Let them die!

I have a few pet peeves when it comes to stories. Love triangles. Zombies. Unnecessary swearing. Insta-love.

And CHARACTERS WHO WON’T STAY DEAD.

This is a plague that runs rampant in stories today, be they in books, TV shows, or movies. If a character you like dies, have no fear! The writer(s) will find a way to prove that the character actually cheated death. Even if this character has “died” three or four times before, there’s no need to worry.

Last night, I watched the newest Doctor Who. They brought back a character who died at the end of last season (who, incidentally, has “died” at least three times in the new series alone). Thirty minutes later, this character was “dead” once more. And I had zero emotional reaction. Because, seriously, people–when was the last time a main character actually died in Doctor Who? (You may bring up a certain beloved character from season 8, but I’m not convinced he’s really dead for good, and I won’t be until Clara is long gone.)

(Which brings me to another obnoxious trend of the latest Doctor Who series–this stupid fixation on claiming that the Doctor is going to die. People. The ENTIRE STORY is based on the fact that the DOCTOR DOES NOT DIE. Cut the drama and find a more creative plot device.)

But seriously. If you’re going to kill your characters, make it count. Leave them dead and make your other characters (and readers) deal with the heartbreak. This is something I love about the Harry Potter series–even in a world of magic, characters who die stay dead. Not even the Resurrection Stone could truly bring someone back. The grief shapes the story and has a far more profound impact on the reader than a wishy-washy she’s-dead-but-no-she’s-not-just-kidding sort of event.

How do you feel about characters coming back from the dead? Are there any other plot devices that make you crazy?

Although . . . there were the bees disappearing.

“Only mention something if you’re going to bring it up again.”

I can’t tell you how many times my husband has brought this up in our discussions of books, movies, TV shows, anything with a storyline. And you know what? It’s absolutely true.

The best storytellers make every word count. There is no room for extraneous details, because every detail affects the story somehow, no matter how small it may seem at its first appearance.

Prime example: the bees.

Doctor Who, season 4, episode 1. Donna wants to find the Doctor again, but how do you find a man who travels through space and time?

“I just thought, ‘Look for trouble, and then he’ll turn up.’ So I looked everywhere — you name it. UFO sightings, crop circles, sea monsters — I looked, I found them all. Like that stuff about the bees disappearing, I thought, ‘I bet he’s connected.'” (Partners in Crime)

Passing comment, bees stuck in there among crop circles and UFOs. My husband and I talked about it all the way through season 4, though I don’t know that the bees were even mentioned again, maybe once more before the end of the season. But were they important?

Oh, you know. The only way to find Earth in the season finale.

Other examples: Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak, inherited in book 1 and vital in book 7. The garlin that Sage rolls across his knuckles in The False Prince. The silver candlesticks that are so dear to the bishop’s heart in Les Miserables.

Those little clues, the details that come back after pages and pages of waiting—those are the things that make a reader squeal and encourage obsessive speculation. Don’t let all that speculation go to waste by leaving loose ends.