As the holiday shopping season kicks off we thought we’d serve up a delightful post about wrapping packages.
Nope, actually we’re doing crazy suspenseful plot twists in which main characters die. Twists of the “what’s in the box?” variety. NOTE TO READER: this is a reference to the movie Seven. Have you seen it? If not, we’re not going to ruin that movie for you. Nope. We are anti-spoiler and pro-suspense here at Library Connect Blog. So, if you haven’t seen Seven, think, I don’t know… Bambi’s mom. We will also serve up a totally DIFFERENT “what’s in the box?” scenario that totally won’t spoil Seven for you.
For whatever reason I’ve been thinking about an interview I once saw of a famous director talking about watching another famous director’s work. He said that this director set up a shot so brilliantly that the viewing audience, wanting to see around a corner on the screen, actually leaned in their seats while they were viewing the movie… because that’s what they would do if they were there in person to see around the corner, but that doesn’t work on the 2-dimensional surface of a movie screen. At all. But the scene was so suspenseful the audience leaned anyway. So impatient were they to figure out what was around that corner that the movie took the audience outside the laws of physics. Movies do this when they can pull it off (#gowatchseven), but books leave a lot of the imagining up to the reader and they can sometimes do it even better.
Imagine this novel: It’s got a large cast of characters. The head of one main character is delivered to another main character in a beautifully wrapped box. It’s a *chef’s kiss* set up. The box is unwrapped… it is looked into… the reader is told the box contains a human head… and then the action carries on around the box full of head with no information about WHOSE HEAD IS IN THE BOX. The characters know whose head is in the box. The reader does not and the narrative just keeps going for what feels like an extended period of time because all the reader wants to know right then is WHOSE HEAD IS IN THAT BOX. But the author chooses not to reveal that and the reader does the equivalent of leaning to see around the corner of a flat surface because WHOSE HEAD IS IN THAT BOX?! And, yes, the actual reveal of the identity of the head is awesome… but the anticipation of finding out whose head it is and all the thinking of “OMG there are a lot of people’s heads that could be in that box” It’s like a Schrödinger’s cat of decapitation. It is epic and amazing. Which isn’t to say we are pro decapitation here at the Library Connect blog, but we are pro suspenseful reading moments, and in this case the author who is Pierce Brown and the novel which is Golden Son from the Red Rising series does a masterful job of manipulating the reader.
You also see this with some of the truly epic scenes from George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones series. Those who came to the series first as readers had several scenes that they were waiting to see not just how they were presented in the TV series, but also how viewers responded. An execution in the first volume of a very central character (see not spoiling it, even now…vive le suspense) and the notorious Red Wedding. You can probably still find viewer reaction shots of people processing that scene as it unfolds in real time.
The fascinating thing about these scenes is that they only pack that amazing punch the first time, because once you’ve seen/read it once, you know how it ends and it doesn’t have the emotional impact. So, I can say for me as a viewer the Red Wedding in particular happened way too fast in the TV show because I remember how it unfurled while I was reading it and while it’s a horrifying scene—there is an OMG-ness to it that is something to be savored—even when horrible things are happening.
So, here’s a list of books in which authors brutally kill off main characters… yes, Schrödinger’s Head and all!