Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Dying in Style. Or Not.

Beware . . . beyond here be dragons. Or, in Goodreads terms, Spoilers. You have been warned.

So, dying with style  . . . or, in other words, how do authors keep us engrossed in their worlds after killing off much-loved characters?

I’m sure you know what I mean . . . we’ve all read books in which we’ve gasped, cried or ranted when a character we love is knocked off as a plot device.  

I’m ashamed to admit that I even stopped reading The Knife of Never Letting Go, (which I thought was amazing) because that twit Patrick Ness let Manchee the talking dog die! 

At that point, I was too stressed and exhausted by Todd and Viola’s plight to cope with Manchee’s death. Perhaps if the pace hadn't been so hectic and I'd had time to absorb what was happening, I wouldn't have been so offended. But I was angry, so much so that I even marched the book off to the second-hand bookstore – and that’s really is something, given that I don’t buy books, I adopt them.
Years on, I still haven’t forgiven Ness, so the Knife of Never Letting Go – and the rest of what could have been a humdinger series - remains unread.

In my view, if authors are going to kill off important characters, they must convince us that it's justified and not done only for shock value, or on a whim.

To me, Mockingjay was another book with a whole lot of totally senseless deaths.

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Collins barely left a character standing after Katniss and Co roared through the Capital on their ‘secret’ mission. 

Although most people lamented Prim’s death, it was the almost off-handed reference to Finick’s demise that really got me. By the time Prim snuffed it, I was in such a state of shock that I couldn't grasp that she was gone. Maybe the movie will bring it home for me. 

Yes, I know. I can almost hear you crying that The Hunger Games was about war, and that people die senselessly in war. Sorry, I'm not buying it. People can still die needlessly without their deaths being flippant and matter-of-fact. Collins didn't even give us time to grieve, and in real life, humans always have time for grief - even in the most tragic circumstances.

I just know that at the end of Mockingjay, I felt I needed therapy.

Perhaps I wouldn't feel so strongly about these books if it hadn't been for another author who, in my opinion,  handled her deaths so much better.

JK Rowlings was also required to kill off most of her leading characters, but she didn’t leave me feel drained and shell-shocked. 

Honestly, I can think of few protagonists who have been so stripped of friends and loved-ones as was Harry. Almost everyone who mattered to him, except Hermione, (girl power!) abandoned him at some point, or died. Harry really had to take that final walk into the forest alone.

I've forgotten Todd (I needed to Google Viola's name) and Prim, but I still grieve for Sirius and weep for Dobby. I never want to read The Hunger Games again, (I'm not even sure I'll see the next two movies) but Harry Potter remains one of my favourite series of all time. 

What was the difference in the writing? I'd love to hear your views.


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