Death of Beloved Characters Perpetuates Creative Writing Laziness – North Texas Daily

Content Warning: The following story contains spoilers for several TV shows, books, and movies.

Finnick Odair, Marley the dog, Dobby the house-elf and almost every doctor in Grey’s Anatomy – what do all these characters have in common? Their deaths were totally unnecessary and emotionally devastating. Creating character deaths that might otherwise have been avoided or rewritten ultimately fails the audience.

It’s easy to get lost in lovable characters on screen — they grow, they feel, and they often reflect how we view ourselves. It’s human nature to attach to characters with charisma and charm, to want those characters to have the best arcs the shows and movies could give them.

People form attachments to these characters. They get to know them, identify with them and understand themselves better by observing them. More often though, these characters are lost in ambition to shift plots, create action, or change creative direction. These are all valid reasons to kill a character if the death doesn’t do more harm than good.

Killing off characters that audiences have grown attached to has become predictable in recent years. Shows like “Game of Thrones,” movie franchises like Marvel, and even book series like Harry Potter have framed the art to perfection. A character is introduced, you end up liking it and then it dies.

A sacrifice, an accidental tragedy, a harrowing cliffhanger – these deaths of beloved characters are easier to craft than you might think, and often turn out to be less creative and interesting than if they had been written to survive. Directors now sacrifice their own depth of storytelling and rhetoric when sacrificing another character.

By the time audiences of the hit Netflix show “Stranger Things” come to season two, it’s rumored that characters Jim Hopper and Joyce Byers will be reuniting. Next is Bob Newby – a new love interest for Joyce and sweet as a puppy. Bob easily became a fan favorite, only to die at the end of the season, sacrificing himself so other characters could live.

Similarly to Bob – beloved Hunger Games character Finnick is another example of needless death that still plagues many fans. Finnick’s death was not necessary to satisfy the plot of the book and film. In fact, his character has built so much throughout the series that audiences have seen him marry a child on the way – an unlikely development for someone believed to have died sacrificing.

The deaths of Bob and Finnick are just two of many on-screen tragedies that fail to propel plot and point. Instead, the deaths are used as ploys to discourage the viewer from guessing what will happen next in the series.

These huge shocks, while causing the intended emotional turmoil, are lazy takes to create moving media elements. Loss and grief are important parts of life and should be reflected in the entertainment we consume, but only if they add something new and profound to the ideas.

Having characters die just to prove a point completely undermines the heartbreak theme. It also disrespects the characters themselves and their development.

These fan favorites don’t have to die for a failed commentary on the impermanence of life. More powerful moves can be made by writers and directors – moves that reflect the flexibility of life. Death does not need to be included for a story to be good.

These beloved characters deserve to stay loved and alive. Killing them only presents lazy storytelling and highlights the writers’ disregard for advancing more involved storylines.

Featured artwork by Cuinn Cornwell