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Killing the hero September 22, 2010

Posted by mattfarmer in writing.
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I was sent this article on why the the hero can not always survive.

I have not (yet) killed my hero in any of my books. I have a plan to do something like the noble death with one of my favourites, but that is at least three books away.

How can you kill a hero? The hero is what drives the story, isn’t it? We go on the Hero’s Journey, with the hero. If you kill the hero, then who do you go on the journey with?

I can understand the dramatic shift which could occur if you ended your hero’s existence. It would totally throw the reader into a spin, wondering where they would land, who they could hold on to, which character would lead them to shore. And the armchair anarchist in me would like the challenge of suddenly, mid story, dramatic fight scene and, oh, wait, the bad guy wins the fight? I think it would be a fantastic challenge, as a writer, to find your story, salvage the day, find someone to carry on the story for you.

I can see the son taking over from the father. Easy thing to do that. I have seen it many times before. Perhaps the best example I can think of is the Game of Thrones. This is one of the best examples I can think of where the hero on which you hang the story’s hat suddenly gets killed. (Here’s hoping I didn’t spoiler anything for anyone by saying that). When Eddard gets the chop, I was honestly stunned. I did not see it coming at all. For a while I was thinking – who do I follow now?

It threw me as a reader, and fascinated me as a writer. Who does that? Who just ends the life of a hero mid-story like that? Well, George R R Martin obviously, but I don’t know if I could do it. I wonder if we build too much of the story around the hero. Do we make our heroes carry far too much of the story on their shoulders? Can the story survive without the hero?

But then, what is the story without a hero? A friend answered this by saying- ‘Reality Television’. Who wants to write that?

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