Thursday, July 2, 2015

Fantasy Frustrations: Killing Them to Death

One of the most frustrating plot twists of any fantasy novel I've come across has to be the frequent plot point of a character being left alive (tormented/near-death/or otherwise unkillable [i.e. they happen to be a child])- only to come back and haunt another character, whether they are the hero or the villain. The plot point, I'll admit, plays frequently in my favorite books: The Name of the Wind (Kvothe), The Princess Bride (Inigo Montoya), and others (one that's a spoiler that I happen to be reading now), but is nonetheless frustrating to me.

Even Oprah agrees...
Let's not kid ourselves: in most adult fantasy novels, it doesn't pay to be merciful. Even in young adult fantasies, being merciful often means having something come back and bite you in the butt. And even when intentions aren't so pure (and the hero/villain wants character left alive to 'suffer') the only thing it seems to do is feed some kind vengeance in whomever is left to live- a sweet revenge that may take long years to brew to completion, but a revenge that will come all the same.

And it isn't like the reader doesn't see that plot point coming from miles away (unless, of course, the reader is given the impression that said character is dead), so it adds nothing to the surprise factor. It just makes you grind your teeth at the fool who left whomever alive, only to be all surprised when it backfires. Even miracle 'dead-character-comes-back-to-life' plot twists frustrate me less than this one- because you don't see them coming until it's the big reveal.

So the next time you choose your own adventure (and/or write your own story) please remember: mercy kills, and so does suffering. But dead men tell no tales... unless they happen to be zombies.

My advice to all you wannabe fantasy heroes/villains out there:

Kill them. Kill them DEAD. Or someday, they'll be coming for you.

Have you ever been frustrated with a hero's (or villain's) mercy? Don't you hate it when it's so obvious that the protagonist made a terrible (but altruistic) choice?



  1. Yes!! There are so many books I've read where the character just can't kill their enemy and then they come back like 3 months later and kidnap them and torture them. Like seriously?! I realize killing someone is a very big thing and not to be taken lightly but you'd think after the villain has ruined numerous people's lives and tortured people and all that they should really just be dead. I guess there also is the argument that the character doesn't want to sink to the villain's level by killing them but then they'd better have a rock solid plan to make sure the villain doesn't come after them again!

    Laura @BlueEyeBooks

    1. As you may be able to see from the above display of gifs, I also think leaving them alive is an insanely bad idea. I can't think of a book where that choice hasn't come back to haunt the characters. But, if you could put them in a plastic prison, the peaceful period might last a little longer... until Mystique comes to fetch them.
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Laura!
      ~Litha Nelle


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