Adventures in NaNo-Land – Life or Death

November 18, 2012 at 12:20 am (fantasy, Links, writing) (, , , , , , , , )

I’ve always wondered how genre writers who throw their characters regularly into death-defying situations can justify always having these characters escape unscathed (or only with a few scrapes or bruises.) As painful as it might be to badly damage or kill a beloved character, it adds an extra dimension of realism and the reader is more likely to feel real concern for a character if they know he or she is truly in jeopardy.

All you have to do is look at a genre series where the risk never was really there for the named characters, primary or secondary. The danger becomes a joke, and the person who will get badly hurt or die, the “Red-Shirt,” can be easily identified by their anonymity.

One particular example of a writer’s failure to match outcome to risk is a certain vampire series that presented a battle where the two sides were supposedly evenly matched. The protagonists’ side emerges victorious with only a couple of barely known characters suffering anything in the way of grievous wounds, whereas almost the entire opposing side ends up surrendering or slaughtered. Evenly matched – hunh? The end results suggest there never really was any legitimate threat and the protagonists were either clueless or overdramatizing – sort of like a literary crying of “Wolf!”

Not that I’m saying it’s necessary for a main character or even a secondary one to die or get seriously hurt in every action/adventure story, but if it never happens in a writer’s works, the thrill just won’t be there. Endings will be predictable, with outcomes pre-defined. You can guarantee the protagonists will be spared and everyone safe in the end.

I have written stories where protagonists have died, and I’ve also written several where they’ve all survived. That keeps my endings unpredictable. You can never guarantee exactly what will happen, and anyone reading “The Trading of Skin” who knows my work, knows that nobody is ensured survival…but they might live to see the end.

Here is the link to my latest chapter, entitled “Tragedy” (kind of makes you wonder, eh?):

More tomorrow J


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