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I personally like to read stories told by the the main character, it's more "alive" to me. But the problem is that my character will die and some of the story will need to be told afterwards. Maybe 1 or 2 pages max.

How to solve this problem?

  • 3
    Can you switch to 3rd person in an epilogue? – ggambett Apr 9 '13 at 12:30
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    Any time I read a first-person story a part of me says "ok, well at least we know this guy will survive". So it's pleasant to encounter cases where that's not true. (The third-person epilogue is the most common solution I've seen, but I really like Lauren's additional suggestions!) – Monica Cellio Apr 9 '13 at 13:02
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    Mods, could you please explain why my answer was turned into a comment on the basis of "not being an actual answer"? Was it because I wrote "Can you switch to 3rd person in an epilogue?" instead of "Consider switching to 3rd person in an epilogue, if applies to your case"? I have a big WTF sign over my head right now. – ggambett Apr 12 '13 at 21:16
  • @ggambett - Sure. Because (1) it was very short, and (2) you asked an additional question, you didn't answer this one. If you want to turn this into an actual answer, let us know and we can reverse the process so you can edit it. – Neil Fein May 3 '13 at 3:56
  • Real world example: there's a somewhat popular Christian tradition that holds that Moses wrote the first five books of the Old Testament, including Deuteronomy, which ends with a description of his own death. The assumption is that God dictated to Moses the ending of Deuteronomy, and Moses simply wrote it down as dictated. (I'm not sure if this is a Jewish tradition as well, and I'm also not sure how many Christians actually believe this happened.) – Kyle Strand Oct 17 '17 at 19:51
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There are a few ways to solve this:

1) Switch narrators.

Everything is told by your main character until his/her death, at which point some other character finishes the story.

2) Your narrator continues narrating from after death in some supernatural fashion.

Your narrator could become a ghost or spirit, wander disembodied, communicate through Ouija board/séance, etc.

This was done very subtly in the novel Song of Achilles, written from the first-person perspective of Achilles's partner Patroclus. Patroclus is killed by Hector. (I assume I'm not spoiling anyone for the Trojan War...) But for the Greeks, a person's soul couldn't enter Hades (the underworld) until s/he was given proper funeral rites and his/her grave marked. So Patroclus is able to stay on as a disembodied soul for the last 15% of the book, telling us what happened after his death. (I won't spoil the ending of that novel. Go read it. Moving, beautiful, amazing. I cried.)

3) Switch narrative styles.

If it's literally only a page and a half, change to a third-person narrative style, maybe even set it in italics, to make it clear it's an epilogue because your first-person narrator is dead.

Or have a series of newspaper articles, blog posts, emails, letters, etc. reporting/discussing what happened after your narrator's death.

ETA

4) See the answers to this question: Ways for main character to influence world following their death

I'd forgotten about this question earlier. It's not a duplicate by any means, since your story is not interactive, but you may find something useful in those answers.

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    Wait, Patrocles dies? Well look, please just don't tell me where Helen ends up. I haven't gotten to that part yet. – Jay Apr 9 '13 at 13:51
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    I think any of these techniques could work if properly set off from the rest of the text so as to avoid confusion. Like starting the final chapter with someone saying, "George is dead", and then going on to discuss the aftermath. Also, years ago I read a novel called "The Sunbird", forget the author, that ended with the two main characters entering a dangerous situation, and then this was followed by a couple of newspapers stories reporting on their deaths. It wasn't a great book but that part was fairly well done. – Jay Apr 9 '13 at 13:55
  • @Jay Oh, gosh, sorry. I promise not to spoil The Odyssey for you. :) – Lauren-Reinstate-Monica-Ipsum Apr 9 '13 at 15:16
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    I've seen #1 effectively used in a video game, actually. The main character dies protecting his family at the end of the final mission (well, the next to final mission) and the game is finished by playing as his son five years in the future for the epilogue/resolution/revenge chapter, plus any unfinished "side mission" business you may have left outstanding. (Which made that part kind of odd, really - "Hey, you know that broken wagon you asked my dad to fix for you like 5 years ago? Well, I got you covered. Hope you didn't mind waiting by the side of the road in the desert all that time.) – Jed Oliver Apr 9 '13 at 19:20
  • @JedOliver A Lannister always pays his debts, even unto the next generation. ;) – Lauren-Reinstate-Monica-Ipsum Apr 9 '13 at 19:23
3

Perhaps your character can tell the story while being in heaven (or hell) like in The Lovely Bones? (This won't work of course if your character is an atheist).

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    Of course it can. In fact, that would be fascinating, because then the atheist's soul would have to grapple with the reality of the supernatural afterlife. – Lauren-Reinstate-Monica-Ipsum Apr 9 '13 at 11:26
  • @Lauren Ipsum It was an atheist joke: heaven and hell only exist for those who believe in them. I guess it didn't work out very well. – Alexandro Chen Apr 9 '13 at 11:38
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    Oh, I see what you mean. I took you too literally; as an atheist myself, I think that would be a really interesting quandary to explore in fiction. To a theist, heaven/hell exist whether the atheist believes in them or not. If they actually do exist, are they natural or supernatural? If they are supernatural, they violate laws of physics/science, so an atheist would have to struggle with that. I would totally read that story. Hell, I might write it. :) – Lauren-Reinstate-Monica-Ipsum Apr 9 '13 at 13:12
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    Ok, you say it's a joke, but to take that last sentence seriously: This won't work if the story is set in an atheist universe. Just like having a story end with the hero leaving town on a jet plane won't work if the story is set in a medieval fantasy world, but works fine if set in the modern world. I could certainly see how adding a supernatural touch at the end of a story could be jarring if the story before that point had a certain tone. But like almost anything in fiction, it all depends on how it's done. – Jay Apr 9 '13 at 13:47
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    @LaurenIpsum The novel "Inferno" by Larry Niven is all about an atheist who finds himself in Hell after his death, a Hell which the author modeled on Dante's Inferno. I've often mused that the Christian has an advantage here: If Christians are right and atheists are wrong, then when he dies the atheist will be confronted with his error. But if atheists are right, the Christian will never know. :-) – Jay Apr 10 '13 at 14:03
3

I see two problems. First, if the person died, how did the story come to be set down in writing? This is a problem whether the story continues after the narrator's death or not. Some readers will accept this; others will not.

The second problem is the use of only an epilogue. Readers often feel swindled if a new POV suddenly appears after the MC dies. This can be a problem even for single-POV third person narrations.

One way way to reduce the second problem is to add not only an epilogue, but a frame. Open the story from a different character's POV, then close the story from within the same frame narrator's POV.

A frame can also help with the first problem, as long as the frame narrator has some reason to know the first person story. Not just the story, but the first person story. Even better is if there is some strong relationship between the two narrators.

  • This framing idea works especially well if the reader expects the central narrator to die (say, in a historical novel about Julius Caesar or Cleopatra), but mightn't it be too much of a giveaway if the death is supposed to be a shocking surprise? – Anna M Apr 11 '13 at 15:05
2

I struggled with this problem myself for a while until I came up with a few ideas to settle this issue. You can use the main characters death as a plot device to kickstart a second POV that leads into the next book in the timeline and can tie up loose ends in the story and it's timeline.

The way I did this is by starting the epilogue in the same way the prologue starts so the reader has a whoa, that is what happened at the beginning moment. Similar to the final paragraph of the outsiders. In my book it starts with a prologue of the main character having a nightmare. She she wakes up she does a reality check and starts listing some things about herself and the surroundings to make sure she isn't still dreaming.

In the epilogue after she dies I include a blank page after her last sentence as the first person POV. In the epilogue it continues with her best friend doing the same kind of reality check and lists things about himself and his surroundings.

He does this because he is in denial of her death this brings back the feeling from the beginning of the book as well as allows the new character to clear up and show what happened after the main characters death.

  • this doesnt help with any situation where you need to continue for multiple chapters after death though. – gideon frick Apr 28 '18 at 20:51
  • Welcome to Writing.SE! I recommend checking your grammar (and your capitalization) after reading - otherwise it really doesn't make the impression as if you cared about what you wrote, so why should others care? ;) If you have a moment please take the tour and visit the help center to learn more about the site. Have fun! – Sec SE - clear Monica's name Apr 28 '18 at 20:56
1

I had this question a while ago and I guess there are 2 good ways to do it. 1) In [insert very popular YA book here], the [number] book of the series is written in 2 POV's, unlike the rest of the series. So when [main character that I was actually glad died b/c I was trying to prove a point to my friend] died, the other character narrated. 2) Newspaper articles and emails.

1

Another possibility is to write absolutely nothing more because your character is dead and consider what you would have wanted to add as the beginning of your next book.

1

I know it's two years later, but in case others have the same question...

Just end it. Write in the first person, try and tie up any loose ends before the death. Then, BANG, your narrator is dead. Last page. Last sentence. Bang. The narrator never gets to finish the book.

With this, you can get creative. Discuss chest pains, numbness in the left arm, nausea, all signs of a heart attack, and then the last sentence of the book ends mid-sentence signifying that your narrator died before they could finish the book.

0

You need not switch narrators or anything like that. You can still continue the story to give the impression that the main character is still a mute witness watching over incidents from above.

If I am correct, in the novel "A Stone for Danny Fisher" by Harold Robbins, the main protagonist dies in the end but starts the novel from beyond the grave, explaining to his family how he got there and the story of his life. Use the style which best suits you but keep in mind that the story and continuity of the novel should not be interrupted.

Cheers. :)

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