Death Doesn’t Have To Be a Downer
Death is always depressing, right? Not necessarily. At least not in writing. Emotional response can be mitigated by surrounding elements.
Take a look at the graphic below. (I found it on Pinterest and if you haven’t looked on there for resources, inspiration, prompts, and images, then please do.) I list five ways that character death can become a more positive experience.
First, explore immortality. On a figurative level, we wonder what will happen when we die. What is on the other side? Is there another side? Can we affect the living once we pass over? On a scientific level, the body is full of electricity which is energy; energy can be changed but not destroyed, so what happens is still a mystery. Many have beliefs and theories but none have been absolutely, without a shade of a fact, proved. So that means the writer is free to create any version they like.
Immortality can also be taken literally. What are the issues with living forever? What is it like to see the world change and the people you love age and die as you never change? Are their different forms of immortality? Are we, as writers, touching immortality by leaving parts of ourselves in our work? Can this also be said of the other arts, scientific discoveries, medicines created?
Second, decide to fight death. Your protagonist has been told he has a terminal illness. What does he do? Does he rail at God for being cursed? Does he try every possible treatment even though they are dangerous? Does he create a bucket list and pursue every dream in the time he has left?
There is a wonderful movie, Griffin and Phoenix, (I prefer the 2006 version) where both protagonists are facing mortality. The different ways they deal with their impending death is real and beautiful.
Third, get philosophical with death. Have your character sit down and have a talk with God or Death…or one of his minions. A writer might put the character in a position where decisions, none good, must be made.
Others may work their way through Kubler-Ross’s 5 steps of grief (which can be applied to any change in your life): denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These stages don’t have to be in an exact order and can be revisited multiple times.
Fourth, choose to accept fate. A good soldier must head into battle knowing he may face death. His compatriots look to him for leadership and courage. Even they know they might not survive. What if Death dressed as one of the troops? Would Death relish in each end or might Death step in front to save just one? Hmmmm.
What about the person who wants to choose a dignified death? She has reached the point where her body is failing and there is no chance of it reversing. She wants to have a party of friends and family, then slip away to an assisted death.
Fifth, and by no means final, let the hero/heroine make the sacrifice for love. Is there any other finer way?
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
A death with purpose. A firefighter who lays down his life for a victim; a mother who shelters her child from gunfire; a teacher who lies to an armed gunman to protect her students…all gave their life so that others could live. The survivors are forever changed.
[bctt tweet=”Give death a purpose and a positive spin. #writing #advice @NE_Miller #ourwriteside #death #read #write #amwriting” username=”OurWriteSide”]
Are there more? Of course. You could add humor. Even dying people can laugh. A death of honor? We hear about those all the time, unfortunately it is used in situations anything but honorable.
Think about the possibilities. Researching the possibilities in presenting death can be just what the living need to read.