Back From the Dead

As some of my longtime readers know, I used to do a series of stories about a superhero named Captain Procrastination, who used his superspeed to save the day at the last minute (because he was too lazy to do it before then). It was just something goofy that popped into my head at work. I wrote it because it was something that I didn’t have to take too seriously and it was easy to write.

Eventually, it became kind of a pain to write. It wasn’t fun anymore. I didn’t think he’d ever become fun to write again, so I killed him off.

The other day, I was once again bored at work. Another story popped into my head. This time, it was a very lazy way to bring Captain Procrastination back to life. I thought about doing it. At one point, I had opened up a blank post and was just about to start typing.

Then, I stopped myself.

I stopped myself for a couple of reasons. First, while writing the story I had planned wouldn’t have been bad, any further stories that I wrote would end up being as painful to write as they were when I killed him off.
The second, and biggest reason, is that it usually irritates me when characters are brought back to life.

It used to be that when characters were killed and then brought back, it was for story purposes. Nowadays, it’s strictly to improve either ratings (for TV shows) or sales (for comic books). It doesn’t mean anything anymore. There’s no real concern for the character. It’s no longer “Oh my god. I can’t believe that just happened. ” Now, it’s “Great…. I wonder what crap they’re going to pull to bring him back.”

There was a few characters that were brought back that I had mixed feelings about. It happened in the Dark Elf series of books written by R.A. Salvatore.

The main character is an elf who can live for a thousand years. His companions are an old dwarf, two humans, and a halfling. At the beginning of the series, the only one who had a chance to live a hundred more years (unless they got killed first, of course) was the dwarf because they have longer life spans. So, eventually, if they all survived their adventures, they’d all die before the dark elf. That essentially puts a cap on their journey together.

In the 19th book of the series (which is now 28 books long), two of the characters were killed off: one of the humans and the halfling. The dwarf and the other human were killed in later books, but those didn’t really bother me. It was the first two deaths that did.

It wasn’t that they got killed that bothered me. It was how they died that irritated me. They didn’t die saving a city, or sacrificing themselves to save a friend. They died by a freak coincidence that afflicted the entire realm. It was something that they had no control over. They couldn’t fight it. It just happened.

It was not the end that those two characters deserved.

In book 24, he brought all 4 back at the age of 18. This also caused me to be conflicted. I was glad that he brought back the two that I felt were given a raw deal, but I didn’t like them bringing the other two. The dwarf died a hero’s death. He gave his life to save his friends and send an ancient evil back. The other human died peacefully of old age with his children as a leader of his people.

Those are two worthy deaths.

I understand why Salvatore did it. The books weren’t the same without that group all together. They were still good, but they weren’t as good. So, he had to do something to get them back together.

It’s worked. The books are back to what they were before he started killing off his cast.

Still, I dislike the overuse of killing off characters. It seems like it’s every other day that you’re hearing about a major character being killed off only to be brought back not too long afterwards.

I, as a writer, make a promise to you. I will not bring back a character that I have killed off unless it is important to the story. I will not do it as a publicity stunt. I will not do it just to bring readers in.

I wish more writers would make that promise.


2 comments on “Back From the Dead

  1. bardictale says:

    It irritates me as well. The fact that you can bring back anyone for no good reason (money isn’t a good reason, folks.) also means that you can kill anyone off for no good reason. I mean, if there’s a problem, wave a pen and Walla!, solved.

    I have an ongoing bet right now with a friend on this subject. Wolverine was killed about…5 months ago? Anyways, the friend claims that he won’t be brought back because “they used him up, and now it’s his daughter’s turn”, so I bet him the meal of his choice that by the end of 10 years the dude will be back, cold beer in hand.

    • Exactly! I was watching TV the other day when a commercial for General Hospital came on. It said, “Tune in this week to find out who killed (insert name of whatever lame character they killed off).” And I thought to myself, “What does it matter who killed them? They’ll just be back in six weeks with amnesia. “

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