Readers become angry with the killing of a character

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lizmonster

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Might be good to take a tally of all your characters and look at how fleshed out each one is. And maybe do the Bechdel test. I find it necessary to take a step back and look at the make up of my cast. It’s tricky, but worth doing because inclusivity is important to me.

This. It's an interesting exercise, if nothing else. I've gender-changed a number of characters because I wanted to make sure I wasn't reinforcing my own biases. I've found it educational in ways I didn't expect.
 

eqb

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And maybe do the Bechdel test.

This. Granted the Bechdel test is a pretty low bar, but it's amazing how many books and movies fail.

I find it necessary to take a step back and look at the make up of my cast. It’s tricky, but worth doing because inclusivity is important to me.

And this. Double check not only your main cast, but also secondary and background characters. It's not only a matter of inclusivity, but accuracy as well. Lots of the world consists of people who aren't white men.
 

eqb

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This. It's an interesting exercise, if nothing else. I've gender-changed a number of characters because I wanted to make sure I wasn't reinforcing my own biases. I've found it educational in ways I didn't expect.

Yeah, it's easy to be blind to our own cultural assumptions.

Oh, tangentially, here's a great article from Kate Elliott about writing women characters into epic fantasy without quotas:

https://www.tor.com/2016/03/23/writing-women-characters-into-epic-fantasy-without-quotas/
 

K Robert Donovan

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1. As Sage suggested, I would ask your readers why they were upset: upset in a good way, or upset in a “oh FFS, not another bloody fridge scene” way?

2. The way you describe your female chars as opposed to male chars is very different. It feels to me like your female chars aren’t as well fleshed out as the male chars and are being treated as plot devices to further the MMC’s journey. Your description of FC 1 and 2 are basically all centered around the MMC. Based on this, yeah, I think what’s happened is a classic fridging. First, you say it’s to shock the reader. Then you say it’s to introduce a weakness for the MMC (which people have pointed out how problematic this is). Then you say it’s to further the MMC’s story...I mean, none of it is about FC’s character arc coming to a satisfying end the way Ned Stark’s arc did.

3. How many female characters do you have and do they have their own character arcs that are independent of the male chars? Cause you said you’ve killed off several male chars before the first female char dies, but is that because most of your characters are male? Might be good to take a tally of all your characters and look at how fleshed out each one is. And maybe do the Bechdel test. I find it necessary to take a step back and look at the make up of my cast. It’s tricky, but worth doing because inclusivity is important to me.

1. I am meeting with one of the readers this afternoon to discuss her concerns. She has already told me that she is ok with the end and excited for the next steps, but I want to see if there are some ways to better address the death, or possibly rewrite the story arc a little.

2. F1 has her own story arc. She and her brother are competing as heirs to their father's seat as ruler of their province. The father is dying, the son has rights to the Seat, but the daughter (F1) has determined that, since she is the oldest child, screw what the laws say, she's a better fit to rule. Part of her motivation for her attraction to the MC is she wants his influence to help usurp her brother and take control of the province. The MC is trying to stay out of the way but gets sucked into the succession competition.

2. If anything, the story has evolved to be more focused on F1 and her brother(the main antagonist in the story). When their father finally dies, the s... hits the fan and the story begins to blow up. The MC attempts to navigate his way out from the succession struggle.

3. I have three main female characters, three more with medium roles, and another 3-4 minor female characters. F1 has the largest role in the entire book and competes with the MC for page attention. F2 has a larger presence earlier in the book and then at the end with the final climax that ends with her death. F3 enters midway through the book and progressively takes on a larger role. There is an F4 who is a 15 yr old who provides some support but has a minor role. F4 will assume a larger role in Book 2. There is also an F5 who checks the humor box throughout the book but her role is minor - she is an older middle-aged woman, full of spunk and energy.

So I think my count of female characters is good. And as I stated above, F4 will move into a larger role in books 2 and probably 3.

EDIT - I forgot about a character - the mother of F1 has a medium role and pops in and out of the story.
 
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Woollybear

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It's also fun to word count he/him/his and she/her/hers along the same lines.

It's fun to count how many lines of dialog come from men, and how many from women.

It's fun to see how many times the women are the ones soliciting information (and from men) and how many times the men are soliciting information (and from women.)

Writing is fun.
 

K Robert Donovan

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Do any of the named female characters have a conversation about something other than a man?

Yes, the vast majority of the content is non-romantic. What little romance there is just one element of many. It is not a romance novel by any stretch of the imagination.

The women contained in my story are not there to check a romance box. Yes, some interest develops between characters but it's not central to the book.

F1 is vying for the Seat of her province (P2) and fighting against her brother for the right to rule.
F2 co-rules province 1 (P1) and handles all the administrative duties of government on her own when her brother is gone. She also mounts the defense of her town and keep and eventually dies in the defense of her people.
F3 serves F1 but eventually allies herself to MC1 for non-romantic reasons that I won't disclose.
F6 is a wealthy heiress who, with the combined fortune of her late husband (she's rumored to be a black widow), controls a vast trade network that also doubles as an intelligence arm and spy network in the service of F1. She is a petite, unassuming woman, in the public eye, who, behind closed doors, is one of the more powerful people in the Province and surrounding lands.
F7 is the mother of F1 and sides against F1 in favor of her son, the main antagonist. But as the story evolves she grows to regret her allegiance with her son, and hope for the success of her daughter.

Hopefully that paints a non-romantic picture for you of the roles the women of my book take in the story. The book contains drama, action, intrigue, humor, tension, sadness, romance, betrayal, and whatever other conflict that I can incorporate.
 

JJ Litke

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On that topic :

The woman dies.

She dies to provide a plot twist. She dies to develop the narrative. She dies for cathartic effect. She dies because no one could think of what else to do with her.

This.

I needed faults, weaknesses, and defeats to make him more realistic.

How is killing off another character giving him a fault, a weakness, or making him realistic? It doesn't accomplish any of that.

Aside from the fridging aspect (which is bad enough if that were the only problem), this is going for the lowest-hanging fruit of character development.
 

BethS

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I appreciate you sticking with me, especially since I get stuck on stuff like this, which is totally not your fault. :)

But I don't know what you mean by "weak male character" any more than I know what you mean by "strong female character." I get hung up because terms like "strong" and "weak" tend to be tied to heavily gendered stereotypes, especially in fantasy. If they're not meant that way, that's fine! But I suppose I'm looking for less abusable adjectives to use.

Just me, and fwiw, but when I think of the term "strong [whatever] character," I see it as a complex individual, a person of backbone, with a personal moral code. A person, IOW, of strong character. Not without flaws, of course, but able to resist or overcome them. A "weak" character, to me, would be one that's lacking that inner strength and is always at the mercy of his or her inner cravings and temptations.
 

cornflake

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Yes, the vast majority of the content is non-romantic. What little romance there is just one element of many. It is not a romance novel by any stretch of the imagination.

The women contained in my story are not there to check a romance box. Yes, some interest develops between characters but it's not central to the book.

F1 is vying for the Seat of her province (P2) and fighting against her brother for the right to rule.
F2 co-rules province 1 (P1) and handles all the administrative duties of government on her own when her brother is gone. She also mounts the defense of her town and keep and eventually dies in the defense of her people.
F3 serves F1 but eventually allies herself to MC1 for non-romantic reasons that I won't disclose.
F6 is a wealthy heiress who, with the combined fortune of her late husband (she's rumored to be a black widow), controls a vast trade network that also doubles as an intelligence arm and spy network in the service of F1. She is a petite, unassuming woman, in the public eye, who, behind closed doors, is one of the more powerful people in the Province and surrounding lands.
F7 is the mother of F1 and sides against F1 in favor of her son, the main antagonist. But as the story evolves she grows to regret her allegiance with her son, and hope for the success of her daughter.

Hopefully that paints a non-romantic picture for you of the roles the women of my book take in the story. The book contains drama, action, intrigue, humor, tension, sadness, romance, betrayal, and whatever other conflict that I can incorporate.

EQB didn't ask about romance. He asked if any of the women have a conversation about something other than a man. Interesting where your mind goes, though.
 

Ari Meermans

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Yes, the vast majority of the content is non-romantic. What little romance there is just one element of many. It is not a romance novel by any stretch of the imagination.

The women contained in my story are not there to check a romance box. Yes, some interest develops between characters but it's not central to the book.

F1 is vying for the Seat of her province (P2) and fighting against her brother for the right to rule.
F2 co-rules province 1 (P1) and handles all the administrative duties of government on her own when her brother is gone. She also mounts the defense of her town and keep and eventually dies in the defense of her people.
F3 serves F1 but eventually allies herself to MC1 for non-romantic reasons that I won't disclose.
F6 is a wealthy heiress who, with the combined fortune of her late husband (she's rumored to be a black widow), controls a vast trade network that also doubles as an intelligence arm and spy network in the service of F1. She is a petite, unassuming woman, in the public eye, who, behind closed doors, is one of the more powerful people in the Province and surrounding lands.
F7 is the mother of F1 and sides against F1 in favor of her son, the main antagonist. But as the story evolves she grows to regret her allegiance with her son, and hope for the success of her daughter.

Hopefully that paints a non-romantic picture for you of the roles the women of my book take in the story. The book contains drama, action, intrigue, humor, tension, sadness, romance, betrayal, and whatever other conflict that I can incorporate.
[emphasis mine]

I've been following the thread with a great deal of interest and up 'til now I've been moving right along with everyone else on the fridging issue; it's big and you need to stop fighting what you're being told. So there's that.

That part I placed in bold? Yeah, that's throwing red flags all over the field. Conflict must be central to the story goal and absolutely must further the story narrative; an author does not add challenges and conflict to tick checkboxes.

Also, unless you are intending to write a 17-volume answer to GOT, you've got too much going on with too many characters. Even though I've been keeping up with the thread, I no longer know just whose story this is.
 

shadowsminder

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Based on the short summaries here, I think this sounds like a case if fridging, or using the success/failure measure based on saving or getting the girl, of using a love interest's death to make room for a more convenient love interest (in the second book), and of killing off a mother to orphan another primary character (if I read the line correctly). Those tropes are common in otherworld fantasy with a straight, presumably-White, male lead. These tropes, plus rape. I'm not sure that would shock anyone unless you set up expectations that this book is different.

Your readers' reactions are concerning. That's what you have to go on, right? Two were angry. One said she wanted reassurance good would win out in the end of the series. That's perhaps the biggest desire among Fantasy readers as a whole, so it's a big deal.

Did any of the other five express concerns, or are they eager for the next book? I ask because I think there's a potential problem in the novel's introduction, where most expectations are set, when readers feel cheated by the conclusion.

Otherwise, you might've had two readers whose favorite character you killed off. I know I'm reluctant to throw myself back into a story after losing a favorite character. You might want to check to see who those readers can connect as strongly with in the second book. Then, can you highlight that character at the end of the first book?
 
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Roxxsmom

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This. Granted the Bechdel test is a pretty low bar, but it's amazing how many books and movies fail.

This. Or just barely pass, including books where the main protagonist is female and the book is written by a woman. It's amazing how often a FMC will be alone in a sea of men (smurfette principle) or only regard other female characters as rivals or annoyances, or simply never speak to them about anything other than the men. Then there's the whole being filtered through a male gaze thing, even when in the viewpoint of a female character (all those female characters who spend a lot of time thinking about their bodies and breasts).

Things have improved in recent years, at least in the authors I've been reading, but I'm amazed at how many of the books I read when I was younger have these problems.

Yes, the vast majority of the content is non-romantic. What little romance there is just one element of many. It is not a romance novel by any stretch of the imagination.

.

As others have said, a story needn't be romantic in nature to fail the Bechdel test. If there is only one woman with lines in a story, she won't be talking to other women about anything. This is really common in action movies. Also, if there are just two women, and everything important in the story is being done by men, they will probably be talking about what the men are doing, even if they have no romantic interest in them at all. Imagine a story with two female doctors working in a hospital where all the other doctors and all the patients whose cases impact the story are men. Even when two women are talking about how sexist and repulsive all the men they work with are, they are still talking about the men.

Nor do romances always fail the Bechdel test. I've certainly read plenty of romances where the women characters have female friendships and have interests and goals unrelated to men (and who talk about them).

The reason the Bechdel test can be a warning light is it suggests there's a huge imbalance in the number of male and female characters with speaking roles (still incredibly common in movies and television) and/or that the plot centers completely on the men.

Also note that the Bechdel test isn't the end all or be all of feminism in stories. It's possible to have a story pass it if there are two named women who talk to one another about how hot their bodies are, or who talk about something that reinforces gender stereotypes in another way.
 
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lizmonster

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As others have said, a story needn't be romantic in nature to fail the Bechdel test.

My first novel doesn't pass the Bechdel test, but that's mostly because for the majority of the book my two female POV characters aren't co-located. Still feel pretty comfortable with my feminist credentials. :)

It's not a perfect measure for individual works, but it can say a lot about trends.
 

eqb

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FWIW, Twilight passes the Bechdel test.

True, passing doesn't guarantee anything other than two named women have a conversation that's not centered around a guy. Which is why it's depressing so many movies and books fail. The two female characters don't even need to be the main characters--secondary ones count as well. But so many books and movies have only a handful of named female characters.

Patty's point about dialog is also relevant--do the male characters get more dialog? And is their dialog considered more important?
 

Roxxsmom

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My first novel doesn't pass the Bechdel test, but that's mostly because for the majority of the book my two female POV characters aren't co-located. Still feel pretty comfortable with my feminist credentials. :)

It's not a perfect measure for individual works, but it can say a lot about trends.

This is also true. There can be excellent reasons for an individual novel or film to fail the Bechdel test, even when it has a number of female characters in it. There can also be excellent reasons for a story or setting to be male dominated and focused entirely, or almost entirely, on male concerns. A movie set in a WWII submarine, a medieval monastery, or in an all-boy's school, isn't going to have a lot of women in it.

The concern is definitely why so many more stories deemed worth telling have been focused on men and all-male settings, though, and why women often seem to be absent or peripheral in settings where one would logically expect them to be present in equal numbers as men.

And it's not just in fiction. News (and historians) often glosses over female heroes and other women who did consequential things, focusing on the men who confirm societal biases about what heroes look like. How many people know that there were female first responders in the 911 attacks, for instance (and yes, some died too), or that there are 911 widowers? How many people remember that one of the people who helped subdue Gbby Gifford's attacker t was a woman (her name is Patricia Maisch)?

It's all part of a self-reinforcing cycle, and it leads to writers of all genders having biases.
 
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Woollybear

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In my built world, women earn twice what men earn for equal work. There are legitimate, biological and sociological in-world reasons established for this, and these are provided in the appendices. The fact that women earn twice what men earn for equal work really doesn't impact the storylines. It's just a fact of the world.

The pushback I've gotten on this idea is uniformly from men, who have no issue with other world building oddities I've created (like the idea that some people can manipulate time.) Take from that whatever you will.

What I took from the pushback is that pushing against accepted norms that benefit one demographic in our 'real' society is important. Incidentally, as a result of the pushback, from men, about the not-equal-pay status on my world, the women on the as-yet unexplored continent on my world will have the vote, and men won't.

And the men on this as-yet unwritten continent will be fine with not having the vote. I'm certain there are ways to write this so that one can see the possibility of it. I'm also certain it will be uncomfortable.
 
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Roxxsmom

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In my built world, women earn twice what men earn for equal work. There are legitimate, biological and sociological in-world reasons established for this, and these are provided in the appendices. The fact that women earn twice what men earn for equal work really doesn't impact the storylines. It's just a fact of the world.

I suppose it could be an example of how people have difficulty suspending disbelief for premises that represent relatively small departures from our norms, as opposed to completely impossible magical world-building premises one expects in fantasy, like large flying lizards or people who can shoot fireballs from their fingertips. Few fantasy novels seem to have historically explore how things like the presence of magic might send ripples into other aspects of daily life. Fantasy societies are often represented as what is popularly supposed to be the "period norm" aside from the magic--in everything from gender roles to how ecosystems are organized and how agriculture is practiced to architecture.

I also suspect some of the objections is because some people (not all of them men, though many are) are desperate to believe that the societal norms we're are used to (with men on top) are immutable reflections of human biology that can't be tweaked, even in a fantasy novel, without making those readers very uncomfortable.

Again, it comes down to knowing one's target readers.
 
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Woollybear

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:) I have no idea who my target readers are. :) (which probably explains my lack of traction.)

Doing well to figure out the story before I die.

Yeah--it's funny how things like floating islands on Pandora are hunky dory, but don't mess with money, babe, do not mess with finances.
 
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lizmonster

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:) I have no idea who my target readers are. :)

Hey, me neither! :)

Doing well to figure out the story before I die.

In all seriousness, I really believe every writer is their own first target reader. If you don't like your own work, for sure nobody else will.
 

eqb

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Fantasy societies are often represented as what is popularly supposed to be the "period norm" aside from the magic--in everything from gender roles to how ecosystems are organized and how agriculture is practiced to architecture.

And yet, people's concept of the "period norm" is way off the mark. Take a look at Kate Elliott's essay that I linked to earlier. And there's not only the faulty gender assumptions, but faulty assumptions that "accurate fantasy" means all white people. If you want to be historically accurate, you'd include POC at all levels of society.
 
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K Robert Donovan

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I would like to express my gratitude for the constructive comments and insights shared as pertaining to my core concern of killing off a main character at the end of my book. It's been educational and has provided me much to think about. Thank you.

As an update, I met today with three of my developmental readers and we discussed a few subjects. The main subject was the death of Female 2. I learned that the death was all the more devastating because, just three chapters prior, another main character and three very likeable secondary characters all died in an ambush. So the death of F2 was the final straw and upset the readers. Though they had come to terms with the death(s), they were still interested in exploring an alternate story arc - so was I. So we spent about an hour discussing alternative story lines for F2 that would continue into book 2. It was a very constructive discussion and I came away from it agreeing to save F2 and rewrite the concluding chapters for her. We batted around some interesting ideas that could add some intriguing options for the future story.

Again thank you for your input, thoughts, ideas, resources, and everything else constructive shared in this thread. My whole purpose is to improve my story, improve my writing, and create as engaging and captivating a story as possible.

Thank you. All the best,

KRD
 
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