s probably the main reason why a lot of people disapprove. That goes back to my point of a death scene testing a writer’s ability, because they have to find a way to make it meaningful for the character, and acceptable to the reader. When a writer makes the reader feel that the character died for capital S Something, when his death was more than just ‘cardiac arrest’, that’s when you know a story (and it’s author) is good.
Jasmine: I think you’re right when you say that death needs to serve a purpose. Some writers think that to make an impact, they have to add a certain twist, and in many cases, that twist involves the d-word for an important character. This isn’t to say that they aren’t right- things like that do tend to remain engraved in my head. However, they need to be careful, because like I said before, readers feel for these characters, and they’re going to take hefty risks if they want to kill off a character that their audience has come to love. But I definitely don’t think it’s essentially bad to do that. Again, it depends on the writing, though I do have some sort of spontaneous inclination to dramatic transitions into the other world. I like books that can make me cry. Haha!
Juan: CONFESSION BEAR. I also love books that can make me cry. How many books can make a grown man freaking cry? I also think that deaths can help to reinforce the setting of more heavy handed books. It annoys me when writers try to portray an unforgiving world in which all of the main characters stay alive for one reason or another while their friends and family are killed one by one, sometimes even by mere coincidence. It destroys the integrity and atmosphere of the book.
Jasmine: I guess some writers tend to consider the friends and family mere plot devices, though most of the time it’s to add to the hardships the characters have to face to give them a chance to develop. In the area of romance, many girls my age would go on weeping sprees or author strikes, which is normal a) because of the widespread belief that attractive hunks should automatically live by virtue of their eight pack abs and platinum blonde hair, and b) because authors should consider themselves screwed if they dare cross the line. I don’t get the logic, but fact of life is, part of the audience cares the most for the romance. So in essence, this tells us that writers shouldn’t even come close to thinking of killing any love interests. Ironically, that happens especially in terms of love triangles. Just to make it easy.
Juan: That’s so corny!!
Jasmine: Why do I keep agreeing? Agreeable cyborg, YOU’RE crossing the line. I don’t necessarily agree to many girls my age, though. I still think it’s more than acceptable for a great writer- it’s part of the poetic license. What’s the guy perspective on this one?
Juan: Hard to say. I don’t know.
Jasmine: That was helpful.
Juan: There are different opinions on the subject. Some don’t care, some hate it, some like it. Do guys understand the ‘ship’ concept anyway? I only got that from you. It varies. I think.
Jasmine: Okay, works for me.
Juan: So basically, when it comes to books with darker themes, killing off main characters at the right time and for the right purposes is good for the emotion and feel of the book. And that ends my argument, and my agreeing with you.
Jasmine: Yes, we’re geniuses! In conclusion, main characters don’t have to stay alive all the time, but in retrospect don’t have to die, especially not uneventfully. I’m perfectly happy either way. Case closed!
So what do you think? Have any suggestions? Criticisms of the constructive variety? Life changing praise? Comment if you do! 😀