Death is one of the biggest things that we fear. It’s the fear of the uncertain, of losing everything that you’ve ever known and the finality of it that you can never bring back.
So when I read books about death, I expect them to be dealt with in a way that we would react to. But it seems that lately, violence and death are so casually inserted into a book that the emotional connection just doesn’t seem to be there anymore. Are we only reacting now if the death is shocking ala George R.R. Martin style? Do we just not care about death in books anymore?
Death can be a necessary part of books, especially in fantasies. Having a fantasy without death is like having a wedding without a cake.
But there’s been a few books I’ve read, that has me reconsidering the desensitization of death – particularly in Firewalker and Take Back the Skies. Spoiler alert – both of these books dealt with the death of the character’s fathers. One was brushed over so casually that her morning breakfast was given more thought and the other was dealt with in a celebratory way where the character made out with someone over her father’s dead body. I’m not the only one who can see the problem with this right? Even if you were never close to your father, or even if they were an evil human being, shouldn’t you at least feel something?!
At the end of every fantasy series, death is practically a requirement. You almost expect someone to be killed off in an epic battle or as a hero, whether that’s a major or secondary character that you’ve grown fond of. Perhaps this is to humanise those characters again, to make a grand exit, or to immortalise them so that they’ll be forever known as the hero who died saving the world. Sometimes, death is made as a statement to really emotionally affect readers, which frankly I think is a cop out. There’s so many other ways to do it, like the epic hero moments at the end of the Night Huntress series.
So what do I think about death in fiction? There’s a time and place for it, and it can be dealt with properly. As long as there is a reason for it and it fits in with the character arc, and it’s not used as a tool to create emotional connection with the reader or as a convenient way to “do away” with someone. It can be done, like the major death in Crown of Midnight which affected the characters well into the next books.
What do you think about death in fiction? Are we desensitized?