How to make a character's death be memorable if it occurs 'off-screen'.

Question: Alright, so my book is a war book. And basically, my main protagonist decides to go out, enlist, and join his older brother in the fight. So he goes through training, and then finally, when he makes it to his brother's location, he goes there, and finds him dead.

Would it be more emotionally impactful to write a part that shows him dying, so the readers knows he's dead, or should I make my readers not know until my protag discovers it. The event is a pivotal point in my main character's arc, and I want it to feel as important as it can feel.


Answer: So if the pivotal moment occurs when your main character discovers that his brother is dead, it strikes me that revealing the truth to the reader beforehand would make the actual moment rather anticlimactic, thus making the entire journey seem less important.

For that matter, if the reader is going to find out about the death early on, why not just have the main character get a letter informing him that his brother died and spare him the entire journey, training, etc.?

The answer is... because having the main character go on the journey, and endure hardship for the sake of discovering the truth makes us empathize with the MC and appreciate how important his brother is to him. So you don't want to take away from this because it would undermine the emotional impact.

The exception would be if you wanted to introduce dramatic irony to show that the MC is being foolish and you want the reader to feel sorry for him rather than be on his side, because that fits the thematic message you are trying to deliver. But that's something you have to sort out yourself.

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