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Beloved character deaths perpetuate creative writing laziness

Beloved character deaths perpetuate creative writing laziness

Beloved character deaths perpetuate creative writing laziness
July 22
14:00 2022

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

Finnick Odair, Marley the dog, Dobby the house elf and nearly every doctor on Grey’s Anatomy — what do all of these characters have in common? Their deaths were entirely unnecessary and emotionally devastating. Creating character deaths that could have otherwise been avoided or rewritten ultimately fails audiences. 

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

People form attachments to these characters. They get to know them, identify with them and understand themselves better through watching them. More often than not though, these characters are lost to ambition to move plot lines, create action or switch creative directions. Those are all valid reasons to kill a character off if the death doesn’t cause more harm than good.

Killing characters the audience has 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 formulated the art to perfection. A character is introduced, you grow to love them and then they die. 

A sacrifice, an accidental tragedy, a gut-wrenching cliff-hanger — these beloved character deaths are easier to create than one may think, and oftentimes prove themselves to be less creative and interesting than if they were written to survive. Directors now sacrifice their own depth of storytelling and rhetoric when they sacrifice another character.

By the time the audience of hit Netflix show “Stranger Things” gets to season two, there’s an understanding that characters Jim Hopper and Joyce Byers are going to get together. Then comes in Bob Newby — a new love interest for Joyce and sweet as a puppy. Bob easily became a fan favorite, only to die by the end of the season, sacrificing himself so other characters could live.

In the same fashion as Bob — the beloved Hunger Games character, Finnick, is another example of a pointless death that still hits home for many fans. Finnick’s death was unnecessary to satisfy the book and movie’s plot. In fact, his character was built up along the series so much so that the audience saw him get married with a child on the way — an unlikely development for someone suspected to die sacrificing themself.

Bob and Finnick’s deaths are only two of many onscreen tragedies that fail to propel plot and point. Instead, the deaths are used as ploys to discourage the viewer from assuming what will happen next in the show.

These huge shocks, while achieving the intended emotional turmoil, are lazy grabs at creating moving pieces of media. 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.

Making characters die just for the sake of proving a point undermines the theme of grief altogether. It also disrespects the characters themselves and their development. 

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

These beloved characters deserve to stay beloved and alive. Killing them off just showcases lazy storytelling and highlights writers’ disregard for advancing more involved plots.

Featured Illustration by Cuinn Cornwell 

About Author

Lauryn Barron

Lauryn Barron

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