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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

How to kill someone you like...

I just finished reading a suspense novel with a time travel element. I've come to the conclusion that I enjoy books involving time travel because they take me back to various eras while I can continue looking at them through the lens of the present day.

In this latest novel, the woman who travels back in time meets a man who is purportedly her soul mate. She accompanies him on a history-altering battle in which he sees her about to be attacked and throws himself in front of her. Unlike books that have a happily-ever-after, her soul mate dies in defense of her - right there on the battlefield.

In the paragraphs that follow, it's about her preparing to return to her own time because her work there is finished. With her soul mate gone, there's no reason to hang around.

I had issues with that.

The way I saw it, the man would not have died if she had not traveled back in time and accompanied him to the battlefield. She'd done nothing on the battlefield to help his people; in fact, they lost. And while I didn't form a complete picture of this character in my mind's eye, he seemed like a good, decent person. So why kill him? For the convenience of sending her forward in time without regrets?

I think there's a way to kill a character that the reader has come to like. His death must stand for something; he has to alter history or at least a few people's fates to give meaning to his death. We've all read true stories or seen movies based on historical figures whose deaths changed history, often heralding in much-needed changes. Millions sat through The Passion of the Christ because they knew one man's crucifixion would change the course of human history. But what if nothing changed after his death? What then?

One could argue that fiction is... fictional. And of course the author can write whatever they wish, however they wish. But I think when we introduce a character that we want the reader to connect with, to like, and to recognize he or she is a good and decent person... We owe it to them to give their death meaning.

What do you think?