Monday, April 7, 2014

When a Character Dies

by Kate Collins

As a writer, I know how difficult it is to kill off a character in a book, and as a reader, I know how difficult it is to accept. So it's been interesting to read the comments from fans of the TV series, "How I Met Your Mother."  For anyone who followed the show through its nine year run, it had to be tough to handle that ending. And from comments I've seen, many haven't been happy about it.

I remember when "Lost" ended, and how dissatisfied viewers were with it. My biggest disappointment wasn't how but that it actually was over. I really looked forward to that night to see what would happen next.

And then there are mystery series where a main character dies. Truthfully, after following a series through several books, I felt grief.

In my Flower Shop mystery series, I've debated a few times about the fate of one of my characters, but when it came down to plotting the death, I couldn't do it. I like my recurring characters too much, and I have a feeling fans of the series feel the same way. In my opinion, for whatever that's worth, we go through enough tragedy that we don't need to lose a beloved character as well.

But do TV shows fall into that category? By the mixed reaction the characters in "How I Met Your Mother" got, I'm not sure any of them were beloved. I could be wrong -- it's happened once or twice -- so I'd love your opinion.

Are you upset when a character in your favorite show dies? Are you more upset when the show ends? What did you think about "How I Met Your Mother"?




27 comments:

  1. I know of it, watched a couple episodes, not a fan. What you said about the characters in your series is what I want to address. Thank you. I do have strong feelings about the characters dying . I have enough reality without dealing with it in one of my favorite characters books. Thank you again. Melody

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    1. I agree!! I read to take my mind of of problems!! I would be very upet if an author did that to a character that we all love!!!

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  2. I haven't watched any series TV in over 10 years, but I know a number of people who watched HIMYM and were REALLY upset. They felt like they had somehow been betrayed, after following the show for so long. I think a lot of the irritation also has something to do with the WAY they ended it. Many people said that they spent one whole season on a single event (someone getting married) and spent one episode on something that should have taken a season. My niece was especially upset because there was so much publicity about the ending and she had been watching it on Netflix and hadn't gotten to the last season. Now she isn't sure if she will even bother to watch any more of it.

    As for me, I don't watch TV, but I do love my books and I have to say that I would probably be very upset if one of the recurring characters in a series were to be killed off - even the not-so-nice ones. They are all important to the plots. I have to agree with your assessment that we all go through enough tragedy in the "real world" and so we don't want to feel more loss in the books we read. I won't say that I would stop reading a series if a character is killed, but it might dampen my enthusiasm for future books in a series. But that all depends on what series it was and what character was killed off.

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  3. I have never watched HIMYM, so I have no opinion on the ending of that show.

    However, I do definitely hate the trend on TV shows right now to kill off a major character in the weeks leading up to the final episode if not the final episode itself. I have invested in these characters. I want them to get their happy ending. It may not be realistic, but I read to escape from reality. I don't like dealing with death among my favorite characters.

    I'm dealing with that right now on Once Upon a Time, which killed off a character a week ago, and I had to watch some of the after math tonight. Not my favorite part of the episode.

    And that certainly applies to books as well, especially in a fun, charming series. I want the murder victim to be someone I haven't known very long.

    If I want reality, I'll watch the news. I read to escape and have fun.

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  4. I don't like to see my favorite characters be killed off in a series. It was done with a series I read and I remember being upset - but when I saw the direction the author was taking with the lead, it was okay.

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  5. I can handle a character death if it is written well, at least on TV. It's funny: for TV, I prefer gritty, realistic fare (nothing better than The Wire or The Walking Dead) but for reading, I want my cozies! On both The Wire and The Walking Dead, major character deaths were almost expected. One of the things I loved most about The Wire is that it was unafraid and unflinching in killing off anyone, beloved or not. Of course, this was before every show was doing it. The writing, the story telling, that was what made it so great, not sweeps-style stunts. And long before it was a TV show, The Walking Dead was a 10 year long novel, made great by the story telling and emotional depth of the characters (yep, emotional depth in a graphic novel!)
    I guess my rambling point is this: great writing is great writing, no matter the platform. Having said that, I agree that we get enough "reality" all the time, and I don't want to lose a beloved character in my cozies, either.

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  6. Because books are where I retreat from reality, and TV too, it is very hard to throw in reality! When Ralph Waite died this spring, I felt like a family member passed. Through so many shows he became a family member.

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    1. i know! papa gibbs AND grandaddy booth! i'm just left feeling sad.

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    2. I agree, when they become part of your 'family' after years and great performances, it is horrendous, but since he really did die, there wasn't anything else to do! I don't know that they have treated that one on air (NCIS). Blessings, Janet

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  7. I thought the ending of How I Met Your Mother was strange and they could have done a better job. But that's TV sometimes. Now when they killed off Will on the Good Wife, I was shocked. Didn't want him to go.

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  8. Losing Will on the Good Wife was a shocker to me! I wondered if the actor wanted to leave, or if they were just taking the show in a new direction.

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    1. Mary, the actor Josh Charles wanted to leave. I was totally shocked and UPSET. They sure kept it a secret since from what I read they all knew at the beginning of the season he would be leaving. :-(

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  9. i never watched himym but i've watched NCIS for years and it still upsets me when they kill off a character i grew to love. not really b/c of me though - b/c of what it does to the lead character, gibbs (mark harmon).

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  10. Never watched HIMYM, however I feel TV land is often clumsy when writing in a death. I do realize there could be several reasons for this and no matter what they do, some fans will be upset and vocal. When the actor dies I would imagine writing in the death is even more traumatic for all concerned.

    It's rare for me to continue reading a series that kills off a main character, I read for escape and entertainment and grieving, even for a fictional friend, is not fun. That said, if the death of a character is a natural progression of the story such as old age, or fatal illness, keeping them alive can seem equally wrong. I think it would be a challenge for an author to keep just enough characters in a series to stray fresh, keep readers entertained, and still have some disposable characters. And we need disposables to explore emotions, for growth, and to shake up the story line. Well, at least as a reader, that is what I prefer!

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    1. For that and other reasons some listed above, my murder victims are not nice characters -- otherwise there wouldn't be 4 people who wouldn't mind seeing them dead. I love my recurring characters too much to send them to heaven -- even literary heaven.

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  11. Great post, Kate! I don't take it well when someone I am attached to dies. I feel betrayed. Even so, it can lead a great deal of 'growth' for the other characters.

    Haven't seen the end of How I Met Your Mother yet, but am still reeling from The Good Wife.

    Hugs.

    MJ/Victoria

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  12. I watched HIMYM off and on through the years. I watched the ending, highly dissatisfied. I won't lie to you, I cried. Then I got mad, because we were just introduced to the character this season and I guess I didn't want to see Ted end up with Robin at the very end because they closed that door. One show that got me was Person of Interest when they killed off the Detective Lady Carter, I instantly stopped watching the show and maybe I've seen one show since. I don't like it when main characters/ recurring characters die in a series. I've read it one other time in a Susan Brockmann Trouble Shooters series, it stung. But it was minor recurring character so it wasn't as huge of a deal to me. I get attached, doesn't matter if its a book, a show or a movie. Probably the reason I don't read Nicholas Sparks... :) The Nights of Rodanphy (sp) irritated me to no end. Same with Million Dollar Baby, I was pregnant at the time and well, I was a puddle. Don't even talk about a dog or animal dying in a movie, can't do those either. I like to know everyone gets there happy ever after because your right, we deal with enough sadness in our world. A book, a tv series and movies are a way to escape our every day lives. Great blog! :)

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    1. And you pointed out another no-no for me -- animals. I will not kill an animal in my books and I dislike stories where that happens. A big name thriller writer started one book with kittens being thrown against a wall -- and I never read him again.

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  13. I don't watch himym but when they killed off a minor character on Bones 3 seasons ago I believe, it left me reeling for weeks. I like the people they replaced the spot but it wasn't the same. Now when it comes to books, I hate major characters dying. Stephen Law head did it in one of his books, the story goes he had writers block and was stuck. His wife suggested killing this one character, he did and the story flowed. If I hadn't known that after reading it, I would have been ticked off.
    Krista

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  14. I feel differently when it's a book versus a TV show. On TV, the departure of a character often seems clumsy or contrived and because of all the social media we usually know that an actor's contract isn't being renewed or they want to leave and suddenly they have to get rid of that character, so I can't lose myself in a TV series the way I do in a book series. Person of Interest was a shock, but I didn't feel quite as bad for Carter's death after the actor gave so many interviews saying how she was really a movie actor and never intended to be stuck in a TV series more than 3 years. Some shows handle the big death scenes well and even if you don't like it, it kind of makes sense; others don't. Downton Abbey was already getting too soapy, but Sybil's death was tragic and fit with the storyline. Matthew's was just stupid, even though it was probably the only way to handle it. Stopped watching after that but probably would have stopped soon anyway. Burn Notice has had the best series finale I've ever seen. A major character died so it was a 50-tissue moment, but the end made sense and was hopeful.

    With books, I am okay if bad things happen to major characters because that's life. But if one of them dies, even though that's life too, it changes the story too much for me. Was catching up with the Det. Lynley series when I found out his wife died in a future book so stopped right there. I don't even want the major characters to permanently divorce/split up because then you would need two story lines. And yes, I want to escape a bit so if reading a series I mostly want to feel good about it. Save the standalone books for the tragedy.

    And don't kill any pets - ever!

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    1. I wouldn't -- trust me on that! And I agree with you on Downton Abbey. Matthew's death felt contrived. I didn't like two deaths in one season either.

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  15. I don't watch much TV so that doesn't really bother me but a character in one of my series is a NO-NO! It's like losing a family member or a really close friend! Same with animals!

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  16. It seems to me that Good Wife as had some other shows before it, killed off a character because an actor decided to leave. In the case of the Good Wife as in M.A.S.H> it was unexpected.

    I watch Soap Operas. I read that an actor was leaving before the character he played was killed off. At least, on General Hospital, this occured on screen, so it did not leave the opportunity to recast (I think). Though they have brough people back before when you thought they were dead.
    As for HIMYM, a lot of people thought that the mother was dead before the last episode, so that part was not quite a surprise. The fact that Ted still loved Robin was a little bit of a surprise. It would have been nice to know more about the mother though.

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  17. For HIMYM, I felt cheated. It seemed like the whole series was about meeting the mother, and she seemed really nice, and then - boom - she died.

    I also don't like when characters in a book are killed off unless I really dislike the characters. For example in "Exit the Milkman" by Charlotte MacLeod, I didn't mind so much.

    Some TV shows have had a tendency to bring in a character, try to get us attached, and then kill the character off. When that happens, I usually avoid watching the show for a while. I don't handle that well.

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  18. I read one PI series that finally had the protagonist and her boyfriend get together, only to kill him off at the beginning of the next book. I quit reading the book at that time and have never read another book in that series (and there are probably a half dozen or more). Yes, she might have grown as a character, but just have them break up or he moves away or something. No need to blow him up. I felt betrayed -- I actually read it over a couple more times to make sure I wasn't just reading it fast or that it was a terrible dream or something. Then I took the book back to the library!

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  19. Just read blurb on Jim & Joyce Levene's Spell Booked about 3 retired witches & one is murdered right off the bat. Is that any way to start a new series?

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  20. In the case of the PBS Downton show, the writer let us know right off that he would be killing any character that left the show, they have become so beloved, they cannot be replaced (I guess a bit like real life). However, GLADES 'star' and lovable fella was shot and left to die, ended the series and we have no idea what happened. Now that's a real NO-NO as far as I'm concerned. Totally Cruel. If I wanted to be ending a show myself, I would be writing for TV. Blessings, Janet

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