Tag Archives: Mary Shelley

When the Protagonist Dies

12 Oct

Announcements:

Zoe Mortez, an avid reader, reviewed Take Me Tomorrow on her blog, “When I’m about to flip over to the next page, my mind kept saying things that really determined me to read more and more and more until the last page of this story. I’ll be rating 5/5 for this book and it’s highly recommended for those who love Young Adult Dystopian Genre novels!” You can read the entire review by clicking here or check out Take Me Tomorrow by clicking here. Thank you, Zoe!

When the Protagonist Dies Introduction:

Shannon, here, but only for a minute. Today is a guest post, and as many of you know, I pick out guest bloggers by your activity right here on ShannonAThompson.com. This particular guest blogger commented on my post, Why Are Parents Dead in Fiction, and her comment struck me so much so that I just HAD to have her elaborate today. Cogpunk Steamscribe wrote about how death in fiction continues onto a whole new level during a protagonist’s death, and everything Lynne wrote can be found below. I hope you enjoy this discussion as much as I have!

When the Protagonist Dies … a response to ‘Why are Parents Dead in Fiction’ 

Spoiler & Trigger Alert! This is a post about books that have a main character who dies. As well, I’m avoiding John Green and his body of work in this discussion. I really don’t want to give away any spoilers. Most of the books in this discussion have been around for a while.

Shannon mentioned in her blog on that she wrote about absent parents or orphans because that was her experience growing up. Other writers want to throw their protagonists into situations where parents can’t interfere with the unfolding of the story. Disney really likes to take parents out of the situation so that the protagonist – or protagonists – is/are isolated, and this creates more drama and suspense and creates sympathy for the orphaned characters (think ‘Frozen’). When you want to ramp up an emotional response, kill off a parent or two.

But why stop there? Let’s take this one step further. Why not kill off the protagonist? Of course, there is a real risk when you kill off a protagonist that you will alienate the audience. But sometimes, in real life, people you love die. Why should literature ignore this?

The most famous examples of one of the protagonists dying in a Young Adult book is ‘The Bridge to Terabithia”, by Katherine Paterson. The author has openly admitted the book was inspired by the death of one the friends of her own child; she was writing from experience and from her heart. The book created a controversy when it first came out, as the topic of death was considered unsuitable for the target Young Adult audience. I don’t know why, when ‘Frankenstein’ by Mary Shelley is studied in schools, and the main protagonist dies in that book, so it isn’t like Katherine Paterson was reinventing the wheel.

Movie still provided by Cogpunk Steamscribe

Movie still provided by Cogpunk Steamscribe

A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then. The death of a protagonist or a main character has become a part of the tropes used in Young Adult Fiction.

The main character, Tris, dies in the final book in the Divergent series, ‘Allegiant’, by Veronica Roth. Both Bruno and Smuel die in the gas chambers in John Boyle’s ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’. In Morris Gleitzman’s ‘Then’, Felix has to watch his best friend Zelda die at the hands of the Nazis. As well, though the ending is ambiguous, ‘The Giver’ by Lois Lowry should be mentioned; I was certain Jonas and Gabriel were most certainly dying after finishing that book. All of these books are Young Adult, and none of them flinch away from the death of a main character or characters.

All of these books treated the deaths with honesty and respect. All of these books cover serious topics that are part of the human history, or analogies of the failings of human nature, and use death to highlight the points they are trying to make. The authors are trying to make people think. This is why all of these books have been banned at some point or another.

Not all books let death be the end of a character. Harry Potter, in ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’, dies as a major plot point, but then lives again. His death and rebirth made perfect sense as part of the plot, and wasn’t just used for dramatic effect. In ‘The Lovely Bones’ by Alice Sebold, the protagonist Susie narrates her own story even after her murder, as an entity from heaven. But these are more the exception than the rule, and aren’t the same kind of books as the others I have mentioned. As well, coming back from the dead is rather Hollywood’s set piece these days.

In the end, I don’t believe a writer should flinch away from the death of a protagonist or a main character, if that death is meaningful. Death is ugly, but like a shadow, it throws everything else into sharp relief. If you only ever paint with sunny and light colours, a painting is rather boring. If you only ever write about happy events, your writing will be bland. I’m not saying kill off your protagonist just for the hell of it, but don’t close yourself off to the possibility.

Bio: Lynne Lumsden Green has an addiction to learning that has seen her collect a B.A. in Creative Writing and a B.Sc. in Zoology. She runs Steampunk Sunday, Queensland Australia on Facebook, and writes the Cogpunk Steamscribe blog on WordPress. She has too many toys on her desk, but her excuse is they help ‘inspire’ her.

Why Is Society Discouraging Kids To Follow Their Dreams?

11 Nov

My ultimate dream is to help people achieve their dreams, especially the youth. Because of this, I keep up-to-date on the latest news in the art world—again—with the youth, and I’ve come across more negative articles than positive ones. Although many have great points, I think they fail in encouraging young artists to continue forward with their dreams by, instead, suggesting children should wait and/or telling them they aren’t good enough yet to be considered professionals. I have a problem with this, and I will explain why by addressing the three main points I disagree with when it comes to children and young adult artists.

1. “Kids should be kids, not adults” As I said on my Facebook Author page, this is the number one phrase I see used. Society encourages children to follow their dreams but only to a point. They tell kids they can do it, but, once they do, they order them to wait. Why? There seems to be a belief that kids can follow their dreams but adults succeed at them (or only adults can handle the pressures—not the happiness—of being successful.) I find the articles that say adults can handle the pressures are biased. There are many adults who cannot. There are many kids who have. And no one seems to talk about the happiness successful artists feel. And, by successful, I do not mean money or fame. I mean personal fulfillment–which many of these artists express having.

Furthermore, this line suggests that following a dream is an “adult” thing, which I wholeheartedly disagree with. It’s a human thing to pursue happiness. And children do not have to sacrifice their childhoods to succeed at their dreams. I think kids/teens can follow their dreams, succeed at them, and still be kids (meaning, go to school, see friends, etc.) It is possible. I know it depends on the extremes of the dream, but I believe it can be done. For instance, I had my first book published at 16, but I graduated high school, had a job, saw friends, and managed my novels by myself (which I will get into more detail in the next segment.)

2. “Kids aren’t driving the train; their parents are.” Although this is true for many of them, there are just as many who are driving their passions by themselves with no pressure from their parents or bosses. I know this because I am one of those cases. I started writing seriously at 11, published at 16, and I did it by myself. My father supports me, of course, but he struggles with reading. To this day, he’s only made it 10 pages into any of my books, and I’m proud that he even tried. The point of sharing this is to prove that a child can drive that train. There isn’t an age limit on the license you need to drive the train of your dream. Look at Mary Shelley or S.E. Hinton (who was 17 years old when she published “The Outsiders.”) But what about Nancy Yi Fan? She was 12 when she published “Swordbird” in 2012. All of which were not pressured by an outside force but rather an inside passion.

3. “Kids haven’t lived enough to understand life, so how can they express it?” This is the most disturbing trend I’ve seen. This might be a newsflash to some, but I hope that it isn’t: most children do not have perfect childhoods. Many kids have to face difficult and even horrible things. Because of this, some kids have gone through more in their childhood than most people have in their fifty-some years. It is very unfortunate, but this is life. There are hundreds upon thousands of children who understand life a lot more than we’d hope. So, yes. They can express life. Just reading about Ishmael Beah, Nujood Ali, or Jeannette Walls is enough to remind of us of that; isn’t it?

There is one thing I want to clarify: I do agree with articles that are focused on the physical dangers in certain activities. For instance, it’s proven that extreme sports on young children can be beyond hazardous, and in art, for instance, we have Jackie Evancho. She sings opera, and many are worried (and can use evidence to support their worries) that her vocal cords will be destroyed for life if she does not have the proper training. In cases like this, I completely agree there are limitations we must face in a productive manner. But I want to emphasize the word “productive.”

To this, I end my post with my ultimate opinion over this issue:

Follow your dreams. Just be safe doing it.

~SAT

P.S. I want to share a book for all aspiring young artists:Do Hard Things” is a nonfiction book that encourages teens to “rebel against low expectations.” It was also published by Alex and Brett Harris — before they had their 20th birthday.

P.S.S. Comments from my Facebook Author Page: (read all of them by clicking the link)

Greg Lamb – Author: “No matter what their age, people should go after their dreams, especially if they have gift – I think most adults who say stuff like, ‘let kids be kids’ really just don’t want to see young people to suffer from the stress that adults tend to add into the equation.”

Samantha Ann Achaia: “I believe that parents should help them pursue their dreams no matter what their age is. The media needs to let kids be kids and not be in their business and follow them with cameras 24/7. I think that’s the biggest fear parents have with their children following their dreams.”

Angel Pricer: “We can only encourage our children in a healthy, productive way to the extent that we do so for ourselves.”

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