I’ve read a couple of books recently where characters were killed off only to then magically be brought back to life and I can’t decide how I feel about it. My overwhelming feeling is that it’s a cop-out but I can’t deny a sense of relief if it happens to one of my favourite characters. Thinking about whether there’s a right or wrong way to revive a character I began to consider the following questions?
What was the reason for killing them versus the reason for their revival?
The death of a main character has to be carefully dealt with and even more so if you plan on bringing them back. If the story can’t continue without them, then why kill them in the first place? Shock value alone is not sufficient. Their death should mean something, change the world around them and the people within it. Does bringing them back nullify that change making the previous chapters pointless or does the resurrection continue the anguish and change within the main and other central characters.
Does how they’re brought back matter?
There has to be some kind of foreshadowing, a believable reason for their resurrection. Yes you may have had a few random conversations with a goddess throughout your book but is she really going to step in and bring 6 people back to life just so you can wrap everything up in a nice happy ending. Is cloning preferable to bringing back the original character? The resurrection has to mean something more than the author just didn’t want them dead yet. Coming back changed in some way opens up other plot lines. what about time travel versus an alternate dimensional version of the character. Where they really dead in the first place or was it all just a dream? Dreams simply used to shock do not work. They need to be used as a device to further the story. How is the character affected by the dreams? Do they portend to a future event?
Is it more acceptable in certain genres?
Obviously fantasy is the place for magical revivals but is revival in general preferable in certain genres. Is medical revival acceptable after taking the reader through the torment of death. Is medical revival acceptable in a fantasy book or does the reader expect something more fantastic?
Does it affect how you engage with other characters in the novel?
Once you know they can be brought back to life the fear is no longer there. What is the point in routing for a protagonist and experiencing the highs and lows and ultimately death if it doesn’t mean anything?
It only works if there is a clear story arc arising from the death and subsequent revival. It must have purpose, it must be believable and the character must be changed in some key way.