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Hello and welcome to my next weekly Steam giveaway! This week, I’m giving away Long Live the Queen.
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Hello and welcome to my next weekly Steam giveaway! This week, I’m giving away Long Live the Queen.
In this visual novel, you play as a young, fourteen-year-old queen learning to lead her country after the untimely death of her mother. It’s a power struggle, and you’re right in the middle of it. It’s a lot of fun.
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Oooo, ooo, ooo, pick me, pick me!
- Don’t have them die of old age after a long, fulfilling life. Many people don’t even think of this as sad (note that this can still work if you have enough of the other factors).
- Leave one of their major goals unfinished. The more enthusiastic they are about completing the goal, the sadder.
- Give them strong relationships with other characters.
- Make them fight against whatever is causing their death. Their ultimate loss is sadder if they struggle.
- Kill them in the middle of their character arc.
- Don’t describe their funeral in detail. Maybe it’s just me, but I find that long descriptions of funerals kill the sadness.
Something else to note: you don’t have to make a death “sad” to make people cry at it. Read Anne’s House of Dreams if you want to know what I mean. There’s a death scene in there that always makes me cry like a baby because the death is so beautiful. I cry specifically because it is the conclusion of a life well lived. Here let me explain. (Beware, there be spoilers ahead.)
—-SPOILERS AHEAD; SKIP TO THE BOTTOM OF THIS SECTION IF YOU WANT TO AVOID THEM—-
Anne’s House of Dreams is a book in the Anne of Green Gables series and covers Anne and Gilbert’s life as the get married and start their life together in their new home. Naturally, Anne and Gilbert don’t know anyone in the area to begin with and one of the first people to welcome them is Captain Jim, an old sailor who has retired from the sea and now runs a lighthouse. Jim has had a great many adventures in his time and he’s intrigued to find out that Anne is a writer because he’s always wished he could put the adventures he wrote about in his journal into a book, but he doesn’t have a talent for writing. Anne is fascinated by his stories, but apologetically tells him that she doesn’t think her style of writing would be able to do his life justice.
As we learn more about Captain Jim, we discover the woman he still loves, “lost Margaret”, his fiance who died before they could be married. His loyalty to his only love is very touching, but it’s not something that can be resolved in this life unless the story were to suddenly become supernatural, which would be a very odd choice that wouldn’t fit the series at all. It is clear that though Captain Jim is happy, he is also tired and he longs for the final rest that will reunite him with his beloved. He even tells Anne and Gilbert about the type of death he would like to have: one where he goes out as the morning comes across the gulf.
Fortunately, a writer named Owen Ford is able to immortalize both Captain Jim and his lost Margaret when he writes the story of Captain Jim’s life. Captain Jim’s Life-Book is published and as soon as Owen Ford receives the first copy, he joins Anne and Gilbert to deliver the book to Captain Jim. The young people leave early so that he can read the book for the first time (as Owen has kept him from reading it before it was finished.) The next morning, something very unusual happens, Captain Jim doesn’t turn off the light of the lighthouse when dawn comes. Worried, Anne and Gilbert go to check on him and find he has died peacefully during the night, the life-book opened to the last page and a smile on his face. It’s a very touching death because it comes just as all Captain Jim’s aspirations for this world have been reached and his one great remaining wish (to be reunited with his lost love) is one that can only be fulfilled in the next life.
—-SPOILERS END HERE—-
I think the important thing with writing a death isn’t necessarily to make it sad or beautiful. It doesn’t have to be any of those things. However, I do think it is important to have a reason why a character is dying and let that reason shape how you write their death. One of my biggest pet peeves in writing is writers thinking they have to kill off characters to make their writing “grittier” or “more mature.” That’s not the effect it has. If you write in deaths just to write in deaths, it only cheapens human lives and gives later deaths less of an impact. Sometimes that’s the point. Maybe you’re writing about the horrors of war and you want to show how they desensitize people to death. If that’s what you’re going for, great. Otherwise, you should really think before you put in a death scene.
Ask yourself: does this death advance the plot somehow? Is it an important turning point in a character’s development? You see, there are a lot of ways you can use death in your story, some of which are better than others, but all of which are to some degree valid. You could have a death change a character’s view of things or show their development: maybe it’s only after they see someone they respect killing a child that they realize that person isn’t someone they should respect, or maybe the hero has been walking the path to villainy and killing someone is the sign that they’ve passed a point of no return. You could have a death be the event that sets off a chain reaction and turns the plot on it’s head: Archduke Ferdinand’s assassination becoming the spark that ignites the Great War (WWI) or the death of a president suddenly forcing an unprepared vice president into office. Death could be the final page of a life well lived and the reuniting with a lover who has gone on ahead. There are a lot of other good reasons to have a death scene as well.
What isn’t good is to kill off a character just to kill off a character. I don’t mean that if there’s a war going on we should never see people die or that you can’t kill off characters, but please, please, please have some reason to do so beyond some mistaken belief that doing so is part of being a mature writer. It really isn’t. The mature writer is one who realizes that a happy ending is as equally valid as an unhappy ending, as long as it’s the ending that fits the story.
What if the Avatar after Korra is a sandbender who learns airbending and waterbending easily, but struggles to learn traditional earthbending?
On Tuesday, we looked at the basics of point of view; but there’s far more to it than simply choosing between 1st, 2nd and 3rd POVs.
The POV choice you make for your story will be based on a number of different factors, and will result in a number of different effects. It’s an important decision to make.
Let’s go back to 1st, 2nd and 3rd viewpoints.
- Seeing a resurgence in popularity.
- The usual choice for writing a story in the form of letters or diary entries (epistolary narrative voice).
- Commonly used in the gothic horror and noir genres.
- If used as 1st person limited, the reader only sees what the narrating character sees, hears, feels, thinks. They only go where the narrator goes, only sees through their eyes, which can be very limiting.
- You can use 1st person omnisciently, so that the narrating character can see into the minds of all the characters. This is often used if the narrator is dead, or some kind of deity or supernatural being. You’d have to have a good reason for them to have so much insight.
- This is the least popular and most unusual choice for literature, which may alienate some readers.
- It does bring them into the story, giving them a sense of intimacy to the characters and plot.
- It can be a hard-sell, however. If you chose to use 2nd person narrative, you would have to have a very specific reason for doing it, and be sure that you can pull it off.
- The most common choice and what readers are most used to reading, so there is little or no learning curve.
- 3rd Person Objective: there is no insight into the heads of any characters, allowing the narrator, and the reader, to view the story neutrally and objectively. More common in journalism, it disconnects the reader from the characters, and would be an unusual choice for fiction.
- 3rd Person Limited/Subjective: the story is seen through the eyes of one or just a small number of characters. You do not know every character’s thoughts, only those chosen. Allows a wider viewpoint of the story than 1st person, but without opening it up to every single character.
- 3rd Person Omniscient: the narrator can see into the head of every character. While previously the most popular POV, it is losing favour to a preference for 3rd Person Limited. It can become a little overwhelming for readers who, thrown quickly from head to head, find it difficult to get to know any one character enough to really empathise with them.
- For one reason or another, the narrating character is deemed untrustworthy. They may simply be naive or inexperienced, or they may be bias, or purposefully skewing the facts for their own gain.
- Usually found in 1st person narrative.
- They may omit information, either by accident or on purpose, or see things differently to the way anyone else would.
- Examples of unreliable narrators could include children, characters with mental health issues, characters that are drunk or have drug addictions. It could include characters with amnesia or sensory impairments. It may simply be a character who is very modest and downplays their own part in the story.
- Their unreliable nature may be evident from the start, or may only come to light further into the book.
- While it can be used to great effect, it can run the risk of leaving readers feeling angry or frustrated.
Furthermore, you have the choice of past, present or future tense, which all lend themselves to different POVs in different ways.
And even so, this is still a bit of a whistle-stop tour to POV, and there are a lot more things to consider. If you are deciding to use a less common POV, go and read other books using the same one, see how it has been done well, and see how it has been done badly too.
An unreliable narrator can also be a liar, a narrator with an agenda such as Humbert Humbert in Lolita. Characters who aren’t very self aware also make good unreliable narrators, with a good example being Nick Carraway from the Great Gatsby. Unreliable narrators were a favorite of Vladimir Nabokov and Humbert Humbert is far from his only one. A favorite example of mine is in Pnin, which at first glance appears to be written in third person with a Lemony Narrator. As you get further into the book, you realize that not only is the book actually written in first person, it was written by an old friend of Pnin’s. The narration becomes less and less objective as the chapters advance, until the narrator himself shows up in the events of the story. It’s a really interesting device.