When waking up at 3 a.m. and having the memories of a very ancient obituary writing assignment on my mind for absolutely no reason at all, I decided to get up and write this blog so as to contemplate how death and dying is represented in different writing forms and the difference in the way it is conveyed in social media and literature.
Obituary writing is not all it’s cut out to be. When I was first assigned to write the obituary of a living person as a learning assignment while studying journalism I think I would have sooner chewed my arm off. I did not want to decide someone’s method of dying when they were still on the planet breathing the God given air we have. I was not worthy or meant for such a fate. By luck, or misfortune, the person to whom I had been assigned learned of the true nature of my assignment by chance.
It turned out that the person to whom I had been assigned was particularly superstitious and by the next day I was forbidden from completing the assignment and given an alternate one in its place. But that didn’t excuse me from learning the ins and outs of what an obituary must include.
In the digital age many readers are thirsty for information, as much of it as can be dished to them as possible and many are fooled by death hoaxes circulating on social media.
Writing about death in its many forms is an industry of its own and it is the elephant in the room that demands to be heard.
While it is unpleasant and no one particularly enjoys discussing it (okay some people do) death has amassed its notoriety for its ability to employ the masses writing obits, doing feature news reports, collecting hits on social media platforms and writing memoirs of famous and fictional people who pass.
Have you ever examined death in literature? Because writing is such a fine art the writing of a character’s passing can be particularly painful for the author and sometimes, just as hard on the reader. Why? Because even though these people are fictional (unless you’re writing a memoir) and often times play smaller roles in the novel, as authors and readers we invest our time and our minds to “getting to know them” and what they represent: their values, hobbies, likes, dislikes, hurts and triumphs, all that life has to offer for a character in a book, especially a good book, leaves us often wishing for more time to “know” the character that was created. Other times readers are glad the S.O.B (whomever it is) has finally kicked the bucket and that means a happily ever after ending they have so painstakingly been hoping for, doesn’t it?
The writing process that goes into killing off a character or revealing a character’s death is different for every author. Sometimes, ‘he died’ is all one needs to write to make the desired impact the author is searching for, other times it is more beneficial to draw out a character’s passing over an entire chapter through other characters’ dialogue, setting up the location to reflect something morose and let the circumstance of the person/character’s death make the impact on the reader.
Does life ever end happily ever after? Is there happiness in dying? Is there a reward in writing about dying? You bet there is. For the life of a writer it is all part of making a living.