Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Brutal Endings to Series and Why They Are the Best

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! Except no, OMG, no, I still live in denial, Fred Weasley is alive and happy somewhere making people laugh, keep thinking happy thoughts.

He makes J.K. Rowling look like Dr. Seuss.

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:

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.

Look at this face: This is the face of a murderer.

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.

 24 Reasons Why George R.R. Martin Is The Biggest Troll In Literature Right Now


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.)

And the worst part is when he's asked about it. He TAUNTS you.

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.

He's a complete sicko.


  1. This is AWESOME! I so agree with you. What's a book with a happy ending. HEA is overrated. Yes, I feel bad and I want to live in denial when a character dies in a book but I realize that it's a part of it. You want your character to mature and grow, you kill. You want to wrench away the happiness of a reader, you kill. Kill and kill. It's bittersweet but it's vital for a book to be asdfgh-ally GOOD.

    Now I haven't read A George R. R. Martin book as yet (I will, I promise), but I know he's the guru of killing characters off mercilessly. So I've to applaud him because when I read one of his books, I won't be doing much applauding.

  2. LOL! I still need to read George R. R. Martin's books, and trust me, I fully intend to. Someday. But regardless, YOU ARE RIGHT! I like when characters are killed off. My favorite books have broke my heart! And lately most of the books I have been reading haven't been doing it. I need more people to die, STAT!

  3. Firstly, I don't get your Fred Weasley reference. He's still perfectly fine. I will forever be in denial about that one. Can't separate the Weasley twins. (The moment I cried hardest while ever reading a book, btw.)

    I love this post!!! I love crying over books and I love unpredictability even more. Lately I haven't been as invested in a lot of adventure/fantasy/dystopian stories because why bother? The heroes always win. Everyone always lives. And it's true that I WANT this sometimes. If Jo Rowling had killed Harry like she originally planned, my life would've been ruined. Not even kidding. But, like you said, I LIKE this kind of despair, this kind of heartbreak. It's realistic and devastating and terrible and beautiful. It also needs to happen more often, because if not, all books will be the same. Just not Harry. Or Fred. Psssh.

    1. I second Judith. Fred Weasley is still alive and meant to be with me forever. *coughs*

  4. That's what made Les Mis so heart-wrenchingly wonderful.

  5. That's right, Mr. Martin, though I hear he takes it too far. I'm not very far into the show and haven't read the book, so I don't know. BUT I agree with this. Joss Whedon has the same philosophy. HOW COULD HE KILL MY FAVORITE CHARACTER? He and Rowling have radar for who I love most, I swear.

    Weee! I'm in this post.

    Also, I know which series you're talking about. I recently read one that passed this test and I was SO not expecting it. So. Many. Deaths. Oh, oh, it was brilliant. I have the feeling Melina Marchetta won't pass it, which gives me a sad. I love the series still, but it won't be a 5. And I want it to be. but maybe she will surprise me.

    Also, LOL at the Martin memes. BAHAHA. Puntastic Twitter joke.

    OH MAN, I really want to read GoT now. MWAHAHA.

    "The sixth will just be a thousand-page description of snow blowing across the graves"


  6. Excellent Post! I actually wrote a story that most of the main characters ended up not making it until the end. I even thought about writing out the heroine and telling the story from another characters point of view. Of course, the book never published, and is still sitting in a shoe box at the top of my overburdened closet! May have to revisit that story some time soon!

  7. This post is both painful (J.K. broke my poor little Potterhead heart and then proceeded to do a jig on its pieces... you are bringing back those feelings) and fantastic! As hard as it can be and as much as readers will cry about it, books that don't hold back are often the most powerful and most talked-about. And heck, authors, don't you want your readers to connect and FEEL? Crying is feeling, so darn it, make me cry! If I cry, I will talk about the book and isn't that the easiest publicity?
    Also, as always, you are the picture/gif master. *bows to your genius and skill*

  8. Yes yes! I totally agree! I'm not a GAME OF THRONES fan, so I can't speak to that, but from what I've heard everyone say about them, he seems little TOO trigger happy. But I think there's definitely something to be said for killing off characters because that's realistic. I mean, in real life, a lot of people die in battle and in wars. So. I'm okay with my fiction portraying that.

  9. Oh boy this is a MAJOR trigger for me. JKR killed all of my favorite characters by the end of Potter and I just wanted to cry for days. Yet Fred Weasley's death wasn't one of them. For me,losing Siris, Lupin and Snape in books 5 & 7 were brutal. Particularly Snapes's death. I cried for days after that one. Switching my thoughts to another well known series,Cinna & Finnick both from The Hunger Games trilogy.Heartbreaking,soul crushing deaths yet again.

    Weird how most of my favorite literary characters appear to be boys...

  10. Yes yes yes. I'm not a sociopath either, but if the heroine has one hand on a cliff and is about to fall, DIE DAMNIT. It makes such a notable impact on the story when you're scared. Game of Thrones took this to a whole other level. I've decided to watch the TV show completely before reading the books, and the entire Red Wedding had me in tears and my jaw literally dropped. For the first time, I wondered if there might not be a happy ending and I didn't realize how much I expected that out from pretty much every story. Like, good always wins right? Except in GoT where who knows, maybe all my favourite characters will die and I'll be miserable. I sort of love how unpredictable it is. It's what made Harry Potter and The Hunger Games awesome.

    Great post btw.

    -P.E. @ The Sirenic Codex

  11. AMEN SISTER! I say that when at least one main character dies in a book that it's a good one! Gah, Libba Bray is also one who knows how to kill off her characters in a way that makes you want to throw the book across the room and cry large tears of shock! I love that! Oh and Hunger Games got so brutal at the end. I loved every single moment of it. I mean I was pissed, but also so much more into the story because of all the deaths. Maybe we should write a book where everyone dies! I'm also a fan of movies that do the same thing. In fact that's why I'm such a Danny Boyle/Joss Whedon fan!

  12. Like I mentioned on Twitter earlier today, I completely agree with you. A lot of fans tend to not be happy when some of their favourite characters are killed off, but I kinda dig it. While I do have to agree that, killing people off just for the sake of it is never a good option, but when an author kills a character off with purpose, oh man, it wrecks me completely (in a good way).

    Perhaps I'm a bit of a masochist, but this is the reason why I think The Hunger Games series resonated so much with me --- it gave me all the FEELS (quite literally). And you're absolutely right. When we read a book, we go into it wanting, hoping to feel something, anything. Feeling something is what makes the difference between liking and loving a book, even if those feelings aren't always the warm fuzzies.

    If I'm being completely honest, I'm a bit of a realist so I don't always desire there to be a happily ever after. I can respect when an author makes the difficult choice in killing off a beloved character because it makes the book feel so much more REAL to me. Besides, as sick as George R.R. Martin is, he makes a good point. You have to FEEL the danger that these characters are in. You have to really believe it and invest yourself in it and you can't do that if you know, deep down, that everything will, by default, be okay.

    So yeah. I think this is a wonderful post and you've perfectly summed up why I'm such a sucker for masochism!

  13. I agree that there should definitely be death of major characters in epic fantasy. I don't always think it necessary that it happen toward the end, and don't care if they are characters I love. If the main character has experienced significant loss through half a series and is spared anymore-I'm okay with that. I also don't need to be devastated by a death that occurs myself. To make it work for me, I have to know the MC is devastated by it.

    But yes. I CAN NOT STAND when you have themes of war and good vs. evil and everyone makes out okay with sunshine, rainbows, and unicorns frolicking in meadows. Just no.

  14. I LOVE this post. I am not a fan when everyone gets out of a very bad situation completely unscathed. Not okay. I don't like it necessarily when all my favorite characters die in a series, but at least a few need to happen. It just makes it that much better.

  15. Yes! This post, so much. 100%


    I don't get how authors think they can build up these crazy stakes, tell us nothing will be okay ever again, and then waltz everyone out without a scratch. If it's truly that dire, kill people off!

    If I ever end up writing a book, it is literally my fondest hope to be the author who not only kills off darling characters, but can do so in such a way that takes everyone by surprise. I mean, did anyone guess the deaths in Mockingjay ahead of time? Nope!

    I receive a lot of weird looks when I tell people that Mockingjay is one of my favourite books, BECAUSE of the deaths. Nothing drove in the setting of the war more than Finnick's abrupt death- I had to read it twice for it to even sink in. I want characters to face their (fictional) mortality. I want the authors to rip out my heart, shred it to pieces and stomp on it. I want to FEEL for the characters.
    (That may have been a tad bit masochistic.)

    It makes for a dull ending if everyone is alive and lives happily ever after. As a reader, I can't help but imagine their lives outside of the book, and HEAs aren't conducive to that! I mean, the MC has suffered throughout his/her life and now they get a free pass? Why? How will I imagine them mourning in the aftermath? How will I see the effects of war? WHAT WILL I DO WITHOUT THE ANGSTY FANFIC?

  18. I'm conflicted about this. On the one hand, I like some death in the books I read. Everybody survives after 400 pages of life-or-death struggle? Not realistic. On the other hand, I don't like death just for the sake of making readers cry. It's fiction, and I want those deaths to be meaningful (unlike real life, where bad things that happen are often completely meaningless). That's why I hated the ending of Mockingjay, because it made absolutely everything in the first three books stemming from Katniss's initial sacrifice pointless. Yes, it tore readers hearts out. But it was too depressing, and it made the trite quasi-happy ending seem like a slap in the face. After all that, what Katniss should have done was gotten so depressed she killed herself. That would have at least made sense.

    While I'm not a fan of Harry Potter in general, I thought the ending was handled with more balance. Yes, some beloved characters died. But Harry lived. If Voldemort had taken him out (as some people proposed might happen), that would've meant that evil had won. And then we would've had seven pointless books. Thank goodness Rowling knew how to write a decent ending.

  19. Haha, this is fantastic. George Martin is just brutal, but I do like his point. Every fantasy ends the same way and you are always like 'he's going to survive in the end..' I want to feel more tension. Killing my characters makes me sad, but sometimes it needs to be done in order to truly feel the story :) Great, great topic!

  20. I know what you mean, I know that not EVERYONE can realistically live but it kills me inside!! God, Fred... he is alive and well inside my head where he can continue being practical jokers with George. Forever. *CRIES* I'm not even gonna get started on Whedon. He knows my favorites, I swear and targets them!! And Geroge R.R martin... HA! Oh George. He almost made me throw my kindle out the window.

    BUT. I know these things need to happen. =(

  21. This post was so creative! I completely agree that authors should kill off some of the important characters. I love reading young adult novels, and I seem to rely on the fact that all of the characters will survive through their adventures. It would be much more interesting to read when your favorite character was alive one minute and dead the next. Plus, your gifs and memes were hilarious! Great Choices!!!
    Check out my book review blog, Book Savvy:

  22. I totally agree with you! (And what are you talking about? Of course Fred is still alive...)
    That's one of the reasons I really love Doctor Who. No, people don't generally die too often, at least not central characters, but some of their ends are just devastating. I bawled my eyes out when Amy and Rory left. I think I was actually in mourning for about three days afterwards..


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