Favorite Fantasy Deaths

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Tuesday I told you how to kill and how not to kill your characters. For fun, let’s look at some of the fantasy genre’s best deaths. Those that made us laugh and those that made us cry.

The Lord of the Rings: Boromir

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Even though this list isn’t in a particular order, this one definitely belongs on the top of the list. Not only does the death of Boromir dissolve the fellowship, it proves the danger of the One Ring (for those of us who may have been questioning its power). Those who are tempted by it (Gollum, Isildur, Boromir, etc), ultimately meet their demise. All of that aside, who doesn’t enjoy a death scene where men hold and kiss each other. With all the pawing, kissing, and panting, this could have easily been a make-out scene if not for the arrows.

Dragonheart: Draco

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For a B movie, this death gets an A. Fans of the movie loved this movie for what it could have been if not for the poorly developed characters, bad acting, and bad writing. For what it’s worth, there’s emotional payoff at the end to make up for all that. You know the dragon is toast from the moment he performs the scientifically impossible feat of sharing half a heart with a human (so much wrong with this scenario). To kill the villain, he has to sacrifice himself. And worse, his best friend has to be the one to kill him. Heavy stuff. In the end, the sad, defeated Sr. Bowen ask his dead friend, “Where do we turn?” The response: “To the stars, Bowen. To the stars.” Best last words ever–delivered after death on top of that as Draco becomes a star constellation. Those words combined with the theme song made me sad and tricked me into thinking this was a good movie..

The Hobbit: Thorin Oakenshield

The_Hobbit_Battle_Of_The_Five_Armies2014720p_DVDScrx264Ok, for those of you who hate any deviation from the books, I think Peter Jackson improved the final words of Thorin Oakenshield. Those tear-jerking last words are not only relevant to the story, but to modern society. “If more people valued home above gold, the world would be a merrier place.” Those final words left me crying and nodding in agreement. I was also very moved by Bilbo’s reaction to his death, but I don’t think enough time was spent on that or the other dwarves’ reactions. I also think they should have included his funeral. Regardless, I will remember this death as one of the highlights of the film. Not enough emotional payoff or closure for the Bilbo/Thorin friendship arc, but good never-the-less.

The Princess Bride: Westley

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Well, this hardly counts. After all he was only mostly dead. But reading or watching this for the first time, who didn’t react like the little boy from the film. Fake deaths were sort of a specialty of Westley. After all, this wouldn’t be the first time he “died.” Buttercup loses him to pirates long before the pit of despair or the zoo (depending on the book or film. I prefer the movie). Another reason this is a great death. He’s topless. Notice he has a shirt in the next scene. So thoughtful of Inigo and Fezzik to remember to put a shirt on a dead guy before taking him to the house of Miracle Max. In all honesty, what really makes this a great death is because he doesn’t die, and why not? For love, of course. It cannot stop true love, only delay it a little while.

Braveheart: William and Murron

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This is a two for one. I really couldn’t pick between the two. The entire story is the result of the death of Murron. William spends the entire movie fighting for freedom, which includes certain freedoms that married people are supposed to have (wink, wink) that are denied by the English. You feel the love for his deceased wife in every scene, especially in the last scene. As he’s dying he clutches her childhood gift to his last breath and thinks he sees her walking toward him out of the crowd. That was a good emotional cleanse after watching a guy get tortured. Good end to what could have been an overly gory scene.

A Game of Thrones: Ned Stark

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I know Game of Thrones fans are very sensitive about spoilers, but at this point is Ned Stark’s death considered a spoiler? This happened in season one, people. Besides who was surprised. He was played by Sean Bean: most of his characters die! Who couldn’t love the honorable Ned Stark–except for maybe Jaime Lannister. He was a good father and husband . . . aside from the fact that he cheated on his wife. Not so honorable after all, are you Ned? Regardless who didn’t cry when they cut off his head, a scene that empowered Arya and Robb . . . and momentarily empowered Sansa. If she’d just pushed Joffrey off the building. Almost, Sansa.

A Game of Thrones: Viserys

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For those of you not familiar with the name, maybe this picture will refresh your memory. This is one of those great deaths because of the irony. All he wanted was a crown . . . and he got one. Need I say more.

Star Trek: Spock

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This is how great this death is. I haven’t even seen this movie yet, and I want to cry. That’s the power of this picture. That hand. That face. That noble sacrifice. I don’t even know what he died for. It’s particularly sad today considering as I was writing this post, Leonard Nimoy passed away. What a sad day for fantasy fans.

Star Wars: Qui Gon Jinn

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Like DragonHeart, this wasn’t the best movie, but Qui Gon Jinn is sort of the Draco of this film. He’s noble and good–sort of Jesus like. I think his death is the highlight of this film (considering Jar Jar didn’t die). Obi Wan dramatically shouts NOOOOOOOOO!!! and then there’s that thing Qui Gon does with his finger where he just taps Obi Wan’s face. It’s got all the elements of the Boromir death/makeout scene.

Bridge to Terabithia: Leslie Burke

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I think this one gets overlooked for several reasons. It’s not dramatic–heck it’s even off screen. The girl doesn’t get shot by a hundred arrows, beheaded, or drawn and quartered like our above heroes. She simply drowns. It’s so touching and sad because of how the characters react. I cried and cried while all the characters cried. I’ve only seen this movie once, and I’ll never watch it again. Too sad. Leslie is just a wonderful character you can’t help but like.

Share your thoughts. What is your favorite fantasy death? Which ones made you cry or laugh?

Tuesday Tip

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tip#1Have you ever killed someone? Why did you do it? How did you do it? Did you do it again?

By now I hope you know I’m talking about fictional people. If not, go turn yourself in, you sociopath.

Writers are a disturbing group of people, especially from an outsider’s perspective. Imagine if you will what murder looks like from the viewpoint of a non-writer. The writer stares deadpan at the screen as the keys clack to a rhythm coinciding with the thoughts in their head. With the same face one might write a casual email, the writer is gruesomely disemboweling her character. She pauses, not in remorse, but to take a sip of coffee. Not that some authors don’t cry all the tears as they kill off a character. Others laugh even.

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Almost every book has a death scene. I can’t think of the last book I’ve read where no one died, unless you count the books I read to my kid.

So while you’re planning how you’re going to do it, you should probably decide if you should. For those of you sharpening your proverbial knives, here’s Murder 101.

To Kill or Not to Kill?

The death of a character should be premeditated and not a random decision. I believe it should be the result of the character’s actions or because of their fatal flaw or greatest attribute, not because you think it would be cool to kill them.

Consider Ned Stark. His death is one of the least random and best planned deaths in A Game of Thrones. I’m not finished with the series yet, but sometimes I think people just die to be dead. He just offs them because they became inconvenient to the plot or because he doesn’t know how to finish their arcs or because he just wants to prove to his readers he’s a stone-hearted bad-ass. I don’t know.

So how do you know whether or not to kill your character?

Do it for the epicness. OK, that’s not a word, but that is the word that comes to my mind when I read a story where a character has a well-planned death.

How do you achieve epicness? Consider the why and why nots of Murder 101.

To Advance the Plot: Does the death serve the plot. Did a character grow from it? Did events occur as a result of it? Did it affect the other characters? e.g., Ned Stark. Yes, characters were affected. Yes, plot happened as a result. Yes, characters grew from it. Look at Arya. Look at Robb? (speaking of a death that may or may not have a purpose)

Not for Shock Value: This is never a good reason to kill a character. I mean NEVER. Any desired emotional effect will wear off once the reader realizes what you’ve done. Picking on George again, I believe the Red Wedding was all for shock value. I could think of a hundred ways to kill Robb better than that. And did he need to die? Was he just becoming too powerful? Too boring? Why, George? I’ll give him credit for this much, Robb’s death was the result of his own actions, not random. But that’s all I’ve got to say about that.

To Fulfill a Character’s Goal or Purpose: The character performs a function in the story. Sometimes closing off the character’s arc with death invalidates his or her purpose. Ask yourself, did they exact their purpose because of or in despite of their death? e.g., Shane from The Walking Dead. While the love triangle served little purpose other than for drama sake, Shane’s death was pivitol to the plot. The character Shane had to have a purpose other than to create rifts and tension in the group. His purpose was to test Rick. Note his character always disagreed with Rick. If Rick said fly, he’d say swim. In season two, Rick is facing a moral dilemma: Kill or not kill a living person. Naturally Shane is for it, while Rick has some reservations. The decision is made for him when Shane ambushes Rick in the woods, forcing Rick to make the decision, not on the gang member, but on Shane.

Probably the greatest example of this, however, has to be from “A Tale of Two Cities.” What was the purpose of Syndey Carton, the man who dies for Charles Darnay? Why, to find purpose of course. The character detest and sacrifices himself for Charles because Charles has the life he could have had and a purpose. He realizes he has no purpose other than to save a man who does. As a result, Sydney has a purpose. Still my fav literary death.

Not for Sadistic Pleasure: I’m pretty sure some writers get a disturbing pleasure from killing their characters. I’ve heard the term pain perve used in fanfiction before. Probably not a good reason to kill your character.

To Create Realism: I’ve read so many books where a trio or small group goes on an adventure where they fight against insurmountable odds . . . and no one dies. This kills suspense. At what point do you worry about the characters? You might want to invent some redshirts.

Not Because you Don’t Know What to Do Next: Filling in the gaps between your plot wth senseless death will be just that: senseless. Likewise, if you have a character you don’t know what to do with, chances are they should not be in your story

For Symbolism: This works best when the death is an animal. Animal deaths often symbolize something. The death of a bird can symbolize hopelessness, loss of freedom, or loss of innocence. In one semester of college, I read three books in a row where the authors killed cats. Killing cats seems to be a popular tool with writers (sadistic bastards). The plot device was always lost on me. The result: My class rebelled against our teacher, refusing to read any more books containing cat death. I also threw “Kafka on the Shore” against a wall,and refused to read one more page.

When to Kill

I’m not referring to the time of day. Night or day, it doesn’t matter. I’m referring to the beginning, middle, or end of your book.

Beginning: this usually works best if the character who dies is NOT a main character but a character whose death motivates the protagonist (therefore moving the plot). e.g., Uncle Ben in Spiderman.

Middle: This works best with a side character. Perhaps their death is the consequence of the protagonist’s actions or their own. Maybe they die just as the character was losing hope and refuel their will to carry out their purpose.

End: Main character death. I caution against killing off a main character unless you have to. This can also be a side character. e.g., Boromir in The Lord of the RIngs. His death proves the power and the danger of the one ring.

How

I don’t mean whips or chains, I mean how. Don’t be sadistic. be realistic. Has your character survived everything just to be taken down by a fly, a stumble, or a tiny net?

Some of you might point out, Drogo died of an infection. Does this cheat the reader? Arguably no, it’s payoff for foreshadowing. He has a long braid because he has never been defeated by any warrior. Technically he is and isn’t killed in a fight. He defeats his opponent, only to die of infection.

You want your character’s death to be a result of their actions, not a random flu. Using Ned Stark again. He is brought down by his greatest flaw/greatest attribute: his honor. It doesn’t matter that he was beheaded. He could have been poisoned and the result would be the same.

How Many?

rmx-it-039-s-hard-killing-off-so-many-characters_o_1424057What’s your body count? in my current WIP, I’m up to about 11 if you don’t count the nameless background characters. George R.R. Martin puts me to shame, but I’m not competing.

There really isn’t a set number. Just ask yourself the why/why not questions. Does the death help/hurt the plot?

George R.R. Martin is obviously building quite the body pile, but can he beat Shakespeare?

How to Create the Feels

The best death scene in the world won’t elicit a tear unless you do several things leading up to the death. I’ve read so many books where a character dies and all the characters make such a stink, but I don’t care. I wasn’t invested. Readers want to feel. They even want to feel sad. We like our heart-strings pulled. So how do you make sure your readers cry, full-bodied, blubbery tears?

Make sure you let your readers get to know them.

Build suspense leading up to their deaths. Think of the dramatic, foreboding music before a death scene in a movie. Oh no, something bad is going to happen.

Follow through. Once the character is dead, do your characters move on right away. How can your reader react if they don’t?

Beware False Deaths

princessbride11Sometimes characters die and don’t stay dead, e.g.,Gandalf, Harry Potter, Kenny Mckormick. These characters legit die and come back to life. This is not an uncommon thing in fantasy; however, It’s not my favorite gimmick, and it can leave readers feeling cheated. After all, it’s a major cop-out. My advice is make sure your character is returning for a purpose, not because you missed them or felt bad about killing them. If it serves the plot, kill them and let them stay dead.

The biggest cop-out is the false death. No, I’m not talking about when a character is only mostly dead. I mean they never died. They were just perceived to be dead. This is a gimmick not to be overused.

At best your reader will be surprised and relieved when their favorite character or the villain returns after everyone thought they were defeated. At worst, they will feel lied to and cheated.

Never try to trick your readers into thinking a main character had died by making them black out. Your reader will be ticked when they wake up in the next chapter.

Never have your character die only to reveal it was a dream.

I think false deaths work best for villains. Let the character celebrate their victory only to realize the fight is not won. Again, don’t overuse.

I hope you enjoyed Murder 101. If you remember nothing else, just don’t forget it’s about your reader. They have invested emotionally in a character. Make sure it’s worth it. I got punched in the rib for killing a character once. True story. That either means I did something wrong or right.

Let’s here from you. What’s your body count? Do you cry when your characters die? Did your readers cry?

The One That Got Away

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We all have one: the one that got away. No, I’m not talking about a lover. An idea, a thought.

Sometimes they get lost in a jumble of other thoughts. More than often we lose them walking through doorways. For women, forgetfulness can also be tied to our estrogen levels, especially during menopause. Sarcastic yippie.

I had a thought and now I’ve lost it. It was … it was right there, on the tip of my tongue!

I had this happen last night or this morning. It was either very early or very late. Whatever you consider the dark hours between late night and dawn. I had a great idea for a blog post. I thought I’d remember it because your mind is foolish when it’s only half awake. So naturally in the morning when I tried to recall it, I could not.

I have within reach notebooks, notepads, and sticky notes along with a flashlight/pen combo for late night/early morning ideas. Don’t make fun of me, but it’s an Elsa pen/flashlight. I also have Anna for when Elsa’s batteries die. For whatever reason, I did not employ my handy tools. Too lazy or cold to get up, I guess.

I can't remember whatever it is that wants me to remember it.

I can’t remember whatever it is that wants me to remember it.

Well, hopefully I’ll remember soon. I’m sure it will come to me at three in the morning when all brilliant ideas reanimate, in which case I will be sure to grab my pen and paper. I hope you enjoyed this post. How often does this happen to you? What do you do to jog your memory?

Ask an Author Call Out

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Attention all writers,

Are you interested in sharing your writing wisdom with others?

Would you like free promotion for your books?

If you haven’t already, check out Ask an Author, the monthly guest feature that puts the author in authoritative.

Jan

Feb

March’s featured author will be Kylie Betzner, author of “The Quest for the Holy Something or Other.”

I still have many openings for the rest of the year, and I’d love to feature you.

What is Ask an Author, and Who can be Featured?

I am looking for published authors (Indie or traditional) who are interested in being interviewed. Ask an Author is sort of like an author interview, only instead of a list of questions, you only answer one, which will be tailored to your particular strengths or interest as a writer.

What will the Feature Include

  • a brief bio
  • the question
  • photos and/or videos
  • links to author websites, social media platforms, Amazon and other sites where your book can be purchased, etc.

How to be Featured

  • email me at tbetzner@outlook.com
  • include your name, genre you write, titles of books you’ve written, a brief bio, and links to your blog, social media platforms, author site, and where your books can be purchased.

I will try to get back with you within 24 hours. From there, we’ll communicate via email unless you have a preferred means. Once I have all the information I need, I’ll let you know what month you will be featured.

No Date, No Problem

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All the single ladies–and men–put your hands up! This year I’ll be spending V-Day all by my onesies. Being single doesn’t bother me. After all, I’m single, not alone.

Valentine’s Day is about love, not just romantic love. It’s a time to celebrate all the things and people you care about. For instance, I love my family, wine, reading, writing,and music, so I’ll be indulging in those things.

Time with the Family

I spent Thursday with my mom, brother and his wife, my sister, and my son (not to mention three cats and a dog) for an early V-Day dinner. Today–the day–it will just be me and my sister.

Patty_y_SelmaI’d like to say we are going to spend the evening leisurely drinking a bottle of wine, but our bottle of pink moscato is already gone (did I mention I love wine), so we’ll probably just hang out on the couch and talk. To be honest, this is my idea of a good time. I love my sister more than anyone, so it only makes sense that I’d spend the day with her. Isn’t that what the holiday is all about?

A Blind Date With a Book

untitledIf you’re looking for love, go to the library, not the bar. Bed, bath, couch, kitchen table: a book can go wherever a man can. This year, I’ll be cuddling up with a few books. If you follow me on twitter and Facebook, you know my library is hosting “Blind Date with a Book.” I picked a romance because I figure you can’t go wrong with a romance. I got “Night Storm.” I don’t know if I’ll read the entire thing. I’ll probably just skim to find the naughty parts. Regardless of whether I got a good book, I thought this was a great idea. Check out your library to see if they have anything like this. If you’re leery of meeting strangers, you can always re-read one of your favorite books Looking at my bookshelf, I don’t have a lot of romances, but “Pride and Prejudice” is a great love story. Or if you haven’t read “Princess Bride,” I recommend it. After all, that’s the love story that teaches you love can overcome anything, even death or large rats.

Instead of revisiting my bookshelf, I’ll be reading something new. I recently purchased “Grá mo Chroí: Love Stories from Irish Myth” by Jane Dougherty and Ali Issac. I’m a sucker for anything Irish, and romance (I’ll ship anything that moves), so this book was right up my alley. I’ve been playing Irish music on my Pandora nonstop, and so far these stories remind me of my favorite Irish love songs. Handsome men, tragic love stories, magic and mythology. What’s not to like?

If you haven’t checked it out, here’s the description from Amazon:

coverLong ago in a green island surrounded by protective mists, a people lived among the relics of a bygone age of which they knew nothing, not being archaeologists, but around whom they created a mythology. They were a volatile people, easily moved to love or war, and motivated by a strict sense of honour. They had women warriors and handsome lovers, wicked queens and cruel kings, precious heroines and flawed heroes. Magic was in the air, beneath the ground, and in the waves of the sea, and hyperbole was the stuff of stories. They were the Irish, and these are a few retellings of some of their beautiful stories.

Write Mr. Right?

While I can’t say I’ll get a lot of writing done today, I may spend some time fantasizing about some of my fantasy men (pun intended). I know it sounds vain, but who hasn’t fallen in love with one of their leading men. When I was in high school I fell in love with Sagaru, the main man in a Japanese/fantasy novel I wrote. If he’d come to life, I’d be Mrs. Sagaru by now. I don’t think I’d date any men from my current WIP, except maybe Ashby, of course. Maybe I’ll have to pick a romantic scene to write in honor of the holiday.

So my advice to all of you today regardless of your marital status, spend the day with those you love doing things you love. Watch a movie, read a book, listen to music, or cuddle with your kitty (if you have a kitty that cuddles instead of claws). Don’t waste it with bad people or bad books.

Well, I’ve got to wrap this up. If you haven’t already, check out “Grá mo Chroí.” Nothing is more romantic than an old Irish love story or song, so please enjoy this old Gaelic love song I’ve been playing nonstop while gearing up for V-Day and St. Patrick’s Day.

 

 

Kylie Betzner, on writing comedy

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Entertaining Stories

has a new out, and graciously agreed to share a few tips on weaving comedy into our stories. She also agreed to give us a little promo for her new book.

a comedian. Blogger. Coffee junkie. Incurable nerd. And now, author. The titles she is most proud of are sister, auntie, and friend. Growing up in a small town surrounded by cornfields, Kylie had nothing better to do than fantasize about unicorns and elves. As an adult, she still refuses to grow up, and spends most of her time creating stories of comedic fantasy. When she is not writing, which is hardly ever, Kylie enjoys reading, drinking coffee, and spending time with her family and friends. She also runs, although she does not enjoy it so much. Kylie currently resides in Indiana with her sister, nephew, horde of cats, and one very silly dog.

It’s Craft Time—Writer’s Craft, that is:…

View original post 1,361 more words

Tuesday Tip

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tip#1

Its vary important to spell write.

See what I did there?

I bet you can tell what today’s tip is about just from that example. You might think spell check has you covered, but it’s not full proof. Word processors can miss–even introduce–errors.

Identifying Airers Errors

The best way to identify spelling errors is the standard read-aloud method. That’s right, nothing fancy. Just read your manuscript very slowly and  highlight every word you aren’t sure of. It also helps to read backwards. Why? Because when you read, your brain will auto correct many errors. But if you read backwards, the sentence loses meaning, allowing you to notice mistakes.

Share your writing with others. If you’re afraid of the shame and humiliation that comes with sharing your writing, imagine how much more humiliating it will be when readers, not beta readers, find errors after purchasing your book. If you think they’ll be understanding, read some reviews where readers have caught misspelled words. A simple human error can be jarring to a reader, causing them to question you as a writer or even leave a scathing review.

If you think I’m being dramatic, go check out some reviews. Some reviewers even list the page numbers where they found the mistakes. That’s just pretentious if you ask me.

Like spell check, people can introduce errors into your work as well. So why let others read it? It’s not that other people are necessarily better spellers than you. However, they aren’t as close to the work and therefore won’t be as likely to correct words in their heads. Trust me, they will do a better job than your handy-dandy spell check.

Online Spell Checkers

There are a lot of free spell checkers online. I’d include some links, but all you have to do is perform a Google search. Some of these even check for grammar.

Though not free, I’ve heard a lot of good things about Grammarly. Not only does it check for spelling errors, but it checks for plagiarism as well. To be honest, if you’re going to spend the money for an online grammar checker, you might as well hire an editor.

Spelling Names

Another reason not to rely solely on spell check: spell check will assume every name in your book is a misspelled word. If you write fantasy, you know what I’m talking about. Here are a list of names my spell checker flags: Bronwyn, Ashby, Gailodyn, Thaolas, and Thanduryn. Instead of clicking ignore over and over again while running spell check, add your names to your spell checker dictionary.

Before you do that you need to make sure you choose one spelling to adhere to. My sister is bad about this. She’ll dabble with the spelling of a name, changing it midway through her rough draft. Once you choose a name, you can use the search replace feature to correct the spelling.

Create a Style Guide

The easiest way to keep names straight is to keep a list. When I was a copy editor, I recorded every name that appeared in the story in an alphabetized list. Whenever the name appeared again, I checked it against the list to make sure it was spelled the same. If not, I asked the author which spelling they preferred.

Commonly Confused Words

Some spelling problems you’ll encounter in your WIP aren’t so much misspelled as misused. Has your character ever walked threw something he should have walked through or spoken allowd when he should have spoken aloud? Below are some commonly confused words.

  • accept/except
  • aloud/allowed
  • affect/effect
  • allusion/illusion
  • all ready/already
  • altogether/all together
  • capital/capitol
  • cite/sight/site
  • elicit/illicit
  • complement/compliment
  • lose/loose
  • past/passed
  • principal/principle
  • council/counsel
  • then/than
  • they’re/there/their
  • to/too/two
  • through/thorough/threw

That’s it for today. Thanks for reading and happy editing.