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Please close the door and switch on the fun without fail.

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A Formspring question (yes, I do sometimes answer those still, although I have a backlog of 80+ now) that I don't know how to answer:

I don't usually get emotionally involved in fictional stories, but I have been strongly affected by the death of my favorite character. (The story is not Harry Potter, by the way.) How do I move on from this? I am feeling genuinely depressed about it.

I got really upset when Philip Pullman killed a character off in one of his series--but more because it seemed so incredibly senseless, and it was right the red hot second after a relationship had finally come to fruition. I didn't get depressed over it, though--I just refused to read the next book, because I was terrified (as a reader, I mean) what he might do next. I know people got upset over the Harry Potter deaths (MARK, YOU PROBABLY DON'T NEED TO READ THE COMMENTS), but--well, I'd already read the His Dark Materials trilogy Pullman also wrote, and all of these books together convinced me that he had no writerly mercy at all, and I just wasn't ready to put up with what he might do next. So maybe I'll go back and finish that series, I don't know. But it was genuinely I am afraid what he might do next rather than THAT WAS MY FAVORITE CHARACTER, GO TO ALL THE HELLS. So I don't really know how to answer the question of emotional investment. Thoughts?

(Yes, we can include the works of Joss Whedon.)

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(Yes, we can include the works of Joss Whedon.)

Okay, we can. But should we?

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When I read a character death in Dragonlance, one of my favorite pre-teen series, I cried. Nowadays, I just shrug and revert to fanfiction that includes the character. I'm rather sad at how jaded I feel, in retrospect.

I guess I tend to revert to philosophical thinking and ask, which is more real, the character in the book as it was written, or the character in my mind as I experienced it? I'd say the latter, and hold on to the good times, same as I think you would any feeling of loss. All a matter of approach.

Dragonlance was the first time I remember being really sad over the death of a character. I was seriously upset for a couple weeks.

Sometimes I just go into denial. With scifi and fantasy you can always imagine some way to get them back to life. I had that happen in the highlander tv show and Buffy .

Highlander tended to compound the issue by recasting the same actor as a different character later on. (Raven was especially bad about that... one actor, two "big bad" villains, over the course of how many episodes?)

For me fanfiction helps, in a "Oh, I can still read stories about her/him!" kind of way.

Though as a superhero comics fan, it's often a matter of waiting until another writer comes around and brings Favorite Dead Character X back. That's probably affected how I react to character deaths in other mediums as well. And until they come back, fandom does help.

Edited at 2010-09-17 11:40 pm (UTC)

I tend to respond the way you did — I am much less likely to finish the series. Whether I do or not depends also on how invested I am in all the OTHER characters, and how near the death comes to the end of the series. If Rowling had killed off Hermione in Book 5, as some people wondered at the time, that might have been it for me. With Sirius, I felt bad for Harry, but I wasn't so invested in him that I even considered not finishing the books, plus I would have wanted to know what became of the trio.

Killing one of the Trio would have broken my heart. Seriously, I got so invested in the series that if they were killed, albeit heroically, before the Final Battle of Doom?

I would have just.. gone on strike. Forever.

Which series is this? Are you talking about HDM or another one?

Another one. I didn't want to say because that would essentially be a huge spoiler, and it's a series not as many people have read.

Oh man, I sobbed like a fat gassy baby over a certain nonhuman character death in Robin Hobb's Fitz/Fool series. My dog got to sleep on the people bed every night for months after that.

Also, Sun and Jin just about killed me.

Edited at 2010-09-17 11:36 pm (UTC)

I sobbed like a fat gassy baby over a certain nonhuman character death in Robin Hobb's Fitz/Fool series
Oh, my God, yes. I cried so much over that death.

I think Morpheus' death in The Sandman was the one to hit me hardest, I actually moped for a couple of days. Rory in the most recent series of Doctor Who would've been as bad if they hadn't reset it.

I think horrible dystopian situations disturb me more, though. V For Vendetta (the graphic novel, haven't seen the film yet) spooked the shit out of me, as did The Road, The Stand, etc etc. I still have bad dreams about, well, all of them. So it's not so much individual characters as the thought of all-too-possible apocalypses that give me the real-life willies.

That said, killing off my own favourite character in my last NaNoWriMo was the worst ): I still feel bad about it, evil as I am.

I have to say that I almost gave up on Eleven at the moment they killed Rory. But I'm watching it with friends, so we kept on, and I was more than pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be temporary.

Thought? Many. Relevant? Maybe not.

I do tend to get emotionally involved with characters sometimes. One every 3 books/series or so. When that character dies, I scream and shout and send all to the deepest hell I can think of... Then I calm down and keep reading. Does that count as emotional involvement?

I had that kind of disappointment right at the end of the Indigo series by Louise Cooper and I can tell you I wasn't a happy camper. I think I know which Pullman series you're refering to. I haven't gotten there yet but I know what happens and I still want to read even after that. I guess I like to know where the story goes to the bitter end.

YES. I loved the Indigo series until the last book - I haven't actually reread them since, either.

The book you're referring to is Shadow in the North, isn't it?

Because that one scarred me.

Recently I finished reading the Hunger Games series which is pretty much that feeling over and over again until you have a complete emotional breakdown.

Oh, god, The Hunger Games. Ibawled for the last 30 pages or so. God. It just broke me down completely.

Sidenote: was it the Sally Lockhart series because that straight up pissed me off.

To be honest if a series kills off a favorite character I don't get depressed, I just stop reading the series. That's how I deal with it.


It was just so goddamn SENSELESS. Pullman couldn't even wait A DAY. It wasn't even THE NEXT MORNING YET.

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You know, as much as I love and invest myself in fantasy series, I've never really been upset to the point of depression over character deaths.

However, A Prayer for Owen Meany</i? KILLED me. I was distraught for DAYS after the first time I read that. But ultimately, it is fiction, and as wonderful it is to allow yourself to become a part of a fictional world, I have to separate it from reality. Or else I'm going to spend too much time worrying about a situation that hasn't even taken place opposed to what's going on in my real life.

Oh God, Owen Meany. Snot running down my face, hicupping sobs, the works. And I couldn't stop thinking about it for weeks. Same thing with The Little Prince and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. But I wasn't grieved in the sense of losing a loved one, you know? Deeply moved on so many levels. But not like someone I knew in real life had died. I never have a problem making that distinction.

I don't really deal well with character death when it involves characters I'm really attached to. I don't even read character-death fanfiction for them if I can possibly avoid it.

I'm trying to remember the last time a character death that I wasn't expecting really affected me; because I'm really good nowadays at avoiding it before it happens. Still, you can't always anticipate it. Even character deaths that I *expect* can leave me depressed and crying (see: almost every book there is about some extraordinary real-life pet, like a dog or cat or owl, where the book extends to the end of the pet's life; oh god).

Mostly these days, though, such a death that comes on me unawares will make me angry rather than depress me. Maybe that's the coping mechanism I've developed. All the deaths in the Whedon shows/movie fall into this category.

Your experience with Pullman, though, was my first and last experience with GRRM. See, I picked up "Game of Thrones" when it first came out. Reading it, the ONLY character I was really giving a rat's ass about was Ned Stark. ... Yeah.

And the thing is, my reaction was *equal parts* "My fav character, go to hell!" and "Now I can't trust that you won't do that to any other character I manage to form an attachment to". (At the time it was impossible to tell if the book represented "a new trilogy" or "a new ongoing series that you don't know how long it's going to be or if he'll ever even finish it *cough*".)

I got really upset when Philip Pullman killed a character off in one of his series--but more because it seemed so incredibly senseless, and it was right the red hot second after a relationship had finally come to fruition.

I KNOW EXACTLY WHO YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT. I've actually only read the first book in that series, but the BBC have made the first two into tv movies and when I saw the second movie I had NO IDEA that was coming and I was GUTTED. My BFF and I have basically decided that the character's death was ACTUALLY just faked and really everyone is living happily ever after in witness protection or something, lol.

I think the more senseless/pointless a death feels to me, the more likely I am to (a) stop reading/watching/etc and/or (b) dispense with canon and spend the rest of my life-in-that-fandom in my shiny happy fanon world. Whereas when I first read OotP, I was definitely very upset over Sirius, because he was my FAVORITE character. My dad and I were on a road trip and I read the part with Sirius' death right before we stopped for lunch, and I was so quiet and depressed-looking while we ate that my dad was genuinely concerned for me. But I didn't ever think "well that's it, no more Potter books for me" or have trouble accepting it because I could absolutely see why JKR went there, you know?

In the case of television shows, there are several where character deaths have been the straw that broke the camel's back for me and I ended up not watching any more afterwards, but generally it's not the only reason. When they "killed" Vaughn on Alias, I was more pissed off over TPTB's treatment of Michael Vartan and the shoddy writing the choice to write his "death" represented to me. To this day I've only seen Alias S5 episodes that either had Michael Vartan or were the show's 100th episode, lol. The only reason I finished the second season of The Sarah Connor Chronicles after Derek Reese was killed off LIKE A NAMELESS EXTRA WTF was because there was only one more episode. Then again, I was really only watching because of him, so... yeah.

I guess the short version of what I'm trying to say is that my emotional investment in the character isn't necessarily an indication of whether or not I'll have trouble accepting said character's death. If, however, I feel that there was no reason for the death to happen, then I'll have trouble accepting it.

I AM SO PISSED OFF AT WHAT THEY DID TO NADIA. And then Spy Mummy and Spy Daddy? I AM STILL ALL CAPS ABOUT THAT. As far as I'm concerned, Jack got doused in Rambaldi goo in the explosion and is off being the best grandpa for Isabelle and baby Jack.

/Alias rage.


The one that got me was the bombing in The Book Thief. Not only did he kill Walter and Rosa, but he killed Rudy too. I sobbed, y'all. I still sob when I re read it. Like, can't read the page sobs.

Edited at 2010-09-17 11:54 pm (UTC)

But he tells you at the beginning that there's going to be death! Pre-spoiled! Also WORLD WAR TWO = DYING

I dunno, Liesel and Max meeting up again was enough of a happy ending for me. I want to believe that they ended up together.