Hi. This is my first post ever. I've decided to start a blog, if not for you, then for me. I'm a young writer (16) and I'm currently on the verge of finishing my first manuscript. Well, not finishing exactly--there will still be much work it'll require after I type out the end of the story.
The purpose of this blog will be so 1) I can rant and rant and rant and no one can tell me to shut up 2) I'll have another excuse to procrastinate on homework and 3) so I can see my thoughts and what I've learned in an organized format.
I've never taken a creative writing course (though I hope to one day--it sounds fun) so, like many other writers, my sole teachers are the numerous tomes on my bookshelf.
In my manuscript, I had to kill someone. It's a character that I adore and who has made me chuckle on one occasion or another. Wow, that sounds crazy. You get the idea, though, right?
Anyhow, from the moment of this character's creation, I knew IT (for the sake of spoilers for anyone who might ever read this novel, if that ever happens, I will not post any clues as to who this character is and will refer to it as IT) would die at the end.
I think that because IT's death was so predetermined, I've already come to terms with my grief. Because I've already come to terms with my grief, this death scene is totally unremarkable and will not move a potential reader to tears.
I really want a proper tear-jerking, heart-wrenching death to honor this wonderful character.
I think it's time to crack open the saddest books on my shelves and attempt to discover their secrets.
(Is it fitting that Dumbledore just died on my TV in HBP?)
The few books I've grabbed are Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows (J K Rowling), Forever (M. Stiefvater), Beautiful Creatures (K. Garcia M. Stohl) and My Sister's Keeper (Jodi Picoult)
(**SPOILER WARNING**) If you haven't read these books and don't understand what I'm talking about, either a) keep scrolling down or b) go buy them. (but still scroll down anyway.)
First Book: My Sister's Keeper.
Why I cried: shock (it was a huge twist--there was no way to see it coming), loss (I felt like I knew the character personally), sympathy for the grieving, broken family, and whiplash (There is no pause for the death, but instead the story actually picks up speed and you feel like you've been beaten mercilessly on the ground then told to get up and run a marathon.)
Second Book: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows
Lot's of people die in this book -even Harry himself- but I'm going to try to focus on one death. Or two. The beloved Fred Weasley and the despised Severus Snape.
Why I cried: (Fred) he was funny, he died laughing, it was unexpected, he had a large family to mourn for him, it broke the Fred and George duo in half, Percy's mangled cry. (Snape) I didn't think he'd turn out good after all, he was in love, he suffered in his final moments, he had a sad childhood, shock.
Third Book: Beautiful Creatures
Why I cried: I thought two people had died at first, those two people make up that girl's entire world, her denial, refusal to let go, sorrow, shock.
Fourth Book: Forever
Okay, so the death scene I teared up at turned out to not actually be a death scene, but it was so convincing.
Why I cried: he sacrificed himself--and he was kind of a selfish character, he was only one of many,
Now, after rereading all of these death scenes, I've compiled a short list of ways to make a person cry over a figment of someone's imagination.
God, I'm depressed now.
The rules of death:
You can't let on to your reader that the end is near. Make it a slap in the face. A bucket of cold water dumped on their heads in the middle of a deep dream. Also, let the reader feel all of the unfinished business that character had.
You have to subtly play with the mood and setting. It has to happen in the midst of an already very dark, very grim situation that has your reader on edge.
3. Reaction The character's loved ones when they learn the news. The person who finds the body. The people who see the family mourning. Your own reaction. This is an emotionally scarring time for everyone involved--dwell on that. Take advantage of your reader's shock. Be evil for the sake of writing a good scene.
4. Slight Detachment
That, "I wish I could have known him/her/them better" feeling. This is kind of more from personal experience rather than reading. Once upon a time, I had a close friend. She missed school for a couple days in a row and wouldn't return my calls. I found out through a mutual friend that her brother had died. I didn't know her brother very well--I don't think I'd ever even spoken more than a few words to him (he wasn't at her house much when I was there) but as I walked past my classroom and toward the counselor's office, I was sobbing. (This is also a part of shock.)
The character's death isn't important to the plot. That is to say, the character has to die for no good reason and the characters cannot have time to stop and mourn--they have to continue to fight evil. Life goes on, and death is merely a flicker of a pause in the Grand Plan.
And there you have it. There are other ways to go about writing a good death scene, too. Please feel free to share any secrets you have for one.
Here are some other guidelines I found:
My chest aches. Wasn't this just a jolly way to start off my blog? Talking about death. How dark. This will not be that kind of blog all the time. I promise. Now excuse me while I go prepare myself a bowl of ice cream. For IT!
P.S. If you're still emotionally stumped in your novel, rereading old death scenes (or watching them on TV) is a good way to dig up buried feelings.