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.

Click here to post comments

Join in and submit your own question/topic! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Character Invite.

search this site the web
search engine by freefind

Celebrating our 2nd year as one of the...

 Step-by-Step Novel Planning Workbook

NEW! Make Money Writing Nonfiction Articles

"I've read more than fifty books on writing, writing novels, etc., but your website has the most useful and practical guidance. Now that I understand how a novel is structured, I will rewrite mine, confident that it will be a more interesting novel." - Lloyd Edwards

"Thanks to your "Create a Plot Outline in 8 Easy Steps," I was able to take a story that I simply just fooled around with and went willy nilly all over, into a clearly defined, intriguing battle where two characters fight to keep their relationship intact, and try to find a balance in control of themselves and their lives. Thanks to you, I'm not ashamed of the poor organization of my writing." - Nommanic Ragus

"I am so glad I found your site. It has helped me in so many ways, and has given me more confidence about myself and my work. Thank you for making this valuable resource, for me and my fellow writers. Perhaps you'll hear about me someday...I'll owe it to you." - Ruth, Milton, U.S.A.

"I never knew what to do with all the characters in my head, but since discovering Dramatica I am writing again in my spare time. Thank you for making this available. Yes, it is a bit complex, and it does take time, but I love it because it works." - Colin Shoeman

"I came across your website by chance. It is a plethora of knowledge, written in a simplistic way to help aspiring writers. I truly appreciate all of the information you have provided to help me successfully (relative term) write my novel. Thank you very much!" - Leo T. Rollins

"I can honestly say that this is the first website that is really helpful. You manage to answer complex questions in relatively short articles and with really intelligent answers. Thank you for taking the time to write these articles and sharing them so generously." - Chrystelle Nash

"...had no idea that a simple click would give me such a wealth of valuable information. The site not only offered extremely clear and helpful instructions but was a very enjoyable read as well. The education from your wonderful site has made me a better writer and your words have inspired me to get back to work on my novel. I wish to give you a heartfelt thanks for How to Write a Book Now, sir." -- Mike Chiero