You’re reading along, maybe taking breaks to daydream about side-stories and what the author might show you next, when BAM! Your favorite character is dead. Or they leave for an unknown amount of time. Maybe they’re put into a sleep that will last the remainder of the story. Their mind is wiped. In the worst cases, the author no longer publishes the character’s story.
However it happens, the character you know is gone.
In the best stories, this shouldn’t be a complete surprise; however, it’s hard to accept clues that you’re going to lose a character you love. You don’t want to grieve, and you know you will.
This happens too often to me.
It’s because I fall in love with the shady characters.
See, I like the cynics. The outcasts. The bad guys trying their hardest to do good. My favorites are the sassy anti-heroes, the thoughtful antagonists, and the main characters who’s role defies comparison with the standard concepts of heroism.
These characters are more relatable. (I didn’t grow up around the most helpful, kind, loving people, and my luck isn’t the best.) For the broader audience, they’re usually more unique than the obvious good guys. Ultimately, though, I want to see these characters do good and become more likeable.
But when they aren’t the primary character moving the plot, writers won’t risk upsetting their critics by keeping them along longer than needed to punish them or to prove the hero’s strength.
That’s fair. People read to see rewards and punishment to fit their world view. That’s, probably, the number one reason fiction is popular.
It’s just hard on some of us, okay?
Of course, heroes die, too. Side characters with little development are cast aside. Whatever the character’s role, accepting their discontinuation in the story can be hard. It doesn’t feel much different than losing a person.
In the end, grief is grief.
As fans, the best we can do is give ourselves time to recover (see “How to Get Over the Death of a Fictional Character” for great tips).
Of course, as the author, the best you can do is celebrate. No one grieves for bad characterization and a boring plot.
Inspiration for this post: a plot twist in The Young Protectors, which I’ve blogged about before in “Protecting the Heart”. It’s not yet clear if my favorite character is even really gone.