photo credits: @King_Joffrey
*warning: there are some spoilers for Veronica Roth’s latest book, Allegiant!
I’m visiting twitter today when I saw from my timeline the tweet above, where someone re-tweeted a photo of ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ books bookmarked with each death of character from the series. Though I haven’t started reading the books yet (I insist on start reading them once I got my own hardbound copies of at least upto the 6th book) I’ve been following the TV series adaptation, so I’m at least a bit aware of how the author can easily kill his characters. In fact, I am not yet over grieving with Ned, and Robb Stark death from that series. So thinking about death in fictions, reminds me some of my current reads where major characters were killed by their creators during the process of writing.
If you have read Veronica Roth’s final book to her YA dystopian series, Divergent, it is no spoiler to you how her protagonist, Tris end up in Allegiant. For someone who’s following that series, I am invested to Veronica Roth’s characters already, not only with her major characters, Tris and Four but also their alliance and friends. I root for them and hope only the best for everyone. But having read many dystopian books, I am also aware how bleak and dark their central world is. And with that kind of setting, death is surely unavoidable. Even before reading the first book, I already anticipated lots of casualties as the story push forward. I expected death along the way as I read. I am even ready to let go of the major characters if needed. So Tris’ death is NOT shocking to me.
But what shocked me is that I didn’t feel anything from Tris’ death. I didn’t mourn like what I did when I watch Ned Stark beheaded, or Robb Stark murdered. I didn’t shed any tear like when Augustus Waters of ‘The Fault In Our Stars‘ died in cancer which I already anticipated from the start, or when Mia hall of ‘If I Stay‘ spent her possible remaining days in coma. Even when I go back reading each word slowly about how Tris died, I still felt nothing!
I wasn’t even upset that Tris died. I get why she needs to be the one who make the sacrifices. I totally understand her motivation, but still I think Veronica Roth failed with the execution. Instead of making Tris’ death meaningful it feels more contrived in my opinion.
Sure it is an act of love as Tris traded her own life for her brother Caleb. It also qualified as an act of heroism or noble sacrifice, after all she’s doing it for the greater good. But considering how she end up there in the first place somehow makes the difference.
Losing someone in fiction cannot be compare to losing someone in real life but killing a main character should still feel like lost. Especially those characters we spent a lot of time knowing and understanding. We spent our times reading their stories in a series of books like we spent our times knowing a friend deeper. Losing them by death or by simply ending their stories should at least feel like goodbyes. Because at the end of the day, even a fictional character and fictional world needs to say goodbye. And goodbyes doesn’t always means the end. That we are done with the stories and characters. It just another chapter close from readers experience. And in every end there’s always a lesson. So no matter how a character is killed, or how the story ended, it is how it affected the readers that’s matter. What impact it leaves and what lessons the readers learned from it.
Character death can be one of the best reading moments, as it has the power to trigger something to its readers. If done well, it can be the most memorable and upsetting scene, which in return can be one of the most powerful card of a writer can play in her own hand. It’s like a secret ace he or she can pull to win the readers emotions & feelings. With all that said, death or ending should at least leave impact to the readers.