Kill Them Like You Mean It: A Critique On Character Resurrections

There is a joke in the Whovian community: “Steven Moffat walks into a bar and everyone you love dies.” This seems accurate as the man’s body count ranges in the double digits. The same can be said for George R. R. Martin with his Game of Thrones series in which many characters face agonizingly graphic deaths that leave you a sobbing mess on the living room rug.

What is the difference between the deaths in Doctor Who and the deaths in the Game of Thrones series?

When someone dies in Game of Thrones I actually care.

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HBO

 It’s not that I don’t feel a connection with the characters in Doctor Who. My problem is Steven Moffat, as well as many other writers, are guilty of overusing the Lazarus Trope.

The Lazarus Trope occurs when a character— usually one of rapport— dies, but is brought back to life through some manner of plot contrivance.

And it’s not just Doctor Who that is guilty of overusing this trope. If I took a shot for every character in anime or comic book movies/TV shows that have died only to be brought back to life, I would need a stomach pump.

Seriously, it’s a wonder that people in these universes even have funerals anymore. You’d think they would just wait with a beer by the front door for their loved ones to reappear.

The Lazarus Trope is reaching epidemic levels in all forms of media from TV shows, to movies, to books, to video games and it needs to die (pun intended).

It has gotten to the point where I’m no longer bothered if a character’s life ends because I just assume they’re going to return later on. Therefore, all the unrest this character’s demise is supposed to create becomes dead on arrival.

The reason the deaths in Game of Thrones resonate so powerfully with audiences is because we know that once those characters are gone, they’re gone for good. And most of them don’t deserve the fates they were given.

To all you creative types out there, I implore you, don’t bring your characters back to life. Or, if you must, let there be a catch to their survival. Give them some sort of psychological or physiological side effect that will follow them throughout the course of their story. People who go through near-death experiences in reality don’t come out of it unscathed, so neither should those that reside in fictional worlds.

I’m not against the slaying of characters if it’s done for a good reason. But if you’re just going to use it as a cheap sleight of hand, then consider other alternatives.

Death is not a head cold. Don’t treat it like one.

Your audience will probably see it coming anyway.

Writing, a Process

For me, a writing project is a Herculean task that requires a stringent routine.

I clean my entire social calendar for the day.

I have a nutritious breakfast complete with a mandatory cup of hazelnut coffee.

I trudge out to the front lawn in my cotton pajamas as the sun peaks modestly from the horizon and stick my finger in the air to test if the wind is blowing in the right direction. If it is not I will watch Netflix for another four hours. If it is, then I will still watch Netflix for another four hours.

Some time later, I settle myself into my designated writing chair and open the Word document. The words stand out like a map to a foreign land that time has forgotten; a network of dead-end roads and crumpled buildings. I am a 19th century explorer trying to make sense out of it all, to find meaning in the disused tools and messy lavatories.

It is difficult to find motivation no matter how many times Shia LaBeouf screams at me.

I minimize the document and check Twitter.

Surprisingly, Maureen Johnson still doesn’t know I exist. 

One o’clock approacheth. 

I check Facebook and learn about the latest social outrage that is sweeping the nation. “(insert celebrity here) said something terrible about (insert group here)! They must be stopped!”

Right you are, random Facebook person I don’t remember friending, right you are.

I spend the next few hours scouring blog after blog for more information on how this event could have been allowed to happen and why Obama did nothing to stop it.

I comb through the comment sections, hoping that faceless strangers will impart some sort of wisdom on the situation. Surely one among us has the answers.

Sadly, I leave each webpage feeling just as lost as before.

I reopen the Word document I’ve left shivering in the corner of my laptop like a neglected child and try to reacquaint myself with the language.

Ok, I decide, maybe this is salvageable.

Ideas break off slowly, methodically like leaves off a dry bough and I decide to run with one of them. My fingers dance across the keys and I’m lost to the blurry nether sphere that is my imagined world. I barely notice the headache that is slowly blooming in my temples.

My momentum is building.

The story is moving.

The gears of my mind are whizzing and churning.

Holy shit, this is actually happening.

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Then, all at once, it stops.

The characters freeze in place, waiting for me and all I can do is type the same sentence over and over like a scratched CD.

What happened? We were doing so well.

I stare at the blank landscape of the next page and my mind goes dry.

Did I already use that metaphor? How the hell am I going to get that character to go into the next room? What is their motivation?

I reread the same paragraph repeatedly as if it’s an incantation and hope the words will magically appear in my mind as they did before.

They don’t.

It’s nearly six o’clock and I’ve written about three and a half pages.

I was hoping to have the entire novel finished by the end of the day so this is rather disconcerting.

There is nothing to be done.

Now is the time to drink and wonder why I wasn’t the one that wrote Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. It makes no sense. Why was this book not written by me? I’ve spent my entire life on the internet, fangirling and secretly writing fan fiction before I even realized that this was a thing that other people did.

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How was I suppose to know it wasn’t against the rules to write about the fangirl lifestyle in a novelistic capacity?

It’s now 10 o’clock at night and the glare from the computer screen is burning my eyes. It’s time to close down shop.

Okay, one more Youtube video.

Now it’s time to go to sleep.

I set my alarm for 7:00 a.m.

Tomorrow, I vow, things will be different. I will be more dedicated tomorrow.

I curl up in bed as calming white noise plays from my stereo. My nerves slowly unclench. The tension in my spine releases. The burning in my eyes from leaving my contacts in too long is beginning to alleviate.

Behind my eyelids something is coming. Something so dim it’s like a tiny flame behind wax paper.

Suddenly…..

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It all makes sense. Everything makes sense. I can see the narrative of my story winding out. The characters motivations are clear and their dialogue is Shakespearean in quality. The plot is well-paced and easily conveyed.

It is brilliant.

I am brilliant.

I fumble in the darkness for a notebook to jot these ideas down. However, I am unable to find one in the blackness that swaths my general area. My arm falls haplessly to my side.

Oh well.

I’m sure I’ll remember it in the morning.