When Your Favourite Character Dies

Ever read a novel and the worst imaginable thing happens, your favourite character dies?  I’ve done that several times.

A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin is very well-known for doing this.  Now as a very popular TV series, named after the first novel, Game of Thrones is showing an expanded audience what it’s like to have many of your favourite characters kick the bucket.

You go through several stages.  Disbelief and shock, unable to accept that it happened.  You think that somehow they’ll come back.  You feel resentful of the author for killing the characters.  Finally, you accept that it happened and continue on.

Is it good for the book?  I think it creates a lot of drama.  For a series like A Song of Ice and Fire, it creates a feeling that anything can happen.  You have to accept that anyone can die.  Very few do it like Martin does.

I’ve read some others where not many die, but my favourite character dies.  That comes as more of a shock than the deaths in Westeros.

But what do you think?  How do you take the deaths of your favourite characters?  Please don’t post spoilers.

6 thoughts on “When Your Favourite Character Dies”

    1. I know. I knew it was going to happen, since I’ve read the first 2 books. But I have yet to actually watch Game of Thrones. But you’re right, Sean Bean always dies. He did in Game of Thrones, and he did in my favourite, Lord of the Rings.

  1. It depends on the execution of the scene. When done right, it jerks the reader out of his comfort zone. We tend to have this assumption that our favorite character has a form of fictional immortality – because they’re doing so well, they just can’t die because it would be a disservice to the story as a whole. But authors like Martin can pull it off successfully not only by killing off a number of important characters, but showing that the world keeps going in spite of them. He shows that the characters we thought were significant and could make a difference really weren’t that important after all, or perhaps important for reasons that we didn’t anticipate.

    That’s probably the key to making the death of a character have such an impact. Death is an extreme form of loss, so the author shouldn’t be afraid to confront that loss and have it mean something.

    1. Thanks for the comment. That’s definitely true about having the world keep on going. If a character is carrying the entire story, maybe it’s not a very deep story at all, especially if it has a large cast of characters.

  2. Ok so I read the first book to a new series recently and I was tootling along really loving this particular character and thinking I knew the direction where things were going (especially because the cover featured said character) and them BLAMMO dead…and I felt cheated, angry and just erg like something was stolen from me.) I don’t know if this affected how I viewed the rest of the book but then I didn’t end up liking any of the other characters. Suffice to say I still loved the worldbuilding of the book but it made reading the rest of the book really hard because none of the other characters were sympathetic. I knew this particular character wasn’t a “main” character because he didn’t have a POV but still I was so disappointed.

    1. That’s got to be difficult to read if the only sympathetic character dies. I think for a book to be good, the characters (at least some of them) should be sympathetic.

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