Thursday, July 15, 2010

There is a 99.9% chance that the Character won't die, but...

There are many novels out there that manage to put us on the edge of our seats.

I don't really understand how they do this. In novels, there is a main character. Most of the time, like 99.9% (non-accurate percentage), the main character lives on after the end of the novel. Every reader knows this. However, how is it that the author manages to write the novels in such a way that we, the reader, believe that the main character might die.

Let's use Harry Potter by JK Rowling as an example: Harry Potter is the main character. From the very first pages, we know that Harry Potter won't die. He'll live on after the seventh book has ended. He might get injured and hurt along the way, but he won't die. Let's face it, if JK Rowling killed off Harry Potter in the middle of the story, everyone (including Rowling herself) will be like "I hate you forever, JK Rowling."

So knowing that Harry Potter will continue to live, how is it that JK Rowling and other skilled authors can make it seem like their main character is going to die. We read about how they put their main characters in dangerous situations against powerful enemies, but instead of going, "Don't worry, he'll live", we're more like "please don't die, please don't die, ....." when we read that scene in the novel.

Can someone explain to me how these authors can do that? I know it has something to do with suspense and stuff, but I don't fully comprehend the technique involved. How is it that those authors can reach into the .1% and make us think, even for a second, that the main character is going to die?

If you've read this post expecting an answer from me, you looked in the wrong place. Although I do hope to someday understand the method, right now, I'm still incompetent.

Sorry for the lame post. I'm just typing this, hoping an answer will come to me. Or maybe one of you guys may know the answer and help me out.

Thanks to all my readers,

John Smith

1 comment:

  1. I will attempt an answer!

    I think it's mainly because the writer puts a character in an impossible situation. For it to work well, the reader cannot be able to guess the outcome. It looks like there's no way out, and so the reader will naturally start to wonder: "Wait, what if there really is no way out? How in the world will the character survive?"

    Harry Potter is a brilliant example. In every book it looks like there's just no way Harry can get out. Even in book seven he kind of dies! Almost! It seems like there's a chance it won't work out right up until the very end.

    Not easy to do, that's for sure.