Saturday, September 12, 2009

What do you do when a character dies?

If you reread books, what do you do when you're coming up on a character's death?  Some books I've read dozens of times, and when I know someone will be dying again soon, sometimes I start crying earlier in anticipation (The Warrior's Apprentice is especially rough if you read it again after reading Shards of Honor and Barrayar).  Every moment that character is "on-screen" seems more momentous and precious (or maybe just more valuable somehow) because I know the end is coming.

The recent spate of parallel novels has given me a new way to re-experience a character's death, and it can be pretty hard.  Ender's Shadow by Card had me reeling.  More recently, Zoe's Tale by Scalzi was really hard to get through.  A character who was peripheral in The Lost Colony became a main character because of the change in point-of-view for Zoe's Tale.  He turned out to be a really great character.  The more I got to know him, the more sad I felt, anticipating his tragic loss.   It was a bit like making friends with someone with a terminal illness.  Their time is strictly limited, and you have to be present every moment you have with them.

How do you prepare for or deal with a character's death on re-reading?  Does the foreknowledge of death make the next read-through more poignant for you, or does it just make you detach?

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