Kill Revive Kill

Mouse

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What are your thoughts on the situation where a character is killed, then brought back to life, only to be killed off permanently later on (either in the next book, or later in the story)? And any examples where this is done? I don't need any where they're killed and brought back as that's a pretty common thing.

Ta.
 

Jo Zebedee

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What are your thoughts on the situation where a character is killed, then brought back to life, only to be killed off permanently later on (either in the next book, or later in the story)? And any examples where this is done? I don't need any where they're killed and brought back as that's a pretty common thing.

Ta.

The Mummy by Anne Rice


I liked it okay as a plot line :)
 

Mouse

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Ah, oh yeah I can imagine it working in a Vampire/Mummy sort of situation! How about for normal old humans?
 

Mouse

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There will be a reason. At the moment it's simply because I don't want to write this particular character again!
 
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-K2-

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A recent one with death/brought back to the extreme would be Edge of Tomorrow. Permanently, however, I'm not sure.

K2
 

Mouse

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I know there are lots of killed and then brought back. I'm asking about killed, brought back and then killed PERMANENTLY.

Would this not annoy readers or seem a pointless thing to do?
 

ctg

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Would this not annoy readers or seem a pointless thing to do?

Like I said, you'll need to give them a reason. If the character was brought back because it was possible, then it's okay and expected. But if not, they're going to ask for reasons. You might even use the second killing straight away, if it fits your plot, and show the reader he or she is not going to come back.
 

Toby Frost

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I think this is one of those "As long as it's done well" things. The main problem, I'd think, is that it sets a precedent for other characters, so I'd be inclined to do it towards the end of the story as a one-off. You don't want the reader thinking that anyone can be brought back at any time, as that would weaken the suspense of it all.
 

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Not quite the same thing, but I've been annoyed in TV shows when someone is nearly (or is thought to be) killed, survives, then dies pretty soon afterwards in an unnecessary/pointless way. To me it smacks of deliberate emotional manipulation. But there two things are important: (1) the time frame -- so if someone survives in series one and eventually dies in series four, that wouldn't be quite so bad; (2) the pointlessness -- if the character dies because of the injuries originally sustained, or eg deliberately sacrifices him/herself, that would also work.

So here, I think it would help if there's a good long gap between first death and final death -- so perhaps not happening in the same novel -- and the final death is for a good and valid reason within the terms of the plot.

However, with a death and a resurrection there's another problem. Why can't the character be resurrected again? Any hint of a made-up belated explanation ("Oh dear, she can only be resurrected once") ie something that isn't set up before the first death and/or resurrection could be seen as trying to put a patch over a large plot hole and be potentially annoying.

If you don't want to write the character, why not just let him/her die first time round? Or if there has to be a resurrection for plot purposes, why not have it limited in time? Ah, just thought of a novel where that happens.

This is what happens in Sabriel by Garth Nix. Sabriel can revive the dead under certain circumstances, and when she learns her father has died, she goes and fetches him from the realm of the dead. But it's only for a predetermined length of time, though I can't now recall why that was (other than it made for a good tear-jerking story...) perhaps because he'd passed so many of death's gates? It's not on all fours with your case, as we don't see the father prior to hearing of his death, so we're not invested in his life, nor annoyed that he dies twice.
 
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Elckerlyc

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Yes, I suppose it can be done, but...
The first time your character dies should be an event that brings the plot forwards, it must somehow serve a purpose. Bringing him/her back to life should be at least plausible and somehow necessary. The second time... well, everybody dies (a final time [that sounds odd!]) eventually. You could make it so that it is obvious from the reviving on that it is only a temporarily reanimation and the character will die anyway.

Bringing a character back to life seems quite prolific in some TV-series, with the intention to pull some emotional strings. Don't do that in your story.
 

Abernovo

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I wouldn't have a problem with it, so long as it makes sense. The thing that came to mind was Highlander, where the immortals could effectively die (even if only for a second), and then carry on, but if they died in a specific way, that was it.

You could compare that with vampire legends where they die, and are resurrected to live forever, but have specific things which are fatal to them.

Or several of the tri-fold deaths invoked in Celtic geas legends, where someone cannot be harmed unless they transgress principle X, at which point they die terrible deaths such as having spear thrust through their heart, then falling off the cliff onto the rocks below, and the sea subsequently flowing over them; any one of those would not have been permanently fatal on their own to an immortal being (or someone mortal but favoured by the Gods), but the combination of all three, invoked by breaking the geas put upon them is. Tolkien used a similar idea for the death of the witch-king, with Eowyn explaining, "I am no man!" (I love that scene in the film!)

Also, some people do die, but are resuscitated, and go on to live life, only to be hit by a bus two years later. Sometimes, life/fate/the universe has a dark sense of humour.

tl;dr: give a good reason for the second death to be permanent, and I think it's be fine.
 

Elckerlyc

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give a good reason for the second death to be permanent, and I think it's be fine.
Would it not be more logical, natural, to say: "give a good reason for the first death not to be permanent, and I think it's be fine."

Up to a certain point it would matter if this character is a MC or not. Killing off MC´s is usually frowned upon by the most readers.
 

Mouse

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I forgot about Sabriel.

Hmm. Thanks all. There's definitely a reason for the first death not to be permanent and I can get an explanation in for the permanent second death, which would happen in the second book. I just really don't want to write the character again and I think just having them leave is a bit weak.
 

Abernovo

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Would it not be more logical, natural, to say: "give a good reason for the first death not to be permanent, and I think it's be fine."
?
Honestly, I think it's saying the same thing, just from a different standpoint. Explaining why one was, and one was not.

Also, apologies all for the typo: it'd, not it's; I blame autocorrect -- me not noticing it is neither here nor there. ;)

Hmm. Thanks all. There's definitely a reason for the first death not to be permanent and I can get an explanation in for the permanent second death, which would happen in the second book. I just really don't want to write the character again and I think just having them leave is a bit weak.
I think that's fair enough. People do sometimes just leave, and go off on their own lives (sometimes a near-death (or death, in this case) experience, is enough to cause someone to change their life, and go do something else. But you know your own characters. I've read enough of your work to have faith it'll work out.
 

Margaret Note Spelling

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I faced this question a little while back, although not with an actual death/resurrection. It was an incident where the character was believed to be dead (as in an MIA situation) and then returns--and I was thinking of killing him off for reals soon after the MC rediscovered he was alive. But since he wasn't precisely an MC, I was more worried about the emotional impact his second death would have on the MC. She dealt with the "reality" of his death once already. Would it be easier/harder/weirder for her the second time? More crushing? Less? My guess is, it would depend on the temperament of the person. If she allowed herself to feel complete joy when she found him alive, it might hit her harder when he died next time. But if she hadn't yet brought herself to accept the reality that he was back, perhaps to lose him again would simply be another stunning blow to an already-stunned MC.

The effect any character's "death" has on the other characters will play a large (although not necessarily clinching) part in the effect it has on the readers.

Certainly, for me as a reader, if a character had already "died" once (and the event was already dealt with and in the past) I'm less affected the second time, even when they've died for real. It's a story that's already been resolved, suddenly taking up an unexpected epilogue. And in fact, if the first "death" was emotionally satisfying (self-sacrifice, deserved it, or had a strongly plot-moving effect on the other characters--which is the only way a death really ought to be shown, otherwise it's meaningless for the story) then bringing them back to life can tend to seem...unnecessary. Not always. Sometimes it can be handled quite well. They just can't ever be dead weight anymore, or even a sidekick just there for the comic dialogue, because now the reader is trusting that you've brought the character back for a good reason, and not just a gimmick. (And I'm not sure that simply giving them something randomly important to do in the climax is really enough, because I've seen that done, and it still doesn't work--it has to be something that only that character can do. Something personal, possibly. Just not something that could have been done equally well by another character in the same place at the same time.)

So--an established purpose, for me, is typically what makes that kind of plot feel right. A real good reason that the story needs the character to live. Some reason they died too early. That's when resurrection works properly. Leave at least something unresolved in the "dead" character's story, so that there's something to pick up when they're resurrected. And then, when that thing is resolved, they're essentially...free to die again, purpose fulfilled. People write ghosts returning with unfinished business all the time, with the idea that they disappear when their business is finished. Second death.

In the end, for my scenario, I decided to make the "death" situation a little more ambiguous, where the MC isn't quite convinced of the reality of the death and is actually working towards verifying it, while everyone else thinks she's just not letting go. But maybe that was the easy way out.

Hmm. Thanks all. There's definitely a reason for the first death not to be permanent and I can get an explanation in for the permanent second death, which would happen in the second book. I just really don't want to write the character again and I think just having them leave is a bit weak.

If you don't really, really want to write a character into a plot, then I seriously recommend not. It just tends to show.

As for dying, coming back, and then just leaving, I can think of at least one character that happened to (and the behind-the-scenes saga of that character is rather interesting): Carson Beckett, from Stargate Atlantis. The writers killed him off rather pointlessly at the end of the third season, apparently to shake things up a bit, but the resulting fan outcry was massive. They loved the character. They started a huge campaign to get him brought back, and eventually the writers resurrected him as a clone at the end of the fourth season. There was a small plotline about making sure he didn't die again, which they spent almost a full episode on (and in the early fifth season resolved without too much drama)--and then the character just sorta left. Came back in an episode or two, took part in the finale in season five. But both death and point-of-resurrection were rather meaningless as far as the overall plot went (and if you ask me, the character wasn't really that useful in the first place) and so it didn't really end up doing anything except fill up screen time. Which still can be okay, depending on how interesting that particular character is.

Anyway, I suspect if the readers/fans really love a character, then you can probably get away with something like that. If not, all you're doing is inefficiently using space in the story.

Another character in the same show, missing in action around the turn of the third season, was brought back temporarily, as a clone, but it worked because she was there to inform the other characters that the original was dead (which then turned out to be wrong), something they hadn't known before. Something that (kinda) resolved the story. And then that clone died. As an interesting side note, the actor playing that character eventually decided not to return and play her, because she felt that the writers were simply using the character as a kind of carrot for the fans every season, constantly "killing" her and then bringing her back, leaving the whole issue of her survival hanging in space deliberately without resolution. Also, I haven't watched Atlantis' parent series, Stargate SG-1, but apparently they had a main character who literally died and came back at least three or four times.

My family has a favorite saying--"Nobody ever permanently dies in sci-fi."

I think, by now, the sci-fi/fantasy audience ought to be able to take a simple little once-resurrection in stride. It sounds like you'll probably be more-or-less okay whatever you do, unless it's something really stupid. And you're a Chronner, so that's hardly likely. :p
 
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