Friday, November 21, 2014

Would Your Readers Cry if Your Hero Died?

When scanning Pinterest, I often come across posts that talk about crying when a character dies. So many of them take the tone that says other people find it strange. I’ve never once had someone say it’s odd that I cry at sad parts of a story, but apparently some people have. The thing that always crosses my mind when reading those pins, though, is that authors should be thrilled to have readers cry at asad-98450_640 character’s death.

Not that we’re sadists, of course. At least, I sure hope not. I don’t find pleasure in causing people pain. The part that makes me happy is that readers feel emotionally connected enough to my characters to cry. Not everyone cries, even when they are sad, but we’re striving for connection. And readers can connect regardless of whether they cry or not.

Nonetheless, crying is a universal sign of grief (or extreme joy in some cases). It is a clue that emotional investment is at play. There’s a story in those tears.

Story in tears

With that in mind, I want to hear your thoughts on what makes you connect to a character, especially a hero/heroine. But first, I’d like to lay out a couple of stereotypes to be wary of. 

The Hallmark Hero

I do enjoy Hallmark movies, and there are some beautiful, well-made ones out there. But the vast majority of the ones I’ve watched, recently at least, have perfect heroes and heroines. Somehow I still get emotional about the stories, but it’s not because of the characters. Don’t make perfect characters; it’s difficult to connect to someone who has no flaws.

The Arrogant Attitude

I say this one with a caution stamp all over it, but I think it is something to think about. Obviously, readers can care about an arrogant hero (Tony Stark, anyone?), but it’s usually because of some characteristic below the surface, not because of his/her arrogance. Pride is quite off-putting, and it is thus difficult to connect with a prideful character. Not impossible, of course, but if a main character is more arrogant than most, he’s going to need a redeeming quality somewhere that is more emotionally engaging.

So, what do ya’ll think? Do you cry at emotional parts while reading/watching movies? What tends to get you the most? What kind of heroes and heroines do you like to write? Let me know in the comments!


  1. Hey, Bluebelle!

    I do not cry during stories (or I should say, I haven't yet), but I do feel that connection often. For me, I connect best when I can relate to the character(s) (it sounds obvious, but it actually doesn't happen a ton in stories), when their responses are played out in such a way that I'm like "Oh! I know what that feels like!". It's the difference between just saying a character is angry, and taking the time to actually delve in and describe the feeling in a real way (note that stories often describe the feeling, but it isn't always in a way I can relate well to). When a character reacts to the death of a loved one, for example, I don't want to see their grief, by itself. Show me why the loved one held his/her/it's loved status and why it's sad that they died. Only then can I fully appreciate what they're going through, and their grief now resonates with me and their sobbing 'tears at my soul'. This, of course, applies to all sorts of emotion, not just grief. Show me why they're so happy about something, how it fulfills a dream, or was a shocking (and good) surprise, and I'll relate to their excitement far better.

    On your note about Arrogant characters, I am in agreement with your opinion, most of the time. However, I had something of a revelation while reading a book series recently. The series does exceptionally well with it's characters, and one of the most relatable attributes the author uses is Pride/Arrogance. He does so well with it, you can tell that the character is being prideful in a particular exchange, but he shows it in such a realistic way that I'm thinking "Wow. That's exactly what I would be thinking/doing.". So even though I don't 'like' the pride they display, it is something that binds me closer to the character (it is realistic, after all. ;) ), and when they are humbled (or when they humble themselves, especially) it actually packs an emotional blow. ... All that to say, I believe just about any attribute can be used to build that connection, some are just harder than others (or we just don't have as much practice connecting via certain attributes... Trying to build a connectiong to a Heroic Character on Pride/Arrogance just doesn't seem intuitively right, at least to me). Also, on a little rabbit trail, it's part of how we get relatable villains, instead of just a generic Bad Guy. We have to see something in him that we can relate to and say "Hey, I can relate to that!", even if it's not a 'good' trait. The realization that you have something (even many things) in common with a Villain is an interesting one. ;)

    For me, one of the many things that 'gets' me is having a character who is broken (verb), in some way. They try and try, striving to do some thing, pouring energy and emotions into it, but make no progress (and perhaps make things worse). There is a point after the striving, generally, when they break. They have the crossroads moment, where they skirt the 'dark side', in a way. They must decide what they really believe. They could go the way of the Dark, or the way of the Light, and either are 'possible' from the characters perspective. Whichever way they choose, you get a deeper connection to the character (and the Theme is displayed strongly as well).

    Anyway, a bit of a long comment, and it may have just a hint of Rant in there. ;)

    1. I'm going to answer this one in parts. :D I saw the length and went, "Oh my!" But there's good stuff in here; it just may take me a bit to get through. :)

      I can see what you mean about connecting through relating. It's definitely a tricky balance in the whole showing vs. telling aspect, but I think many writers get the concept of showing the details without showing the right details. It's all about painting a picture that actually means something. And I think that's what you're talking about. Meaning is key in stories. Besides, I'm pretty sure most guys don't cry as easily as girls. :P

      I'll get back to this when I have some more free time. :)

    2. Ugh, I took a long time to get back to this! I'm sorry!

      You bring up an interesting point about arrogance. When done well, it can be an interesting connecting point for readers, since we all struggle with it to some degree or another. I hadn't really thought about it like that. :)

      As for broken characters, I agree, mostly. We can't relate to perfect characters; we relate to people with problems. And I think every story has a confrontation between light and dark, in some way. And it's in that confrontation that the main character must choose which way he or she will go. It may not be big or dramatic, but good stories always bring the hero or heroine to that point. *starts thinking about own stories*

      Good thoughts, Michael! Sorry I took so long to get back to you!

  2. I rarely cry during a story, even when a favorite character dies. Though there have been some exceptions.
    1: *SPOILER* George Kirk's death in Star Trek 2009. That was probably the most significant example, as it coaxed quite a few tears from my reluctant eyes. This is also the most recent example. :)

    2: *SPOILER* Boromir's death in The Fellowship of the Ring. One single tear. It was pretty late at night.

    3: Anne and Dianne's separation in Anne of Green Gables. I was pretty little... and the separation of best friends seemed like the end of the world.

    I don't know if any of the characters in my books would bring tears if they died. It's a good question! I know that once I nearly moved my younger sister to tears while acting out a particularly sad death scene to the music of Star Wars Ep. III, "Lament". That was a pretty cool moment. Not that I enjoy causing people pain, of course. ;)

    Good post! You've given me food for thought!

    1. *wails* Oh, both of those first ones definitely made me cry! With the first one, it's an incredible example of making people care about your character quickly. You don't know him for very long, but he's obviously courageous, loyal, and fiercely loving of his wife and child. Those traits make me attached almost immediately. And it's such a sad situation! :( I don't think I cried about Anne and Dianna, though. :D

      Well, the music from the prequel trilogy is a pretty good start for bringing anyone to tears! Hehe. Though I'm sure your death scene was pretty good, too.

      I'm glad to hear that! It's what I strive for with these posts! :)


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