Warning: Harry Potter spoilers below, but really. You should know how it ends by now.
ETA: Also Mockingjay. Get with it, guys.
I have always preferred books I can invest in. Books that worm their way into my heart. Books that make me feel. These are the books that have both characters I care about and very high stakes. The books with the VERY highest of stakes are fantasies and dystopians, which usually deal with things on a life-or-death scale.
Which is why I like when people die.
No, I'm not a sociopath. I don't actually ENJOY death. But I want my fantasies in particular--and my series enders, in extra particular--to WRENCH OUT MY HEART. I want the heroes to EARN their endings. Nobody can claim that Harry and Katniss didn't have to sacrifice a lot of friends and family to get to their endings. How lame would the last HP have been if EVERYBODY LIVED? No. No, be brutal, authors. Be without mercy. Kill your Weasley twins! Kill your fan favorites!
I'd already been mulling over this blog post idea, spurred from a conversation I had with Lili, when my blog friend, Christina from Reader of Fictions, posted this on Twitter:
Starting to think that I can't COMPLETELY love an epic fantasy series unless at least one of the major characters is killed off.
— Christina Megan (@Reader_Fictions) August 13, 2013
I recently read and loved a fantasy series ender, which I won't name for spoiler-reasons (you could easily figure it out, though), which was perfect except for one thing--all the central characters made it out unscathed. Victory was claimed way too easily, in my opinion. I mean, I cared about all those characters, and I would have been devastated to lose the ones I love the most, but you know what? I like when books devastate me. That means I care. That means the author is so good that she's moved me and managed to convince me that these characters are not just names on a page, but actual, living, breathing people. Who, any second, may no longer be living or breathing.
A book is a million times more riveting if you're not sure if everyone will survive. I mean, you don't have to be as cruel as George R.R. Martin, or anything (FOR MY SANITY'S SAKE, PLEASE DON'T BE, AUTHORS), but take him as inspiration. Nobody's safe in his books. And it keeps the tension and the enjoyment (and the despair and the pain, oh gods the pain) very high.
MISSION ACCOMPLISHED, GEORGE. MISSION FREAKING ACCOMPLISHED.
The best way to have your life ruined is by fictional characters. It's just a fact. It's fun to invest in something so deeply that wounds us SO GREATLY but also makes us SO HAPPY... without it ACTUALLY having an effect on our lives. (Well, sort of. To an extent. A little bit. Finnick, I still feel the void you left behind.)
So please, please, genre authors. Be like George. Be like Joss. Be like J.K. Make me cry like I've never cried before. Raise the stakes and the consequences. If you've created a world or a scenario where people could die, by all means, KILL THEM. You'll have fans railing against you for years to come, and that, of course, is the truest sign of true love, for I only love the authors I hate.