Rachel Gutin Profile picture
Jul 16, 2019 14 tweets 5 min read Read on X
The second panel I attended at #Readercon was "Killing Characters 101" with @RobertVSRedick, @cballison421,
@KarenHeuler, Miriam Newman, and @mythicdelirium
as moderator. Here are some takeaways from the panel (all paraphrases rather than quotes, I think)
From @mythicdelirium: For some characters, death isn't horrible enough.
From Miriam: some purposes character death can serve:
- Story catalyst (such as in a murder mystery)
- Freeing death (such as when a mentor death allows a character to come into their own)
- cathartic death (at the end, after a build-up. It lets us come back down.)
From @cballison421: Consider what the death means for:
- the writer
- the character who is dying
- those close to the character who is dying
- the culture
From @RobertVSRedick: Avoid a death that just feels like a way to wrap things up, or because things feel too slow.
Also from @RobertVSRedick: Every death that matters should feel not like a type, but like a thing itself that gets ripped out of you. Otherwise, you get redshirts. (Or, as other panelists noted, refrigerators: tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.…)
From @mythicdelirium: Measure the death in terms of how the other characters have shifted once this character exits.
From Miriam: What does the reader remember afterward? The character? Their death? Was the death a thing that happened, or a thing you experienced?
From @KarenHeuler: If the death is thrilling, it's gratuitous. Also, was the death more interesting than the character?
Miriam pointed out that, in addition to violent death, there's also natural death, which can be meaningful too. And knowing what the dead character means to the other characters makes it meaningful.
A question from @cballison421 that didn't get answered: Does what the audience wants matter? For example, this is why Sherlock Holmes never gets to die.
And Miriam brought up "Marvel death" - when you know the character will be back, so the reader doesn't buy into their death.
From @RobertVSRedick: Death doesn't have to be the end. (Dead characters can still be part of the story.)
Two more questions that didn't really get answered:
- What's the benefit of a slow death vs. a fast one?
- Can self-sacrifice be done badly? Can it be done well?

Clearly, this panel needed more time! (It was a great panel.)

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More from @Rachel_Gutin

Dec 25, 2020
For those of us who aren’t celebrating Christmas, I would like to share a story:
In a small Jewish community on an outlying planet sits a museum. At its center, a narrow plinth. Upon the plinth, a boxy container, folded from heavy white paper, its edges charred. A wire handle across its top.

The label reads: In Commemoration of the Great Christmas Alliance
There is no further explanation posted, but ask any museum staff member, and they will tell you the tale of the time when Chinese food saved the Jews from boredom and despair, on the occasion of yet another Christmas.
Read 26 tweets
Sep 22, 2020
This Rosh Hashanah, my thoughts kept returning to a single story. It’s the story of a soul, newly arrived at the gates of Heaven And while I’m not sure I believe in a literal heaven, with an actual gate where angels stand guard, a story doesn’t have to be factual to be true.
So a woman arrives at the gates of Heaven. She is small of stature, but she stands tall before the imposing gates. A simple black robe hangs from her shoulders, and a lacy white collar adorns her neck. In her eyes, there is a gleam of steely determination.
In most stories, this is when the angels would stop her. They would ask her to prove she deserves a place in Heaven. But in this story, the angels step aside.
Read 15 tweets
Aug 23, 2020
After nearly five months at my parents’ house, I am finally back in my own apartment.

The first thing I unpacked: stuff that needed refrigeration.

Next: my laptop.

After that, books.

Here are all the books that spent time at my parents’ house. 39 books in three stacks, s...
And here are the books that I read while I was at my parents’ house: 26 books in two stacks, spi...
I also purchased a total of 18 books, 17 of which were shipped to my parents' house, and one of which I picked up while traveling.
Read 4 tweets
Aug 21, 2020
The eighth panel I attended at #ConZealand this year wasn’t technically a panel. It was a dialogue between @doctorow and @Ada_Palmer entitled “Corey Doctorow and Ada Palmer Discuss Censorship and Information Control”

I learned a lot from their conversation.
This thread will include some of the things the two of them said. I’m copying this over from my handwritten notes, so assume I’ve paraphrased unless I put something in quotes.
From @Ada_Palmer: Every time there’s new media technology, people worry about the new one and forget to censor older ones. Censorship focuses on the newest saturate media - and on where people get political information from.
Read 31 tweets
Aug 14, 2020
The seventh panel I attended at #ConZealand this year was “Justice in Science Fiction and Fantasy”, with @BrentCLambert, @AdriJjy, @MMSnodgrass, and Fred Lerner, moderated by @jennlyonsauthor.

This panel gave me a lot to think about.
This thread will include some of the things the panelists said. I’m copying this over from my handwritten notes, so assume I’ve paraphrased unless I put something in quotes.
The panelists began by listing pet peeves about how justice is handled in science fiction and fantasy:

@AdriJjy: I want more about societal institutions and systemic things rather than an individual. And I hate the bad guy getting redeemed by dying.
Read 32 tweets
Aug 13, 2020
The sixth panel I attended at #ConZealand this year was “Infinite Entangled Futures - Indigenous Voices in Conversation,” with @ShiningComic, @RoanhorseBex, @understatesmen and @toniwaiaroha, moderated by @sloanesloane.

This was a fascinating and enjoyable panel.
This thread will include some of the things the panelists said. I’m copying this over from my handwritten notes, so assume I’ve paraphrased unless I put something in quotes.
First, the panelists introduced themselves. Among other things, each shared which indigenous tribe they are a part of. Because most of these tribal names were unfamiliar to me, I didn’t know how to spell them, so I looked them up afterward on author websites and twitter.
Read 49 tweets

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