Why books create real people for readers.
Sad Fangirl writes,
I am reading the HP series and I am utterly heartbroken about the death of a certain character. Every time I think about the character, I get sad. Please help!!!
I find it helpful to quote the indomitable Maggie Smith in situations like these, so let’s do that. In The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, her character says it best: “There’s no such thing as an ending; just a place where you leave the story.”
While this quote is true of real life, I think it’s particularly true in fiction. Characters are constantly departing, and death, the ultimate departure, makes us realize that they will never return to the story. And there’s no fanfic or headcanon that can tell you otherwise.
It’s 100% okay for you to feel heartbroken. Society may not recognize fangirl grief, but it’s real thing and a precious thing. So here’s what I want you to do.
- Let yourself be sad. The idea that somehow a switch will flip and we’ll only have happy feelings about a departed character is a myth.
- Make a loss list. Jot down a quick list of every loss in your life. This can include real people, fictional people, jobs you lost, schools you graduated from, friends who moved away, pets who died, past relationships, etc.
- Make a gain list. Beside each lost list item, write one thing you learned or gained from having known the person or had the experience.
When you examine what grief can gift you, you’ll find that you largely are the person you are today because of loss. When people depart from your story, you should feel sad. You should take the time to be a little heartbroken. But you also can sit up and pay attention to how this speaks to your own character development.
Choosing to invest in story, to get attached to Sirius Black or Albus Dumbledore or whomever you lost, means choosing to live in spite of and because of grief. In the same way, we choose to live our lives and love people when we know that some day they will depart from this grand tale in which we’re all characters. You can’t control when fictional characters may take their exit, but you can decide what mark they will leave on your own story.