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5 Stages of Grief When Bad Things Happen to Beloved Characters

5 August 2014

From BookRiot:

So. You were reading along, minding your own business, and Something Very Bad has suddenly happened to characters you like a lot. You’re having all kinds of emotions right now.

. . . .

Don’t worry. We’re here for you. Knowing the five stages of reading grief will help you work through dem feels.

Stage 1: Re-Reading

“Did … did that really just happen? No, surely not–I better re-read to make sure I didn’t miss something.” Because hey, it’s TOTALLY POSSIBLE that you read that passage wrong and your favorite character didn’t just die or that the couple you’ve been shipping didn’t just break it off FOREVER when one of them married SOMEONE ELSE. You’d better re-read it just to be sure, and then re-read it a whole bunch more times, to be more sure.

. . . .

Stage 3: Rationalization and Hope

“Surely the author wouldn’t do this. They wouldn’t want to let down their fans! And hey, look how many pages are left–there are TOTALLY ENOUGH PAGES to turn this whole thing around. People can come back to life or get divorced! Mistakes can be corrected!” Stage 3 often includes scouring the text for any potential foreshadowing that leads to this ghastly event being undone in the end and occasionally includes peeking ahead because you just. Can’t. Stand it.

Link to the rest at BookRiot

Books in General

24 Comments to “5 Stages of Grief When Bad Things Happen to Beloved Characters”

  1. “…there are TOTALLY ENOUGH PAGES to turn this whole thing around.”

    Gandalf the Grey. I mean White.


  2. LOL!


    Passage by Connie Willis.

    Cryoburn by Lois McMaster Bujold. (Although I love the book, and didn’t pass through these “stages.” Got that punched-in-the-gut feeling along with “oh, this is absolutely right.)

    • I haven’t read Cryoburn yet, but I had that reaction to Miles losing his Naismith persona. I said some variation of “Nooooooooooo!”

      Fortunately, Bujold found an awesome way to turn things around (yay Ekaterine) 🙂

      (I just refused to accept that Miles was down for the count in the book where he meets Mark. No denial, just cold determination).

  3. Bad things happen. I just had to kill off a beloved character. It upset my faithful readers, but they are now waiting for better surprises.

    And they will get them. 🙂

  4. And hey, look how many pages are left–there are TOTALLY ENOUGH PAGES to turn this whole thing around.

    I have a character undergo a monstrous metamorphosis in the middle of one book, and in that same book another character dies at the end. It’s a cliffhanger ending for the first book in the trilogy, and I’m banking on the readers having exactly that reaction.

  5. I’ll be working on the team-up of two of my series, Nicholas Turner and Justice Security soon, titled Hell’s Bells. I’ve already made it known that not every character will make it to the end of that book.

  6. Near the end of his life, Patrick O’Brien killed off two of his major characters in the Aubrey and Maturin series. I simply refuse to believe those two books exist.

    • Sometimes authors do this to prevent greedy publishers and ghosts from destroying their characters with endless, poorly written sequels.

    • Oh, how I love that series. Unquestionably, the best historical fiction around!

    • It was kind of jarring.

      spoiler alert.

      Killing off Bonden may have been his way of reminding people that war will kill off your best friends. As for Diana, maybe he thought he had written himself into a corner with that relationship. Or maybe that was just his own advancing years, wanting to make a statement on the frailty of life in general. After all, he died himself, not too long after those books were written.

      • Spoiler alert.

        Diana’s death had some foreshadowing, as she was noted as driving recklessly, especially over a particularly dangerous bridge. A couple of books later, that’s what killed her. I think it was a means of giving Stephen a different kind of relationship, a more intellectual relationship, with Christine Heatherleigh, while his relationship with Diana was all passion.

        Bonden’s death crushed me. 🙁 Especially since the war was nearly over…

        In a way, both deaths signified the end of the Napoleonic Wars. Diana was about passion, and her passing along with the end of the wars made way for the new age of science and industrialization that was coming (Christine being a symbol science herself). Bonden’s death was a sign that the wars themselves were over. He never would have left his captain’s side, but his time ended when the war did, and he died doing his duty. 🙁

        Even though O’Brian wasn’t able to finish the series, I like to imagine his characters all sailed off into the sunset on the Surprise in truth or in spirit.

  7. 🙂

    sometimes people gotta die!

  8. My readers are pretty safe, at least from characters dying. Other bad things happen, sometimes reversible, sometimes not, but I have a hard time killing off characters. Villains, no problem (I actually have fun with that), but non-villains, it’s really hard. The other day I had to kill off a minor character I invented *specifically for the purpose of dying in that situation* and I still felt bad 🙁

    I hate it when characters die (except, again, villains, and the more colorful the means of their dispatch the better) and any author who kills off a protagonist has a good chance of losing me as a reader (there being a few, and very few, exceptions to that).

  9. Yep, definitely had those feelings when I read the Red Wedding scene in A Storm of Swords.

  10. I do not forgive an author who kills off a character to add a little drama and then, surprise surprise, turns out she’s not dead after all!

    Yes, Elle Casey, I am looking at you. And I guessed Becky had only been temporarily killed. And I didn’t care.


  11. Smart Debut Author

    Two words:

    Annie Wilkes.

    Enough said.

  12. Thomas Harris. Hannibal. Clarice Starling.

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