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Post Reply Killing off main characters
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26 / F / PA, USA
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Posted 10/29/17 , edited 10/29/17
Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. It gets old when it's gratuitous, for shock value alone... Or poorly executed in other ways. Plot armor is obnoxious, too.
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Posted 10/29/17 , edited 10/29/17
Depends of the context, if killed of purely for shock factor, then yes I think it would be in poor use. Otherwise, I'm fine with it, several of my favorite books, films, and game generally have bittersweet endings that involve a main character/s deaths. Spoiler warnings for a very old show but, Cowboy Bebop was a great example of killing off its main protagonist. Spike death at the end of the show was thematically appropriate as it was subtlety alluded to since the start.
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M / Darkest Africa
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Posted 10/29/17 , edited 10/29/17
I also hate plot armour. It's very obnoxious if a story pretends to kill characters which it then brings back (especially if done repeatedly). Bleach has no tension for this reason. (Magic healing counts!) The stunt Rowling pulled with the resurrection mcguffin is also insufferable, especially after she hyped up that a main character was going to die.

Conversely, I cannot stand it if characters are simply killed left and right for no reason other than to say "Look at me! I'm subverting a trope!" A Game of Thrones I find boringly melodramatic in this respect.

It can work well if a story kills off one or more of the most important characters. It maintains tension and adds motives to character's actions. It can be used to humanise characters. Mortality and loss are the human condition. They can be used to develop immature characters into true adults. Or conversely to make strong characters break down.

Lastly I will add that I, too, am a fan of bittersweet endings. What I hate perhaps most is when there is an ending where the protagonists clearly should not survive their victory but they do anyway because of plot armour. Hollywood is filled with these.
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Posted 10/29/17 , edited 10/29/17
Well, by main characters I guess you are not talking about the villain of the piece. But if we are talking about "Very Important support or really main Characters" then Henry Fonda as Lt. Col. Thursday in "Fort Apache", John Wayne as Wil Anderson in "The Cowboys", Steve McQueen as Jake Holman in "The Sand Pebbles", all the Spartans in "300", the Rangers in "Saving Private Ryan". Yeah it depends on the story being told, and how well it's worked in.
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Posted 10/30/17 , edited 10/30/17
It all boils down to the execution...

Madoka Magica did it right.

SAO... not so much...
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Posted 10/30/17 , edited 10/30/17
Context is king.

There really are no other cast-iron rules when it comes to writing. Sometimes the atmosphere of the series demands brutal disregard for the characters for one reason or the other, sometimes it's much better to keep them alive. Most of the time the optimal path can be found somewhere between these two extremes, and the author of the story has to feel around and find that path themselves.
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Canada, Toronto
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Posted 10/30/17 , edited 10/30/17
If I would add more to the discussion, then I would present some factors to consider: the role of the main character; the replacement of the main character with another charcter of similar traits; the context of the plot where the main character died; and the types of plot in the story.
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Posted 10/30/17 , edited 10/31/17
I think a happy middle is to have the hero survive, but irreparably damaged. Like Hiccup's leg. Or Deku's hand.
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23 / M / Texas
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Posted 10/30/17 , edited 10/31/17
If the killing makes sense to the plot or their death is inevitable, it’s ok in my book. Now if the killing is done purely for shock value and makes no sense *cough* Akame Ga Kill *cough*, it instantly joins my list of disliked shows.
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25 / F / VA, US
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Posted 10/30/17 , edited 10/31/17
it depends on how deep you are in a series.... like at the beginning I feel like perhaps they should make everything feel unsafe. idk if anyone watches the walking dead but EVERYONE used to die. now they've chilled out a bit and only kill a main about once a season. I think a few hard deaths really show you how intense a different world may be.
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23 / F / Michigan
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Posted 10/30/17 , edited 10/31/17
Depends on the show/movie I think. However, whenever a series does kill off the main character (and actually leave them killed off instead of bringing them back a season later), it can be refreshing. It's less predictable than when a side character is killed off.
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