De-Immortalising Main Characters

More tissues Widds?

More tissues Widds?

Jeff, from Strands of Pattern, made a comment on my post, Cancer: The Convenient Device, and I thought it would make a great follow-up post, so here goes …

Jeff says: You raised some very valid points about the “immortality” of main characters. I admire Martin for his approach to the GoT series. Tension in its truest sense for a reader of fiction is knowing that any obstacle or peril can be fatal to every single character. He may well have set the tone for entertainment’s future.

I highlighted that bit in the middle. It speaks to the heart of the issue.

I says: I hope so, but I don’t think the leap can be made in one giant GRRM ‘splosion. (GRRM = George R. R. Martin)

We’ve become so used to, as you put it, ‘immortal’ main characters, that forerunners like George will continue to be the exception for quite a while.

Here’s what I’d like to see as a transition concept. I’ve just finished catching up on back episodes of Warehouse 13 so I’ll use it as an example of what could happen.

(click HERE  for a bit of a Wiki overview)(and we won’t mention that next season is, A – only 6 episodes long, and B – the final season!)

Wharehouse 13 has a couple of things going for it right from the start, an excellent cast of primary and secondary characters – Myka, Pete, Claudia, Steve, and of course Artie. H.G. Wells, Mrs Fredric, Dr Vanessa Calder, etc. And warehouse-13 is an ‘anchor character’ all by itself.

So, in a GRRM world the premise would go something like this: The warehouse would be the ‘featured character’ every week and the the cast would take turns, in pairs or triplets, as the storyline demanded, finding artifacts, having personal crisis-es etc, until their story arc is complete and they either die, (being an agent for W13 is a really dangerous job) or they move on with their lives. – with an appropriate melodramatic double episode.

This way, each character would be written, right from the start, with a beginning and end to their story arc. There would be an overlap between the exit of one character and the introduction of a new one, and enough time for the new characters to develop to the depth of the existing ones … a long process I admit, but full of possibilities.

The only TV show I can think of that did anything like this was the ‘Twilight Zone’

I’m not saying this should be the norm for all programming from now on, (we do love to tune in and watch our favourite characters do their thing every week, whether it be on various manifestations of TV viewing, or the interwebz) but wouldn’t it be wonderful if someone had the  … erm … intestinal fortitude, and money, to give it a try.

Oh yeah, and it’d be a web-series.


“Art may imitate life, but life imitates TV” Ani DiFranco

8 comments on “De-Immortalising Main Characters

  1. Erin says:

    I’m not a fan of unnecessary character deaths. And to have a character die just so the author can say, “Well, it can happen to anyone” does not strike me as necessary.

    Why, no, I’m not a GRRM fan.


    • Widdershins says:

      I agree with you about unnecessary deaths because ‘it can happen to anyone’. It’s lazy writing.

      I’d like to see a character die, (or move on out of a story, be it written, on TV, etc) because it’s necessary (from the writers perspective and the characters POV ) rather than keeping a main character alive simply because they’re the ‘main character’ and they have to be around for next weeks episode, next book in the series, movie sequel.


  2. Joan Y. Edwards says:

    Are you feeling better? Hope so. Keep on writing. Celebrate your gift of humor. Sometimes killing off a character can be because the author is too tired to figure out a different way to present his emotional trauma.

    Joan Y. Edwards


  3. Jeff Hargett says:

    I was curious as to the nature of your reply based on what you said. There is indeed a balance that must be maintained though. Our favorites don’t necessarily have to die or be written off, we just need to know that it is possible.

    During the GoT season three marathon my brother and I shared this past weekend, he made a statement to the effect of, “If he kills my Khaleesi…” and I had to laugh. Some characters deserve the grand finale. If Daenerys Targaryen (Stormborn) must go, it should be with dragonfire behind her and in epic scope. A knife slipped into her back simply will not do.

    By the same token, and still on the GoT trek, whoever sits last on the Iron Throne best be in the show now. I don’t want a last minute invasion from a far off land putting a king we know nothing about on that throne. I want to know the character well.

    It’s a great topic!


  4. jannatwrites says:

    I don’t think main characters should be excluded from the possibility of death, nor should they die to set an example. The character’s life or death really depends on the story and what is believable. For instance, if the main character is an a car and a car bomb goes off, I would expect them to die as a person would in those circumstances. When a character repeatedly cheats certain death, I just roll my eyes and mutter, “yeah, right.”


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