Can an impact character be dead?
(Albuquerque, NM USA)
My current novel-in-progress is fantasy genre, and the protagonist is a healer who develops the ability to transfer (or "take") wounds, disease, and poison from others to herself, but I am giving her the limitation of having to heal herself with bandages, remedies, and time, and the two goals of 'how can I use this ability without killing myself?' (which is very possible since none of the healers she knows can teach her how to use it) and "what meaningful thing can I do with this ability?"
Based on your description of the impact character, I am thinking that would be her aunt, but her aunt is dead. In the resolution section of the story, her dead aunt's journal comes back into her hands (she's had it for years, just never bothered to read it because the style was stilted at the beginning as the aunt got used to writing in it) and she finally reads it. The journal recounts the aunt's time in the nation of Tel where she went to be trained as a healer and the normal way of healing is to transfer wounds, disease, and poison onto yourself then heal yourself using magical spells. My protagonist realizes if she can follow in her aunt's footsteps and learn how to cast the same spells, her wound-taking ability will become much more useful, and my intention is that a second book would be about her traveling to Tel and getting the same training.
Since some of the structure discussion hinted that the relationship
between the impact character and main character should change, I wanted to make sure it's okay for the impact character to be dead. I suppose technically my heroine's perceptions of the aunt do change, but I'm not sure that qualifies.
Thanks for the input!Answer:
Yes, an impact character can be dead. What matters is that the impact character's example pressures the main character to change. Using the journal is a good choice, because the main character can read it gradually throughout the story, so that different episodes in the diary can have a growing influence on her.
As for the relationship throughline, think about how the MC's relationship to her aunt might evolve as the story progresses. For instance, might she start out having the wrong idea about her aunt, then come to see her as a mentor, an ally, a dangerous tempter, a friend along the journey, etc. It might help if the aunt faced her own crisis at some point (recorded in the journal).
I would encourage you to make the key difference between the two approaches (the MC's and the IC's) as personal as possible. You want to generate inner conflict leading to a personal change in the main character.
It's also a good idea if the MC must make a real leap of faith at her personal crisis. If she is in a position where the right choice will save the day and the wrong choice result in catastrophe, making that leap will be all the more meaningful.
Best of luck.