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Thread: Death is not the end. How do you kill a character physically, but they still exist in the novel?

  1. #1
    practical experience, FTW Cekrit's Avatar
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    Death is not the end. How do you kill a character physically, but they still exist in the novel?

    I enjoy the idea of death not being the end of a character and their part in the story. At least once so far in my first novel someone dies and continues to exist beyond the void, in the spirit world- but she is a special case.

    While writing the second novel there are two characters who:

    1) has something so powerful and valuable that he would rather blow himself up than to let certain bad guy get it- and certain bad guy must get it in this book to develop the series, but i also dont see any other reaction this guy will have other than " screw you we are both going boom." The problem is he is one of the favorites of book 1, everyone who has read it loves him and I feel so bad for wanting to kill him almost a quarter way though book 2. Hes a scientist, and studies consciousness and has experience cloning- is it too far fetched that he has a clone or android type thing in the background of one of his lairs ready to have his conciousnes uploaded into? As a spoiler, he does manage to build himself a conscious robotic "wife" so who's to say he cant have a back up in case he dies?

    2) One of my secondary characters, someone who spends a whole bunch of time with my Mc and is far too important to straight up kills, end up in a dire situation. I can either have her end up existing in the spirit world, but then i dont want this to turn into Dragon Ball Z where everyone who dies can be brought back. Essentially she ends up wearing a crystaline necklace that embeds itself into her and crystals start spawning all over her skin, she becomes corrupted, and controlled by the sin/entity that specific crystal reresents. My MC fights that entity and in the process rips the crystal out of her friends chest to try and save her, which would most likley kill the poor girl.

    Her job, while being controleld, is to lure children into this demons lair where they feed off their innocence and essence, all the children are absorbed into a crystaline wall and just left there while little beads of light drift off and feed the demon. After the demon leaves, is it too cheesy to have these kids energy- who are technically dead absorb into wounded character to heal her?


    I guess I'm just trying to find ways to kill people without killing them, or if anyone has any sugestions on how we can magically bring people back after they legitimatly die I am wide open


    .Edit: More specifically how would you go about bringing someone back after they tired, through magical, technological, spiritual means or otherwise?
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  2. #2
    Just Another Lazy Perfectionist Brightdreamer's Avatar
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    It's your world. You write the rules. Though if you've exhausted "magical, technological, spiritual means, or otherwise" you might be down to time travel, alternate realities, or cloning. Unless your world has some sort of "save point" tech, where they store a copy of their essence like a back-up file for later retrieval. As a warning, if you keep killing people and they don't die, you're gonna have a hard time creating life-and-death stakes, if it comes to that. And it might get boring for the reader.

    If that "kids' energy heals her" is what you want to have happen, then do it - though you might consider a price to be paid. I mean, we're talkin' resurrection, being snatched back from the jaws of the Reaper. If she just sits up and shrugs it off like a tumble from a bicycle, that's rather anticlimactic, no matter how much FX went into the big energy transfer scene.

    Bottom line: give it a try. Whether you can pull it off, well, that's down to whether you can successfully intersect your skill level with the story you're trying to pull off. The only way to figure it out is to write it.
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  3. #3
    Жили-были дед да баба... davidjgalloway's Avatar
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    s it too far fetched that he has a clone or android type thing in the background of one of his lairs ready to have his conciousnes uploaded into?
    I like this one, but I think I'd like it even more if it went wrong. So sure, he has this plan, but what if only parts of him survive the upload? Or it is faulty in another way, so the clone is missing crucial parts of him, and that creates problems. Just because he had a solution doesn't mean he gets a free pass and has it work perfectly. It could be he messed up, or that the process is interrupted/compromised in some way by another character that leads to this. For instance, all well and good to say he gets to upload himself, but what if he dies by a head wound and his memories/personality is damaged?

    I guess I'm just trying to find ways to kill people without killing them, or if anyone has any sugestions on how we can magically bring people back after they legitimatly die I am wide open
    I totally see where you're coming from, but if you really do finesse the death too much, then death has no meaning as an event because it is not what we experience in RL. So I'd be cautious about making it too easy or simple.

  4. #4
    Not as sweet as you think Aggy B.'s Avatar
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    I have a character who survives after death and eventually returns to the physical realm, but all of it has consequences. She can't just skip back to the world of the "living" and using the amount of magic that it takes to get her back into her own body implies a greater conflict at a later point.

    Otherwise it makes the whole dying thing just a minor plot point. If the "rules" as we know them are cheated, then there need to be consequences that echo throughout the story. Otherwise it pushes us into deus ex machina territory and that's rarely satisfying in the long run.
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  5. #5
    practical experience, FTW Cekrit's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brightdreamer View Post
    where they store a copy of their essence like a back-up file for later retrieval. As a warning, if you keep killing people and they don't die, you're gonna have a hard time creating life-and-death stakes, if it comes to that. And it might get boring for the reader.

    If that "kids' energy heals her" is what you want to have happen, then do it - though you might consider a price to be paid. I mean, we're talkin' resurrection, being snatched back from the jaws of the Reaper.
    1) I see your point. The people in my novel, or a large number of them were touched by their god Sera, so they have absorbed some of her essence and part of her power. This scientist, Tinker, used to be Pure or someone untouched, a regular human and worked in a lab doing human testing and weapon creation to kill these superhumans. He could handle animal testing, but couldnt deal with killing so many people in the lab. The city was extracting these peoples essence and using it to power the city itself. So he would know, if anyone does, how to extract his own human essence or back up his consciousness- He runs off with a large supply of this essence and the only known formula that can turn a regular human into a stigma holder or gifted ( which was why so many people died in his studies no one could handle the transfer and develop powers) One of the main bad guys already has the gift, but he wants to be stronger and he wants to steal it so inject it and sort of reach a sort of percieved "god mode." Anyways Tinker has shitloads of the stuff, and i assume he will have more in reserve- thats the energy he would use to force himself after death back into an android or clone. The wife he created essentially her primary function is to tell people he knew where all the pieces are, to bring him back because she misses him, and then they do- i think.

    I dont want to get into the habbit of killing people off though and having them come back, this event he dies and a full book later he comes back.

    2) The second, she is a healer by nature, she never hurt a soul before this- but after her quirk or brokenness will be she understands she can take life to, and ohhhh boy does she take life. Goes from a girl that would heal the hunted rabits they meant to cook behind the parties back to someone who will touch you and absorb their life force- I'm thinking the only way she can sustain will be to continue using her "healing" in reverse and obsorb peoples life force to survive.

    Quote Originally Posted by davidjgalloway View Post
    I like this one, but I think I'd like it even more if it went wrong. So sure, he has this plan, but what if only parts of him survive the upload? Or it is faulty in another way, so the clone is missing crucial parts of him, and that creates problems. Just because he had a solution doesn't mean he gets a free pass and has it work perfectly. It could be he messed up, or that the process is interrupted/compromised in some way by another character that leads to this. For instance, all well and good to say he gets to upload himself, but what if he dies by a head wound and his memories/personality is damaged?
    I feel you, I think if we go with an android type reboot for him rather than a clone, he can have a lot of quirks with his armor. He could turn from a zaney mad scientist to someone who may build into his suit something that can absorb essence and use it to fight or gain power- or just have a lot of issues with his suit.

    This is a guy that built a core in his chest with a detonaters et up to his heart- if his heart stops for whatever reason, every explosive charge in his abandoned city goes off at once. So no one messes with him generally.


    I see both your points about the significance of death. A lot of people die in the novel, for real, with no chance of comming back.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Sorry I'm so long winded!
    Sera needs you! [YA dystopian fantasy]

    Follow this link to Amazon:

    https://www.amazon.com/dp/B072MRC157

  6. #6
    ....... Harlequin's Avatar
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    A character can still be present while dead--I think that's one of my favorites to read/write about. Their influence, legacy, and presence can still be put in, just as in real life when someone significant to you dies; the echo remains.
    ďIs it possible that the relationship between humanity and evil is similar to the relationship between the ocean and an iceberg floating on its surface? Both the ocean and the iceberg are made of the same material. That the iceberg seems separate is only because it is in a different form. In reality, it is but a part of the vast ocean.Ē
    -- Liu Cixin

  7. #7
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin Rsinster's Avatar
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    I have a character who dies in the beginning of a series (he's the father of the MC, who is a 13yr old blind boy who fights demons) who later is revealed to have been there all along in the form of a Demon Lord. Basically, he fought a demon lord and won...but the price of winning was to have to take the Demon Lord's place and lose his physical body in the process. It becomes a bit of a sticky wicket when his son, the demon slayer, has to confront him toward the end of the series.

    - - - Updated - - -

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by Harlequin View Post
    A character can still be present while dead--I think that's one of my favorites to read/write about. Their influence, legacy, and presence can still be put in, just as in real life when someone significant to you dies; the echo remains.
    Good point. I think this was one of my favorite elements of the Harry Potter series, especially toward the end.

  8. #8
    practical experience, FTW Cekrit's Avatar
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    I hear you all, thank you for the input as well. I do enjoy Rsinster's idea as well ( though no worries i wont do somethign similar) its just an interesting take of a sort of false death, a stipulation to an event. Thats cool.

    As for Harlequin, I agree as well. Sage, my MC starts the first novel being able to enter a sort of labrynth while in a meditative trance, eacg room in the maze allows her to relive sporatic memories evactly as they happened. As the series progresses she geins more control over this randomness and can go to specific places in her memory vault. Further, she develops the ability to remember other peoples memories.

    So even if someone dies I can still have them have scenes and prescence through her ability?
    Sera needs you! [YA dystopian fantasy]

    Follow this link to Amazon:

    https://www.amazon.com/dp/B072MRC157

  9. #9
    Fantasy Tourist knight_tour's Avatar
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    In my sci-fi novel one of the main characters has turned himself into an AI that roams the Web and still maintains a relationship with his son. He was a famed genius who had made the Web safe again with his 'Sentry code' that destroyed all viruses and spam, and near the end of his life he worked on code that would mimic the workings of a human mind via digital data downloaded from his own brain. He worked so hard at it that it gave him a stroke and he barely managed to complete his work before he died.

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  10. #10
    I aim to misbehave Myrealana's Avatar
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    The inciting incident in my first novel is the death of the MC's mentor, only, he's a telepath who implants a piece of his consciousness in her mind. Over the course of the book, she gradually becomes aware that someone else is influencing her actions and decisions until the end when they actually work together to defeat the big bad.
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  11. #11
    Derailed WriteMinded's Avatar
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    Well, it's all about the fun of being a writer. You are god like. Things happen as you say they do and only as you say they do.

  12. #12
    Aerospace engineer turned writer Laer Carroll's Avatar
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    I suspect most fantasy readers will accept as real just about anything if the writing is vivid enough. It especially helps if the incredible events are surrounded by nitty-gritty or conspicuously ordinary credible events.

    I'd also suggest keeping explanations and justifications down as much as possible, and letting the events themselves convince your readers.
    Last edited by Laer Carroll; 07-18-2017 at 09:18 AM.

  13. #13
    Have pen, will travel Cindyt's Avatar
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    I killed off two people who played important parts in my books and deserved another appearance. One is seen in a full-length mirror. The other is an active feeling her boyfriend gets.
    The only thing you can't fix is a blank page.--Bonnie Hearn Hill

  14. #14
    practical experience, FTW Richard W. Fairbairn's Avatar
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    I liked this query. I get really attached to my characters and find myself reluctant to actually kill them off! In my latest episodic work, I've actually rewritten the first part so that a character will live rather than die. This is because I liked writing him so much, I figured he had too much left to give. It turned out making the story much better, as his survival opened the door for a change that made things more compelling. At least I hope they did.

    Anyway, I will be bringing back dead characters in subsequent episodes as they will be involved in back story flashbacks. I hope that I'll throw the reader a little by changing their view of a character they might not have mourned, once they learn more about the person retrospectively!

    best wishes

    R
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  15. #15
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    In my first novel I did it twice. Only characters with special magic can be resurrected, and only under special circumstances. Both times it was main characters who were killed and returned. The first was the main female character. She had to 'die' so she could meet and hate the antagonist she would later defeat. Her twin found a talisman, figured out how to use it, and rescued her twin, who was stuck in the underworld, moments before the mummification process was started.
    At the end of the story, the male MC died of natural causes, but he is very special. The Neteru (gods) mummified him in a special way and put him in a special room where time doesn't exist. The combination of the room and the way he was mummified allowed for his resurrection.
    The third death in my story, the character stays dead because he is a moral and therefore can't be brought back.

  16. #16
    Death and the afterlife are my favorite themes to read/write about. As others have mentioned, I think it’s important to be thoughtful about it and not consistently bring all dead characters back to life (in the same or different ways)—it devalues the stakes of death.

    In my trilogy the MC dies but his consciousness lives on in the afterlife, which is a formless, timeless world of pure energy and idea. He can experience a copy of the real world with various times meshed together, and has to learn how to navigate his focus through past/future to find the objective “present moment” in which the other characters exist and act. This is the only moment he has any influence on. Later on, it’s possible for his soul/consciousness to enter into a physical body again. There are pretty clear mechanics and limitations overall.

  17. #17
    Seashell Seller Layla Nahar's Avatar
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    oh, that's easy. Just freeze them in carbonite. (or something like it - kind of like Merlin. Ok, it was a tree, but, it was a lot like carbonite in what it accomplished...)
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  18. #18
    practical experience, FTW Tanydwr's Avatar
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    Despite being dead, Rebecca de Winter overshadows the living so much that Rebecca (Daphne du Maurier) is named for her. She's kept alive in the memories, description and fanaticism of other characters. Though admittedly not SF/fantasy, it's still shows how forceful a deceased character can be, and how their influence reaches beyond the grave. Similarly, I recently saw a play called Rehearsal for Murder, where the deceased is present throughout the play as it uses a combination of 'rehearsal' and flashbacks, again retaining the influence of the dead (it also had a twist I absolutely did not see coming, so I loved it for that!).
    Amateur etymology: an excellent way to complicate your novels.

  19. #19
    Beastly Fido Roxxsmom's Avatar
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    If there are speculative elements in a novel, you can certainly have someone die but still be present in some way. I've read novels where deceased characters existed as ghosts, as reincarnations, as algorithms in computers (anyone remember the original, British, Max Headroom), or disembodied voices inside another character's head, or an entity that can be communed with when a living character enters a certain state of mind, or via magic. Oh, and there's the vague and ambiguous signs approach too.

    Mercedes Lackey (in her Valedemar books--whited out for spoiler) often slips deceased characters from earlier books in as reincarnated equine "companions" in later ones. Robin Hobb (spoiler) resurrected the wolf, Nighteyes, as a sardonic voice inside the protagonists' head in her most recent novels. Those are only a couple of examples among many.

    If your novel is a work of contemporary or real-world historical fiction that is meant to include this kind of thing, it's probably a good idea to at least hint that the paranormal might be "real" in your novel's setting, so it doesn't feel like a cheat or deus ex machina if the dead person ends up affecting the plot later on. I've also read novels where it's never made clear if the dead person is "real" or if they only exist inside the mind of a pov character. Judy Blume did this in one of her adult novels, which took place in the real world and dealt with an actual historical event.
    Last edited by Roxxsmom; 09-22-2017 at 11:58 PM.
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  20. #20
    practical experience, FTW
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    Terry Pratchett was quite good at this.

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    Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it.

    -- Terry Pratchett

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