Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Death Knells: All or Nothing

As we reach the last quarter of our novel, the Death Knells are ringing in our ears. We have no hope of success. We are out of options and the half-man has testified to the strength of our opponent. What are we to do? “Never give up! Never surrender!” cries Tim Allen’s character from Galaxy Quest. “It’s a good day to die!” cry the Klingons from Star Trek. When all is lost, protagonists don’t sit down and wait for the inevitable. They are cut from a different cloth than half-men. No, protagonists fight to the end with the idea that I’m going to die with my boots on.

It is typical for sci-fi writers to send their protagonists on suicide missions. They will either save the day or die trying. Can we do the same with other types of stories? The answer is yes. Suppose a man is very good friends with a woman. They are just friends, or so they tell each other, but when she decides to marry another man, the first man tries to talk her out of it. This upsets her and we reach the point where we realize that she is going to marry the other guy. If our protagonist does nothing, his dream of marrying his friend is dead. If he professes his love for her, she will either leave the man she is going to marry for him, or it will bring the friendship to an end, which would be the worst kind of death.