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Sentimental yet sardonic [userpic]

Thoughts on fic spoilers (without spoilers)

March 9th, 2005 (12:03 am)
contemplative

current mood: contemplative
current song: The Killers - Somebody Told Me

Fascinating poll here on fic headers and warnings of main character deaths in the fic. It seems that a lot of people seem to want to know in advance if somebody (not who the particular person is, but just if somebody) dies in the fic.


Now, this intrigues me. Maybe it's my general dislike of spoilers, but all I want to know before I read a fic is the general set-up and idea of where the story's going. Once in and deeply involved, I'm in the author's hands and I'll follow along quite happily. The two major instances of a major character getting killed off in a long fic that I was reading avidly struck me as quite justified in the story. The one of them by Marcus Rowland in The Rosenberg Inheritance hit me like a ton of bricks at the time, mainly because I wasn't expecting it at all. I think I left feedback at the time expressing the feel of I had no idea where the story was going from there, and that I loved the feeling of not knowing. (Marcus - If I didn't, then I apologise right now and I really should have)

The second major death was in a Harry Potter/Buffyverse crossover. I think it was The Muggle Way, but will have to check. At the time it happens in the fic, there's at least three main groups maneouvering around and investigating each other as the worlds start to collide and drift into each other. None of the groups have the complete information, and they're all making plans based on these flawed presumptions. So it comes that a raid on one location leads to a major HP character being killed more or less by accident. Now, this worked well for me as a realistic conquence of the mess that everyone was in at that point, and the violence inherent when the worlds clash. What also worked well for me was that the death had an effect on everyone else in the story - agendas were revealed, alliances drawn, all hoping to avoid things like that happening again.

Most of the main character deaths in fic that I've written have occured off-screen, and only for the effect on the characters that I am writing at that point. Like in Sleeper, Buffy's death is only there as a catalyst for the changes in Faith and Xander's relationship. Something like that, where it's not described beyond a few details and the character hasn't interacted that much with my main ones, I don't think deserves a character death warning. I'll be interested to know how you feel on this, considering another fic I've just written, but not posted yet.

I'm reminded of an Alan Moore quote:
"As I see it, a successful story of any kind should be almost like hypnosis: You fascinate the reader with your first sentence, draw them in further with your second sentence and have them in a mild trance by the third. Then, being careful not to wake them, you carry them away up the back alleys of your narrative and when they are hopelessly lost within the story, having surrendered themselves to it, you do them terrible violence with a softball bat and then lead them whimpering to the exit on the last page. Believe me, they'll thank you for it."

It's all about the journey.

So I guess what I want is non-shock value death when it occurs.

For it to mean something and for it to be not a regular thing - otherwise killing a major character would lose its power to shock and twist the story.

Comments

Posted by: Zulu (zulu)
Posted at: March 8th, 2005 05:34 pm (UTC)

I think your thoughts are good ones. Personally, I hate warning about character death when I'm writing. When I'm reading, I'm doing it to find out what happens, so why would I want you to tell me in the summary? If my heart is torn asunder by the power of your writing and your death scenes, then more power to you! That's a good thing, worth being surprised for.

Posted by: Sentimental yet sardonic (booster17)
Posted at: March 9th, 2005 03:51 am (UTC)

*nods in agreement* Like univitedcat said, once you've read that warning, your pure enjoyment of the story is ruined. You're reading it then, with half an eye wondering who's going to die, which has to distract you.

I want to be swept away in the story, carried along by the pace and flow and to be shocked and surprised.

Posted by: uninvitedCat (uninvitedcat)
Posted at: March 9th, 2005 05:17 am (UTC)

I want to be swept away in the story, carried along by the pace and flow and to be shocked and surprised.
Perfectly put! That's exactly what I want from a story, and why I find it so hard to stop reading a good one - I want so much to find out what happens next!

Posted by: Walking (mhalachai)
Posted at: March 8th, 2005 05:58 pm (UTC)
Feeding time at the zoo (tinytext)

I agree with your thoughts on "the Muggle Way." That really shocked me, and it seemed like a natural coincidence.

Where's that Alan Moore quote from?

Posted by: Sentimental yet sardonic (booster17)
Posted at: March 9th, 2005 03:48 am (UTC)
The Alan Moore quote
Giles resolve face [extraflamey]

I'm really not sure where that comes from, but I suspect an interview sometime. It's just one of those quotes that I fell in love with and keep around.

Actually it's scary how much of it I use myself in my writing. I always try to use the first line as either a mood setter for the whole story, or grab people's attention with it. Whoa - self analysis this early in the morning...

Posted by: Daveosaurus (southerndave)
Posted at: March 8th, 2005 09:28 pm (UTC)

Maybe it's my general dislike of spoilers, but all I want to know before I read a fic is the general set-up and idea of where the story's going. Once in and deeply involved, I'm in the author's hands and I'll follow along quite happily.

* barges in uninvited *

Too bloody right. I read a bit of fan fic when I have time (although I don't write it as I'm hopeless at moving stories from point A to point B). But I just can't see why death of a character should be telegraphed in such a way. I'd guess that in a lot of cases, if a death-for-shock-value is badly done then the rest of the story won't really be all that much better.

I can think of a hell of a lot of character deaths in professional writing (for certain values of "professional" anyway...) that come as a shock when first reading of them that I wouldn't have any other way... All the way from a couple of deaths in "Lord of the Rings" to a Marvel character so underappreciated that he actually stayed dead. I think things would have taken one hell of a backwards step if book/film/whatever writers had to warn their audience in advance. And the same should go for fan writing.

Alan Moore has it absolutely pegged.

(you can have your blog back now)

Posted by: Sentimental yet sardonic (booster17)
Posted at: March 9th, 2005 03:58 am (UTC)
Boosterharem [Houses7177]

Deaths in professional writing are fine and dandy for me. Most of the time, they're planned for, set up well and there's a reason for them. They either advance the plot or show new facets of characters still around.

And *snerk*. Imagine if films had to make those kind of disclaimers : Warning - Return of the Jedi features character death.

Alan Moore rules.

Posted by: Daveosaurus (southerndave)
Posted at: March 9th, 2005 10:53 am (UTC)

Deaths in professional writing are fine and dandy for me.

Exactly... When I read fan fic I mentally hold the writer to the same sort of standards I would use when reading published works, and a lot of the time they meet or exceed them. I know there's virtual reams of dreck out there... but most of it is easily filtered out beforehand by the writing style.

One example I read, was really impressed by and seems to have disappeared from the internet now (grrrr) was a comics fan fic that took a pivotal point in a comics story, started from that point and was a better story than subsequent issues of that comic. There's enough fan fic around that's that good that I reckon the stories should be able to exist without these kinds of silly disclaimers.

And *snerk*. Imagine if films had to make those kind of disclaimers

I've been imagining that since I read your post.

Warning - The Fellowship of the Ring features character death.
Warning - Psycho features off-screen character death.
Warning - One character in Citizen Kane is not what that character appears to be.

Posted by: Sentimental yet sardonic (booster17)
Posted at: March 10th, 2005 03:19 am (UTC)
Faith ride [foxglove_icons]

Warning - The Sixth Sense features character death. Totally true in one way. *snerk*

Posted by: uninvitedCat (uninvitedcat)
Posted at: March 9th, 2005 12:02 am (UTC)

I actively dislike it when I get "warned" that a character's going to die, because then I spend most of my time second-guessing and wondering if this particular incident is the one in which someone dies and who it's going to be. All of which detracts from the actual story...

Posted by: Sentimental yet sardonic (booster17)
Posted at: March 9th, 2005 03:54 am (UTC)
Oz expressions [mys1985]

Word.

I just don't understand some of the people in that poll who said they were upset over the character dying in the stories they read. Some of them said they cried.

Posted by: uninvitedCat (uninvitedcat)
Posted at: March 9th, 2005 05:16 am (UTC)

Some of them said they cried.
I'm a bit torn over this... Let me say first I've not cried for the death of Sirius Black in the Harry Potter books, and I certainly haven't cried over the death of anyone in a fanfic.

However.

I do own one or two books where a character has died, and the writing of the story from that point (particularly the grief of other characters) has affected me to the point of tears. But I guess that's not me crying because someone died in a story. That's me crying because I can relate to the pain that those left behind are going though and it's been described so well it takes me back to the times when I'd lost someone. That's me crying because of excellent writing.

Posted by: Sentimental yet sardonic (booster17)
Posted at: March 10th, 2005 03:22 am (UTC)

Yeah, that was me being a tad over critical there. I think that was me automatically assuming fanfic to be of lower quality than professional writing, and therefore anyone crying over a character dying in a bad written story couldn't be that brilliant.

*slaps self*

Good writing is good writing, and does get reactions from the reader.

Posted by: Marcus L. Rowland (ffutures)
Posted at: March 9th, 2005 10:06 am (UTC)

Thanks for the kind words - I did cheat in that story by killing someone a couple of chapters earlier, so that some readers may have thought it was all over, and that may have added to the impact of the more important death when it occurred. I'm not saying that nobody else is going to die in this story, of course...

Posted by: Sentimental yet sardonic (booster17)
Posted at: March 10th, 2005 03:24 am (UTC)

Yeah, that was evil. But in a good way, and nobody could scream that you hadn't warned them. :D

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