Created By: Fighteer on March 14, 2013 Last Edited By: Chauer on March 30, 2013
Troped

Character Death

A character dies.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
Note: This emerged from Trope Repair Shop, where it was identified thanks to Missing Supertrope Syndrome. It will be indexed under Death Tropes and Omnipresent Tropes, and is intended to capture many of the Sinkholes that were previously going to Killed Off for Real.

A character dies. Shot, stabbed, fell, blown up, poisoned, succumbed to disease or old age -- whatever the cause, they are kaput, deceased, gone to Heaven (or Hell), kicked the bucket... an ex-character.

In fiction, as in real life, it's all too common, but in fiction, it's often dramatic, occasionally shocking, and frequently undone. Some works have death as an everyday occurrence, while others go out of their way to avoid it. Some call it something else, some never let it stick, and others make damn sure that it sticks. Mooks tend to die a lot; Heroes not so much, unless the story takes a darker turn.

We have a whole index of tropes that talk about the ways to kill characters or cope with their deaths, and an index of ways to reverse those deaths. As Character Death is so common, it is considered an Omnipresent Trope and thus no examples are needed. This marks it as one of the few Death Tropes that does not require a spoiler warning.


No examples, please.
Community Feedback Replies: 51
  • March 14, 2013
    WackyMeetsPractical
    Seriously, How Did We Miss This One? Great write-up. I'm throwing this a hat.
  • March 14, 2013
    Koveras
    Characters die... because people die, generally speaking. How is this a trope and not People Sit On Chairs?
  • March 14, 2013
    Fighteer
    Because characters dying always means something in a story. It's not like grass growing. Your inquiry shows a misunderstanding of what PSOC means. This is an Omnipresent Trope. It is not PSOC.
  • March 14, 2013
    Knight9910
    It should be noted that Characters, Plot, and Setting are also listed as tropes. So no, definitely not PSOC.
  • March 14, 2013
    Tuckerscreator
    What about Killed Off For Real?
  • March 14, 2013
    MagBas
    Killed Off For Real have "and they stay dead." after the "character dies", as the name hints.
  • March 14, 2013
    Fighteer
    We are fixing Killed Off For Real to mean what it's supposed to mean: a permanent death in a work where Death Is Cheap.
  • March 14, 2013
    Koveras
    @Fighteer: I hear you. But if it's about character deaths always being significant in-story events, the title and the laconic should reflect that. By the same logic, "Character eats" may be a trope, too, because if the character doesn't eat, they die, and character death is a trope. :)
  • March 15, 2013
    xanderiskander
    ^ The only time I can think of where a character death would be insignificant is if they were minor character, and they were killed offscreen. In which case nobody would even know if they died or not. So how are those two things the same?

    Actually I'm not even sure about that because even a minor character might could have a small fanbase where someone might question their disappearance. Even Mooks have significance when they die, because by dying they make the main characters look more Bad Ass by comparison.
  • March 15, 2013
    Koveras
    Isn't Anyone Can Die a trope about how characters' deaths are not treated like a big deal (in the objective sense of "the story goes on without them as it did with them")?
  • March 15, 2013
    SeptimusHeap
    No, Anyone Can Die is about the fact that in a given work, not even the protagonists are safe from death.
  • March 15, 2013
    Koveras
    All very confusing.
  • March 18, 2013
    Discar
    Bump.
  • March 18, 2013
    XFllo
    at Koveras: I wonder why you say it's confusing. I'm kind of familiar with these tropes, and it seems fairly clear to me. I suggest you read the descriptions - if you already have, my apologies. But you should always say what is confusing or why, or perhaps which parts of the description.

    Anyone Can Die
    • This death is treated like a big deal. For instance, Mulder's Mysterious Informant Deep Throat in The X Files was a fairly prominent character. Fans never expected that they should have been worried about him. But the writers thought differently and had him shot in season one finale.

    Killed Off For Real
    • On The X Files, however, characters were often assumed dead, only to return back safe and sound. For instance Mulder's nemesis Alex Krycek was left Buried Alive, sealed in a weird building in the middle of nowhere, vomiting the alien black oil. But he got better. When he was shot in the head in one episode of the later seasons, and the audience saw the shooting, he was done for good, and thus Killed Off For Real.

    Death Is Cheap
    • Mulder himself died a few times, mostly every season finale or so, but he got better each time.

    Character Death
    • Scully's father died in one episode of season one. He was not a prominent character (it was his first appearance on the show) and he was not a part of the Myth Arc. He died just to have Scully mourn him and make her suffer.

    I guess it's good that this trope will have no examples on the trope page. But it will be listed on the works' pages, right?
  • March 18, 2013
    StarSword
  • March 18, 2013
    Koveras
    ^^ Thanks for your explanations and double thanks for spoiling the later seasons of The X Files to me. :)

    Anyhow, I still don't see how permanent character death is any more significant than Character Introduction and we don't have a page on that yet.
  • March 19, 2013
    SeptimusHeap
    "We don't have a page on <that thing> so we shouldn't have a page on <that thing>" isn't a good argument against this page's existence. We do have something similar to the latter too - Establishing Character Moment.
  • March 19, 2013
    XFllo
    ^^I'm sorry about the spoiler thing. I thought everybody who was into X Files would be finished with it by now. I'll blank it for the others' benefit.
  • March 19, 2013
    Koveras
    ^^ I am not arguing against creating this page anymore. I am arguing against one-sided view on things. If we decide to cover tropes as broad as Character Death, we also have to cover other similarly broad supertropes.

    ^ Thanks. I got stuck early in season eight...
  • March 19, 2013
    SeptimusHeap
    "Anyhow, I still don't see how permanent character death is any more significant than Character Introduction and we don't have a page on that yet. " is definitively an argument against the existence of the first page.

    At any rate, we all cheer for new missing supertropes to be launched. We just need someone to get to them.
  • March 19, 2013
    shoruke
    My gut says we're missing something. Working back from there...

    I think the problem is that, in the write-up, it's not made clear enough in what ways this is distinct from the various other broad death tropes, like Killed Off For Real or Anyone Can Die. For one thing, the only link to Killed Off For Real in the write-up is on the word "shocking", which doesn't adequately describe what being Killed Off For Real is about.

    Since this page is specifically being made to deal with Pot Holes to Killed Off For Real, I think the write-up should be more explicit about the distinction.
  • March 20, 2013
    Discar
    I agree there needs to be a little more explanation of the differences between the various major death tropes.
  • March 22, 2013
    Discar
    Bump.
  • March 22, 2013
    Treblain
    This seems like a really bad idea to have listed on pages and use as sinkholes. It will just be:

    What value does that have? I'm not saying it shouldn't be a page, but it seems weird to encourage that on the wiki.

    Also, it seems like this is categorizing the wrong kind of death tropes. We already have Sorting Algorithm Of Deadness for differentiating how Mooks die in droves and heroes rarely. If you're talking about the death of a character in a story, then how likely it is that they die and whether they can come back isn't the only concern. Why not talk about why a character is dying and why that death plays a noteworthy role in the story? Tropes like The Character Died With Him, Plotline Death, Stuffed In The Fridge, or Sacrificial Lion would be more in line with that, and those are guaranteed to come with an explanation of the trope's meaning in the story.
  • March 22, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    ^ Like it is told in the note above the description, this is intended to cut down the misuse of Killed Off For Real.
  • March 22, 2013
    Stratadrake
    I'm worried about basic tropability too, since on the one hand a character death is a plot event (though the ramifications of it vary widely depending on who and how), but on the other this is so broad that treating it like an ordinary trope (e.g. in-page examples or citing it in a trope list) feels like crossing the line into PSOC.

    IMHO, the current description would do well as a write-up for Death Tropes -- though on second thought the only distinction between this and the index is that the index includes things that surround a given death and this is solely about the death itself.

    And yes, agreed that something has to be done about Killed Off For Real being used as a pothole for "someone died".
  • March 23, 2013
    Treblain
    If the potholes don't work, then remove them. If I understand the cleanup for Killed Of For Real correctly, there's still going to be cases where it does make sense.

    People are using Killed Off For Real as a pothole because of how it sounds without looking at what it means. I guess it will help to get rid of the bad examples to future users, but 1. all the correct uses will still be there for people to misunderstand and mimic incorrectly, and 2. some people won't even notice and will keep doing it, and they won't switch to Character Death because it doesn't have the finality they're trying to convey.

    Are we going to make a page and do a wick cleanup (one that requires discretion, not just a find-and-replace) in order to encourage Sink Holes to a broad description of death in media at every mention of a death? What does that accomplish?
  • March 24, 2013
    SeptimusHeap
    . some people won't even notice and will keep doing it, and they won't switch to Character Death because it doesn't have the finality they're trying to convey.

    We can't do anything about these people other than removing their editing ability.

    And I have no idea where the "encourage sinkholes" bit comes from. Some examples are misuse for both tropes; others only for Killed Off For Real and these are what this YKTTW is about.
  • March 24, 2013
    Zeego
    This trope needs to exist. I'm giving a hat.
  • March 24, 2013
    DunDun
    If the problem is that people won't notice or that people won't think it sounds like a final death of the character: for the former, put a comment in Killed Off For Real (using percentile markings) at the top of the page and the top and bottom of the examples' sections something like "If the death was a surprise, then it is this trope" or something for editors to notice; for the latter, change this tropes name to something like This Character Has Died or This Character Is Really Dead.

    "Character Death" sounds like it will confuse most editors just like Killed Off For Real does.
  • March 24, 2013
    Discar
    That's not what either trope is. Killed Off For Real is when in a setting where death is not necessarily permanent, this character's is. This trope is simply when a character dies. That's all it is. Maybe they come back, maybe they don't, maybe it's normal for them to come back, maybe it's not, the point is just that they die.

    It's a very high level supertrope.
  • March 24, 2013
    Space_Harpoon
    I agree that we should have this supertrope, I mean all these examples are too specific. Like fighteer said, when a character dies it's significant to the plot, regardless of how they die, how permanent/definite the death is, what priority the character's life is in relation to others, etc. Tossing my hat in the ring, good catch
  • March 24, 2013
    DunDun
    ^^My wording was off, but that's basically what I meant for Killed Off For Real. When you say "It's a very high level supertrope," I get what this is supposed to be, but the description above connotes - to me at least (since connotations are subjective) - that the listed tropes are subtropes while others may not be. Which is exactly why I piped up.

    If the problem is people confusing Killed Off For Real to mean just plain "this character died," then I don't think this trope's name will really connote to people that that is not what Killed Off For Real means. But I'm only one person, and if I'm the only one to feel that way, then I guess I'm just wrong.
  • March 28, 2013
    Ironeye
    I think the "why" and "how" of character death are what make tropes, not that fact that characters die. That being said, I can see the use for this page to draw off sinkholes, but really don't want to see it showing up on example lists, becoming a sort of "rollcall" for everyone who dies in a work. If we can't explain the importance of a character's death, it's not worth noting.
  • March 28, 2013
    MagBas
    If exists no means of resurrection, this is the end of a character's life. This is the importance.
  • March 28, 2013
    Noelemahc
    I argue it is People Sit On Chairs. If a death is done for drama, it can and WILL fall under any other Death Trope. If a death is done for a reason external to the work (f.e. Real Life Writes The Plot, The Character Died With Him, etc), it's an example of that trope. Unless you intend to list any "Mike the Mook is shot by his Boss for the fun of it" occurences (which will be covered by at least What Measure Is A Mook, possibly others), etc, which puts it dangerously close to PSOC territory.
  • March 28, 2013
    SeptimusHeap
    it can and WILL fall under any other Death Trope

    Care to name a specific trope? There isn't one for "dramatic or meaningful death" there last I checked.
  • March 28, 2013
    XFllo
    @ Treblain

    You are saying that people will make edits like this:

    Hopefully not. That's Zero Context Example if I ever saw one ;-) It should be more like this:

    • Character Death: Bob dies in episode 49 after his long struggle with cancer. Even though his wife Alice was prepared for his death, she is absolutely heart-broken and shattered.

  • March 28, 2013
    maxwellsilver
  • March 28, 2013
    ArcadesSabboth
    This should stay example-less.

    And it is ready to launch.
  • March 28, 2013
    Treblain
    ^^^ Why is that better? What have I gained from seeing that example, and what have I gained when a pothole to Killed Off For Real is replaced with Character Death rather than just deleted because it's a clumsy use of potholing? If this is such a high-level trope that it's usually filled by subtropes, it should rarely be seen, not spammed around the wiki uselessly.

    And I still say the focus is off, if that's what the added context would be. If it's called Character Death as opposed to Person Death, then it's about death as it pertains to characters in stories. It should be less concerned with the in-story ramifications and more concerned with what is communicated by the use of the trope as a tool. A death that shocks the audience because death is not the norm for the show. A death that indicates a shift in tone. A death that creates a motivation for another character. A death that happened because the actor left. A death that signifies closure.
  • March 28, 2013
    xanderiskander
    @Treblain & X Fllo: The description says: "As Character Death is so common, it is considered an Ommnipresent Trope and thus no examples are needed"
  • March 28, 2013
    XFllo
    ^ I know, I did read the description. But I assume it's OK to list this trope on works' pages, and each entry needs context.
  • March 29, 2013
    ArcadesSabboth
    There's no need to list it on works pages in a trope list. Normally it makes more sense to list a subtrope.
  • March 29, 2013
    MagBas
    Bump.
  • March 29, 2013
    ArcadesSabboth
    I think this is done and ready to go.
  • March 30, 2013
    MagBas
    With three hats?
  • March 30, 2013
    ArcadesSabboth
    No, I mean it deserves more hats.
  • March 30, 2013
    Telcontar
    It's got them now. (And it did in the past, too.) I also think it's good, and will happily launch it later today.
  • March 30, 2013
    MagBas
    The sponsor is Fighteer.
  • March 30, 2013
    Telcontar
    Who has declared it up for grabs. Now that Doctor Who is finished, I'll do it.
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