So we've talked often about how letting a character die in a story is something that should be used very frugally, because once death occurs, it should be permanent. In most settings, death shouldn't be something that is reversible. If not, it will lose its impact, and the audience might feel that the characters are not ever really risking anything, and therefore, lose their engagement in the plot.
But, as with all rules, it can be bent, or even broken.
How can a character that has died be brought back from the dead?
And note, I'm talking about characters so dead that we see their corpse on-screen, in-frame. Not off-screen situations that procure no body and no funeral, and thus can be spinned in a way that the character was ‘never really dead’.
First and foremost, it should be set up within the setting and cosmos of the story. Rare or not, it should be established well in advance, before there is even a hint of a death occuring, that there is a possibility for life to be restored to a dead person. How hard, how special, how complicated is up to you while you do your worldbuilding.
The second thing is that it can't happen willy nilly. Most death, even in such settings, has to be permanent. Resurrection should be the outlier, not “plan B”, or you are running the risk of having the audience disengage or, even worse, not feel emotional if a character dies.
Second, bringing a person back should not be equivalent to a reset in the story: the trauma, the chagrin, the experience of loss have all taken place, and that changes people in the environment of the once-dead character. They may develop different reactions (e.g. they don't fuss about things they used to OR they fuss too much about things they never used to. They may be clingy, or distant etc). Personalities may be different, and relationships may change depending on the circumstances of the death as well as the circumstances of the resurrection.
And of course, the person that was dead and is now alive again will be changed. Even if they don't remember what death was like, they will remember (the circumstances of their death. Even people that experience amnesia over traumatic events have emotional memories/reactions to certain stimuli.
Death may not be permanent, but it does leave permanent change.
Long story short, in my opinion and experience, death can be reversed and the story lose no merit, but it needs to be afforded its due weight, and the event of the reversal also be treated similarly. And of course, it shouldn't be done often. Sometimes more than once is too much.
Have you ever brought a character back from the dead?
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Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, Jan. 2, 2021
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