When does point of view (POV) prevent killing off a character in fiction?
In a short fiction, written in first person, my main character/narrator is dying at the end. I understand that he couldn't actually die at that moment because he is the person telling the story. Is it legitimate for him to be in the very near his certain death (within moments) when the story ends? I hope my question is clear. I can try to clarify if not.
I don't see why not. If he is able to tell the story till the end his imminent death should not affect anything but his demise.
Chris... I do agree, he should be able to speak in his own person. Don't you just hate it when you have a good character slip from your grasp...
Your questions is clear. It is not uncommon for writers to paint themselves into a corner. I once sat on a story for 2 years before figuring out how to end it in a way that would not crush my protagonist, because he didn't deserve that. It took a while, but one day it just came to me how to end his story, not his spirit.
Alice Sebold made telling a story from the afterlife popular in "The Lovely Bones" in 2002. It's an overdone motif now.
But, you could reincarnate your guy and not tell your audience until the end that he is speaking through his reborn self that emerged as a baby born at the moment of his death and is able, somehow, to "remember" his prior life. Or perhaps his spirit jumps from his just-dead body to the nearest fresh one like Brad Pitt does when he personifies Death in "Meet Joe Black" using the body of a guy killed in a traffic accident who, like Jesus (according to believers), enables a super-being to experience what it is like to be a living mortal.
Some authors might inform readers at the end that they have been reading a dead character's journal all along (a little like S.E.Hinton does in "The Outsiders"), although you'd be adding the footnotes, I guess. Maybe his wife is writing the final chapter after he's gone. Or maybe you could reveal at the very end that the protagonist is "acting" in 1st person to tell you about the person whose identity he stole...he would have had to have known the deceased very well (best friend or relative) and anyone who does this is already ethically challenged and knows how to prevaricate, so he could just be telling the reader directly - or through an interrogator - about the person whose Social Security number and the life attached to it he stole. Maybe your protagonist is an impersonator whose widow-now-wife was in on it all along and your readers don't know until the end that, out of guilt, your protagonist is using first person to tell the story of the guy he is now pretending to be, and leave the paranormal stuff out.
Please consider looking into the TV series "Legends" with Sean Bean and "Forever" with Ioan Gruffudd in leading roles, Both deal in their own way with being something other than they appear.
For every one of these ideas, there must be 10 more that have already worked or could.
I appreciate the straightforward answer, that I had painted myself into a corner. I also appreciate the time you took to develop solutions. I'm coming to my own resolution now, by reading the answers here, and one suggestion in the story's comments.
I think it depends on the style of the story. If you're implying that the character lived long enough to write this story, then I can see why killing him in the end would make the reader confused about how he finished writing it. I ran into a similar situation when I framed a short story as journal entries. The protagonist dies in the end, but it doesn't make sense how she would have written the final journal entry.
The solution would be, as you said, to imply that he lives a short while after this, but with the certainty that he will die. Or, alternatively, you could go a more spiritual route and act as he is conveying this to us, the reader, after his death. As aharris pointed out, many mainstream books have adopted the perspective of a deceased character.
It's absolutely fine to kill off your first person narrator/main character and continue having him or her narrate the story even after he or she is dead. In Stephen King's (or under the pen name Richard Bachman) story,"Thinner" the main character (spoiler alert) dies by the story's end and so in essence, he told the story from the grave which in turn would then make him an omniscient narrator. I wrote a story similar to that in the same respect right here at HubPages called,"See You In the Bahamas." My narrator dies at the end of the story just like King's main character in "Thinner."
Thanks for all the answers you have provided. I've decided what to do, and I feel you deserve to be able to see what that is. So I'm going to give the title of the story, not as blatant self promotion, but so you can see how you have helped me end my story in a believable way. I have not added the ending yet, but I hope it will be by the end of the evening, Monday, April 13, 2015. The title is A Patch of Blue Sky. Find it on my profile page.
It depends a little on the narrative style he is employing but it is absolutely possible and could well be very interesting.
Mark, if you want to see what I'm talking about, the title is A Patch of Blue Sky. Check my profile page.
My prediction of interesting was right
I think the narrative voice you used is perfect for your story.
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