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Defying Death

Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, March 30, 2024

For a huge chuck of Christians around the world, today is Resurrection Day (or Good Saturday), which is easily one of the most important days in the Christian calendar, no matter when you observe it. For those that do, therefore, I hope you have the happiest one yet, and since I also observe it (albeit later) let me say He Is Risen!

I was thinking therefore that it would be a great opportunity to talk a little bit about Resurrection in fiction- aka when a character dies but beats death and comes back.

Death is as staggering and tremendous an event in fiction as it is in life: when it happens, it is final for a character. All their development, all their potential, all their presence screeches to this absolute halt, and they stop existing, developing, and adding their own actions, flair, and presence to the story and the world.

When done right, the impact is devastating.

And if the story honors the deaths it allows, the surviving characters grow into something that more or less makes it …worth it.

So much so, sometimes, that if one of them were to return from death, it would diminish their sacrifice, their end, and the work done in grief and growing by the survivors after. Therefore often, a trope where a character that dies beats death is frowned upon as a cop out.

Only, of course, if it's not done right. Because there have been characters that beat death, rejoining survivors when they are stronger and more capable, and its a good meeting, something the audiences cheer for rather than groan at:

Or, the character that returns from the dead is changed, usually becoming a version of themselves with less (or different) inhibition, or aloofness, or powers.

This could have been great…

Sometimes, the whole point of a story IS a character's resurrection. Especially when it comes to ancient myth, a lot of stories revolve around a person dying and their loved ones doing watever possible to get them back.

Orpheus and Eurydice. I couldn't find who the artist of this one is. Please help!

Alcestis and Admetus by Friedrich Heinrich Füger

I couldn't find a nice illustration, but I need to mention Ishtar (Innana) and Dumuzid too, in that she also descended into the underworld to find and claim him back from Ereshkigal the goddess of the underworld. (Shenanigans ensue)

After all, beating death is as epic a hero's journey as it gets!

The point I'm trying to make is that having characters beat death and return to life is a double edged sword: if done right, it makes for some of the most impactful stories that can literally stand the test of time. If done wrong, it takes away from the severity of death in that story's setting and audiences may not fear characters dying since they can (and probably will) return.

But if done right, it's one of the few things in life (fiction?) where you can have your cake (a character death) and eat it too (bring that character back). You just need to properly set it up and work for it.

And keep it to a minimum.

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EssayBee at 5:27PM, March 31, 2024

I feel like the cliffhanger is a play on this, so pretty much every first episode of the 2-parters of the 60s Batman series sets up an immknent death. So resurrection isn't necessarily the only way a character defies death. Sometimes they way a character avoids "certain death" can be more thrilling/entertaining than killing and resurrecting the character.

Andreas_Helixfinger at 2:53AM, March 31, 2024

One of the best examples I think I ever seen is that of the main character of the crpg Planescape: Torment - called the name less one throughout the game. His story begins with ressurection from death and soon he learns that he has lived and died several times before. At some point in his first life he became Immortal. And the main objective of the game is for him to find out how and why he became Immortal, uncover his past, in order to break the spell laid upon him and redeem his past so that his ternal torment as an immortal can come to end.

usedbooks at 2:12PM, March 30, 2024

Just don't bury them in a sematary. -- I have a secondary character that seemed dead for a while. I intended to turn her into a kickass under-the-radar secret agent. Unfortunately she was shot in the head and does have some lasting issues from that. Another minor character faked his death, but it was a brief scene, and the other characters were in on it. As an indie and extremely amateur creator, I love that I could snap at any moment and kill off anyone (you know, in a narrative, not in person probably). 🤷 Keeps people on their toes. Especially since I'm now actively working towards a conclusion to Used Books.

Green_Lightning at 11:27AM, March 30, 2024

Hopefully none of us are dead yet.

J_Scarbrough at 9:56AM, March 30, 2024

It's only occured to me that VAMPIRE GIRL is my only work in which characters actually do die, albeit it has only been villainous characters who do; one occasion was actually played for laughs (Vampire Hunter and Goofy Idiot Sidekick, given they were bumbling fools anyway), while the other was far more tactical (the Vampress and her henchmen Saul and Paul). All of these characters coincidently shared the same goal: to destroy Levana; while neither Vampire Hunter and Goofy Idiot Sidekick never came close to achieving that goal, the Vampress nearly did, and Levana did end up fighting for her life afterwards. Of course she did, though, thanks to this work's universal being inhabited by supernatural beings who can work miracles like wizards and witch doctors . . . nobody seemed to complain about any of that though, even if it could very well be seen as a cop-out. Either way, I don't believe I've explored death in any other of my works.

Furwerk studio at 7:56AM, March 30, 2024

In my setting for Nakamura Rex resurrection is pretty easy, it is even a medical tool. Thing is you still can die if the wounds aren't patched, or have enough body left to call back, I mean stab wounds or bullet hole are one thing but going head first into thresher is another. And it has to be done quickly, within five minutes for a person to come back normal, after that they develop a mental issue, past fifteen minutes they don't come back, right. If attempting to resurrect somebody past 49 days, you are not getting them back. You got SOMETHING, just not them.

plymayer at 5:59AM, March 30, 2024

No one ever really dies in professional movies or comics. They are just in limbo until the next regime wants to cash in on the character(s).

dpat57 at 5:40AM, March 30, 2024

All the wampyr are keeping quiet, hoping no one remembers they live among us.

PaulEberhardt at 3:08AM, March 30, 2024

"O, I die, Horatio! The potent poison quite o'ercrows my spirit. I cannot live to hear the news from England, But I do prophesy th' election lights On Fortinbras. He has my dying voice. So tell him, with th' occurrents, more and less, Which have solicited- the rest is..." (AUDIENCE: Silence!!) "Oh, all right. Impatient bunch of... (croak💀)

PaulEberhardt at 2:58AM, March 30, 2024

Keep it to a minimum is the most important message here, or it'll lose impact. To do it well, it doesn't seem to matter too much whether it's a quick, sudden death with a long aftermath to let it sink in with the audience that that character indeed kicked the bucket or a slow one with famous last words and so on, but the resurrection has to take its due time, as that's clearly something special and therefore not easy. You'll have to have your pacing down pat for all of this. One of my favourite mythical resurrection scenes has to be one from the Finnish epic Kalevala, where Lemminkäinen (I think) is painstakingly reassembled from his torn and scattered parts by his loving mother on the banks of the underworld river. I'm a tinkerer at heart, I guess. ;)

marcorossi at 1:17AM, March 30, 2024

The problem is that, if done wrong, it takes away the risk from other characters. For example, suppose that we have a story where a sdidekick sacrifices herself to save the protagonist, but as she was a beloved characters, the public dislikes this and the serie loses ratings. The writers then make her reappear with an excuse (yes, she was in that house that was hit by a nuke, but in reality she hid in the fridge so it is all ok). Viewers will understand that it is a trick, so they'll realize that characters only live or die because of their popularity, not for in-story reasons, which breaks the suspension of disbelief. In stories where there is the supernatural, this becomes even easier, so if viewers perceive that writers are just cheating with resurrections this can easily kill a story.

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