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Character Reactions to Death:
I changed accounts.So, as this sparked a protracted derail in another thread, I decided to start this conversation. Simply put, how do you handle character reactions to death (on any scale) in your stories? If you'd like, or if your genre necessitates it, you can replace "death" with "substantial violence."
I am now known as Flyboy.
readI'm actually trying to work that out for one of my stories, because it takes place in the after life. Well, living people are working in the after life. Yeah.
Eye'm the cutest!Since Endless Conflict is a military story and thus has plenty of death the reactions run the gamut from "I'll react later when the incoming stops" to practically yelling the Big "NO!" and blubbering and a lot of variations and types from both extremes and between.
Endless Conflict: Every war ends in time, even supposedly this one.
Writer's Welcome WagonThere's only death in my story (it sends one of the characters into a BSOD), but after an Attempted Suicide is foiled, the person in question goes into quite an emotional breakdown.
We're Having All The FunReally depends on the story and character. I generally do have characters having some emotional reaction (Unless the lack of emotional reaction is a major part of the character). Though, really there are too many variables to make a blanket statement about how I generally do things in regards to death.
All I do, is sit down at the computer, and start hittin' the keys. Getting them in the right order, that's the trick.
It's very much a matter of the individual character for me. In general, I'm always going to lean more towards Angst? What Angst? then Wangst, but character reactions to death are really going to run the full spectrum of possibilities. Except for Big "NO!", anyway - I simply am no longer capable of taking it seriously as a form of grief, so it won't ever show up in my works as that kind of reaction (though I have occasionally used it for rage).
Fuzzy Orange DoomsayerIt depends on both the character and the death. For instance, a character who thinks of another faction as nonhuman may have no problem seeing members of that faction decapitated in front of him, but that doesn't mean he won't suffer significant trauma from being unable to save the life of a member of his own faction. (I think one of the better ways I've handled this is for the killer to abruptly start laughing. He knew full well that his victim had to die, but the fact that he just killed someone—with a kitchen knife, no less—is surreal to him.)
edited 15th Dec '11 7:41:50 PM by feotakahari
That's Feo . . . He's a disgusting, mysoginistic, paedophilic asshat who moonlights as a shitty writer—Something Awful
Shadowed PhilosopherWorst reaction I've had is when character used a recently-developed ability involving explosions to completely massacre a big crowd of Mooks; it doesn't help that the end result leaves a lot of body parts lying around. He ends up kind of half snapping; he's in a very bad way after the battle is over, and after he gets talked down he still flashes back to it on occasion.
Shinigan (Naruto fanfic)
The Eternal FoolSome of my characters are constantly Leaning on the Fourth Wall, so they merely point out that anyone important who dies can likely be revived later if they actually have anything important to add, giving them a generally subdued reaction even when this fate befalls a main character. And then there are characters who outright planned the death and know it's temporary, so they just don't react aside from a mild smirk while thinking everything is going just as they planned. ...yeah, I haven't gotten to write any emotional breakdowns because of that and most other deaths being Faceless Mooks who are literally just off-screen when at all times.
edited 15th Dec '11 10:19:24 PM by burnpsy
I imagine from immediate rages against whoever has done death, to repressed emotions that get unleashed like a wound-up bottle, to outright indifference and depression. Depends on the kind of character.
Rabid FujoshiI wrote a character once who didn't have any overt reaction to death, but he was alexithymic, so he felt things, he just couldn't understand what he was feeling and he was sort of suffering from major depression without realizing or understanding it. Although most of his depression had less to do with killing and more to do with childhood trauma.
SPATULA, Supporters of Page Altering To Urgently Lead to Amelioration (supports not going through TRS for tweaks and minor improvements.)
Who you are does not matter.Most of my characters are reasonably jaded on the subject. It takes someone particularly close or something particularly senseless/disgusting to get a visible reaction out of them among the death of bystanders or allies. It's really in how they approach the death of their enemies that they differentiate. The cast of In The Service tend to be, or quickly get, jaded on this subject. There's really damn jaded with Wolkenritter, who regard the deaths of their enemies as about as significant as the deaths of the hundreds of thousands of germs they kill washing their hands, to only a little jaded, with Tre's inability to remember the faces of anyone's she's killed despite being a cyborg with perfect recall and occasional struggles with whether the necessary act was also moral. (I'm deliberately leaving out the sidestories, but no, Vivio wouldn't take it well at all.) The cast of Night Life varies too; one of the Knight Sabers (excepting Sylia) would probably have a temporary breakdown if they discovered they'd killed an actual human being unless they were seriously provoked, while K-11-2 is almost undoubtedly more sanguine about the prospect due to being much more familiar with death in general.
edited 16th Dec '11 8:23:46 AM by Night
"Remember that you are fighting the machine and the pilot both, but you only have to beat one of them."
thanks for the advice.) Anyway, I only write short stories, but my character's reactions vary. In one story, the main character killed somebody in self-defense, and she was pretty broken up over it even though the guy was a nasty piece of work. She used to be The Ingenue, so there's a "loss of innocence" theme. Sometimes, though, I'll have an all-out creepy Villain Protagonist who gets a sick sense of pleasure from killing. Or I'll have somebody who kills in defense of an innocent and suppresses their feelings, immediately makes sure the innocent in question is alright, and then shortly afterwards the full force of what they've done hits them like a sledgehammer but their main priority is still caring for the person they saved. It depends on the character.
What's the point in giving up when you know you'll never stop anyway?
Exitus Acta ProbatIn Forgotten Lore Phil and Howard are regular people and aren't really used to seeing death. They don't have much of a reaction when it's more abstract, like when at one point a cult leader falls through a portal he was trying to open. Sure, when you think about it, the guy probably did end up dead, but that's different from seeing him actually die. On the other hand, when they get a villain's spell to backfire on himself and cause him to gruesomely die off-panel, they're visibly shaken and feel ill, but console themselves on the fact that if they hadn't done that he'd have killed them with the spell. Zaren't a bit strange case. She doesn't like comitting violence, but she also doesn't have much of a reaction to death and violence. Demons in the setting have a Proud Warrior Race Guy thing going on, and Zaran shares that kind of view. She might not like fighting, but if she has to kill somebody she won't feel guilty afterwards because she doesn't anything find inherently wrong with killing somebody in battle. It also results in her going from "ass-kicking mode" back to "everything's perfectly fine" in no time at all, which is usually played for laughs but I did put a scene in one of the last chapters where it purposefully comes off as kinda unsettling.
Reactions in my works vary from (in one case) just a deep sigh on one end of the spectrum to a complete and total breakdown. Pick a reaction, it's probably somewhere.
"This thread has gone so far south it's surrounded by nesting penguins. " — Madrugada
Stayin' AliveUsually it involves a huge freak out. Most of the one's I've done so far have been first kills though, and they've been pretty horrifying, so that's a bit understandable. In the future, I imagine the first thing I'd do is ask myself "How much do they give a damn/not give a damn?" and run with it from there. That's going to be important, what with my thing for Action/Adventure and Fantasy.
edited 16th Dec '11 4:21:52 PM by Dec
I focus on the character's Backstory (for example, in the Mythology 101 Cycle Alira's been fighting on the front lines of a war for the better part of 500 years, and would be desensitized to it by now; Professor Banks, on the other hand, not so much; and Jim, a cop who has probably had occasion to draw and maybe even fire his weapon before, would be somewhere in between) and personality (for example, in the same series Kylie's kind of a hard case, so she wouldn't show as much emotion in response to death as, say, William) in order to get the proper reaction. I also pay close attention to who's dying around them... there's a certain "justice is served" aspect to villains dying, so people wouldn't get as heartbroken over that. Later on in that series, when main protagonists start dying, the emotional reactions of the characters are much more extreme... pretty much everybody either sheds tears or rages at the heavens except for Kylie (who remains stoic no matter what; the only emotion she's really free with is anger, and she only experiences anger in relation to death if she's failed to kill someone) and Nathan (who prefers to make jokes when main characters die instead).
Jesus saves. Gretzky steals, he scores!
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