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Reader Question: Thoughts on the Death of a Protagonist

I seem to keep missing the chat on twitter and having been curious to ask my question for a while now. What are your thoughts on a first person narrator who dies in the end? Is the reader expected to believe he is speaking beyond the grave or should I switch over to third person instead?

These are the kinds of questions that are nearly impossible to answer. It’s so hard to know without reading the book. This is one of those things that comes down to execution. Yes, if the book is in first person and the protagonist dies one could assume she was dead the entire time. One could also assume she was telling the story in real time.

One of the things I always say to my clients is that if you’re questioning whether or not it will work or is working then it might not be working. What you might really be doing is seeking permission to make the change. Maybe you know you need to make the change?

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4 comments

  1. I’m trying to imagine a 1 pov story where the protag dies and the story continues. For me (and this is just a personal reflection) I think the protag would have to be a ghost, or sentient form reflecting/watching what’s happened for it to remain 1st pov. But if it switched to 3rd pov I think the protag would no longer have a voice. It would be other characters telling the rest of the story.

    This post has made me want to watch Sixth Sense again.

  2. Spoiler Alert: Dean Koontz did this in his final Odd Thomas offering. The entire series, including the last book, was told in first person past tense. Only when Odd dies is the reader told that his good friend (a published author) wrote the final volume from Odd’s conversations and notes.

  3. I’m running at about a 70 percent request rate (including Jessica, thank you, Jessica) and I (perhaps shamefully) have no idea what housekeeping, blurb, etc is. I think it’s just good common sense to target your agents as much as possible, open with something that lets an agent know you are writing him/her for a reason, get to your story, and conclude with why you’re qualified to write this book and enter into a professional partnership. At the end of the day, it’s like going on a date: Shower, dress nicely, brush your teeth, smile, try not to do anything horrific, and either magic happens or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, keep in mind it may very well have nothing to do with you. Chemistry is intangible and often elusive.

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