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Archived > Requesting advice from YA/Middle-Grade Authors: Tragedy

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message 1: by Iffix (new)

Iffix Santaph | 324 comments I am going to take a major leap here and without too much spoilage, I am going to ask for your thoughts on my current WIP.

The story is the 2nd in a middle-grade/YA series. It has been completed and it ends in a very heart-wrenching tragedy. (Painful death of a character.)

It is done with sensitivities in mind and the characters will learn to cope with the pain; it may even make them stronger. But I'm still trying to justify it in my mind as I have never written a tragedy before.

Is this sort of thing okay in the middle of a series? Does it betray reader trust? And please keep in mind that this story is written for an 11 to 14-year-old audience.

Thank you for your advice.


message 2: by Christina (new)

Christina McMullen (cmcmullen) I may be the wrong person to answer this because I tend to pull my punches, but JK Rowling did it and I dare say the Harry Potter books are already classics.


message 3: by Dwayne, Head of Lettuce (new)

Dwayne Fry | 4333 comments Mod
Iffix wrote: "Is this sort of thing okay in the middle of a series? Does it betray reader trust?"

I can't see a reason you shouldn't do it. Death is a part of life and it's a part that children sometimes have to deal with, whether a pet, grandparent, parent, peer, etc. You say your book is sensitive and deals with how the characters cope with their pain. There you go. Your book may help someone going through the same kind of pain.


message 4: by Iffix (new)

Iffix Santaph | 324 comments Thanks to both of you for the feedback.


message 5: by Riley, Viking Extraordinaire (new)

Riley Amos Westbrook (sonshinegreene) | 1510 comments Mod
...Yeah, I'm in the crowd that refuses to pull punches. So, I say drop that hammer, and make it hurt.


message 6: by Iffix (new)

Iffix Santaph | 324 comments LOL! Thanks.


message 7: by Vikki (new)

Vikki Becker (enchantedediting) | 1 comments obviously if the readers are attached to & connecting with the character the tragedy will rock them, they may even be upset BUT as I've seen with my daughter and her friends, those books that shocked them, ticked them off with the killing off of a main character etc. are the ones that still get talked about.
My humble opinion is go for it.


message 8: by Anthony Deeney (new)

Anthony Deeney | 437 comments I'm with Dwayne and Christina on this, I think.

It always irked me that Captain Kirk, Spock, Scottie and the Ensign in the red top would beam down to the planet. It was easy to know whose "number was up."

On the flip side, YA and "reader trust:"
In my book, only one at present, the bad guy "kills" a character, whose nature has been established as innocent, trusting and childlike. I have had feedback that it is a very powerful scene, I would not now change it. However, when my daughter read it she became angry with me and didn't speak to me for two hours. Young Adult? She is 26!

Ps, I see there is another Anthony now in the group. I need to get me photo up!!

I'll tag my posts "Tony" which all my friends call me.

Tony


message 9: by Anthony Deeney (new)

Anthony Deeney | 437 comments Riley wrote: "...Yeah, I'm in the crowd that refuses to pull punches. So, I say drop that hammer, and make it hurt."

Ouch!
Hardcore!
;)

.................
Tony


message 10: by Owen (new)

Owen O'Neill (owen_r_oneill) | 1509 comments Frankly, I think this could go either way. 11 to 14 is a wide range, in terms of development; you are straddling puberty there. There many different ways to approach these sorts of issues, and also questions of balance.

Without context and without knowing the series, my opinion would not worth much. And since I'm not familiar with kids of that age, it wouldn't be worth much anyway. I think this is a question for your beta readers.


message 11: by Iffix (last edited Apr 22, 2015 08:23PM) (new)

Iffix Santaph | 324 comments Thanks again for your feedback, everyone.


message 12: by Charles (new)

Charles Hash | 1054 comments I think tragedy is what separates the fluff from the stuff. :D


message 13: by Iffix (new)

Iffix Santaph | 324 comments Charles do you mean that in a good way or a bad way? As in, is tragedy more stuff or more fluff?


message 14: by A.E. (last edited Apr 23, 2015 05:51AM) (new)

A.E. Dark | 19 comments Ok this is just my 2 cents and experience. I think it depends entirely on how "main" the character is.

Generally for any character I work on the principle that if this is someone the reader gains an emotional attachment to, relates to and reads the book to follow ... you have to be careful. If e.g. Hermione was killed off, I wouldn't expect all readers to keep their interest in the series and keep their trust of you.

At 11-14 though I remember the books I read and it's rare if the "main" characters died. Take Enid Blyton for instance. It's a solid 11+ book and nobody dies. Harry Potter - it's not a key character in book 4. At that age I just didn't want to read tragedies.

However, Gemmell's Legend is one example that has a key death and I read at that age and enjoyed (though strictly the book's not a tragedy).

I definitely say go for it and see what the beta readers say. If you can pull it off and it works, well done :D


message 15: by Iffix (new)

Iffix Santaph | 324 comments Thanks, A.E.
The character is one of my favorites, but no, not a main character. In truth, I was devastated to kill him off. It felt so horrible when it hit the page. And the other character's response felt like my own. It still feels like the right move, in spite of the pain. I don't classify my story as a tragedy, though. The tragedy just happens to be a part of the overall story-arc.


message 16: by Charles (new)

Charles Hash | 1054 comments Iffix wrote: "Charles do you mean that in a good way or a bad way? As in, is tragedy more stuff or more fluff?"

In a good way. I don't think tragedy is fluff at all, and has elevated some otherwise mundane stories into classical territory. Like Old Yeller.


message 17: by Iffix (new)

Iffix Santaph | 324 comments Thanks all for the positive feedback. Now I just have to build up the mindset to publish the book that way.


message 18: by Anthony Deeney (new)

Anthony Deeney | 437 comments Iffix wrote: "Thanks, A.E.
The character is one of my favorites, but no, not a main character. In truth, I was devastated to kill him off. It felt so horrible when it hit the page. And the other character's resp..."


It sounds like the 'right' thing to do, at least the way you describe it.


message 19: by J.W. (new)

J.W. Davis | 14 comments Iffix wrote: "Thanks, A.E.
The character is one of my favorites, but no, not a main character. In truth, I was devastated to kill him off. It felt so horrible when it hit the page. And the other character's resp..."


I can so relate Iffix. It is difficult to kill characters, but sometimes it is just something a story demands. There are things I refuse to watch in movies, such as killing family pets and other gratuitous violence, but I realized when I started writing that it does help define and shape the readers feelings toward villains.

So, if it is used to move the story, define the evil, or give opportunity for growth to main characters, then I believe these tragic moments are good for a story. As hard as they may be as an author, they can be great for the overall story.


message 20: by Iffix (new)

Iffix Santaph | 324 comments Thanks, J.W.


message 21: by Marti (new)

Marti Dumas (martidumas) | 28 comments It depends entirely on the writing, so it is hard to make a call without seeing how you handle it. Bridge to Terabithia, for example, is exceedingly appropriate for children as young as 8 or 9, where the Hunger Games is not.


message 22: by Iffix (new)

Iffix Santaph | 324 comments Thanks for the comment, Marti.


message 23: by Igzy (new)

Igzy Dewitt (IgzyDewitt) | 148 comments Take 'em out, Eagle Eye! If their death is in keeping with the story, serves a purpose, and causes the remaining (see: surviving) characters to grow or advances the plot, then it's a good death. You cut them down mercilessly.


message 24: by Iffix (new)

Iffix Santaph | 324 comments Thanks,Igzy.


message 25: by Michael (new)

Michael Mullin (michaelmullin) | 5 comments Re: tragedy. It's definitely not a question of whether you do it. It's HOW. Execution is everything. A mediocre/poor execution wouldn't likely result in your young readers being offended or scarred for life. It would probably just turn them off to your story. The fact that you're brooding over it suggests that your execution is thoughtful and that the plot point is far from gratuitous.

Someone mentioned Harry Potter. There was another obscure novel series that began with The Hunger Games? I seem to recall a death or two in that story. Ha!

Mm


message 26: by Iffix (new)

Iffix Santaph | 324 comments I have plenty of action scenes, but no, I don't take character deaths at all lightly. (You can check my blog from earlier this week to see my approach to character death. It's here on-site.)


message 27: by Jenycka (new)

Jenycka Wolfe (jenyckawolfe) | 301 comments Part of what children's literature is for is to help children grapple with the realities of life in a safe setting. Today's helicopter parenting has left us with this idea that children cannot ever be allowed to even know that pain exists, much less feel it. But all that does is create a generation of young adults who will demand the world around them be censored for the sake of their "comfort" and fall apart when they have to deal with unfiltered reality.

A well-written book can be a huge influence on an adolescent mind. Kids internalize what they learn through literature, including the idea that sometimes people die and it sucks. If you are concerned about the effect a death would have on your readers, the best thing you can do is ensure that there is some lesson within the text on how to handle it. Not necessarily a step by step. Even "it's ok to be really sad" is fine. OrJust something they can take away.


message 28: by J.W. (new)

J.W. Davis | 14 comments School district here uses Enders Game to have discussions about genocide. It was one of the main reasons they chose it for 6th-8th because it grappled with some tough topics. So I agree with Jenycka. It is a good thing to challenge your readers even when they are young. Maybe especially so.


message 29: by Owen (new)

Owen O'Neill (owen_r_oneill) | 1509 comments Jenycka wrote: "Part of what children's literature is for is to help children grapple with the realities of life in a safe setting. Today's helicopter parenting has left us with this idea that children cannot ever..."

An excellent take on the question (IMHO).


message 30: by Mark (new)

Mark Gelineau | 13 comments As an educator of middle school students, I would say that yes, they definitely can handle serious content. My 7th graders look at Henry V, Animal Farm, and Fahrenheit 451. In fact, in talking with them about what they read, I think that having something they know is not soft-selling or treating them with kid gloves resonates with them. Use care and caution of course, but like the old saying goes, stories aren't told to kids to teach them that monsters exist, but how you deal with them.


message 31: by Igzy (new)

Igzy Dewitt (IgzyDewitt) | 148 comments Iffix wrote: "Thanks,Igzy."

De nada, Amigo. Happy writing.


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