kill the protagonist



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  • kill the protagonist


    I have a question. I my script Man of the Cloth, the protagonist is killed at the end of Act two. Is this a big no, no.

    Colleen Kosinski

  • #2

    Bruce Willis got killed in the 1st scene "Sixth Sense"

    Almost an Angel
    Heaven can Wait


    • #3
      It usually only works if the protagonist comes back in some way, either in spirit (as in the films RatWriter listed) or if the whole movie is a flashback (American Beauty, Sunset Blvd). William Goldman talks about this in his books. He says the only reason it worked in Butch Cassidy is because the film ended on a freeze frame of Butch and Sundance with the sound of gunshots over it. The freeze frame showed them alive so it gives a sense that they lived on (as they did, in legend). If you just kill off your protagonist and the movie keeps going, most likely your audience is going to feel confused and cheated.


      • #4
        Go ahead and kill him/her -- but not until the end.


        • #5
          Just because books tell you not to kill your lead doesn't mean you can't. Books say you shouldn't kill them until the end because it isn't fair to the audience. They are involved in a story about this person, and often if you kill them their story ends. Your responsibility to is tell a story to the audience. Within that you can do anything you want, you can kill your main character twice if you want. If you write an airtight script it won't matter if one of your characters drops off in the second act. You don't have to use flashbacks or anything, just write. If you can write a good script following rules in books then why are we writing at all.


          • #6
            Kill the Hero, or just mess him up?

            I remember watching a Kevin Costner movie, Message in a Bottle, (hey, I was with a date, alright?)
            Anyway, they kill off the Protag at the end, but the film still goes on for maybe another 5 minutes or so. I know we were left feeling really cheated. Was this just an attempt to have a "Non-Hollywood" ending? Maybe. Was it just an attempt to generate some emotion in an otherwise bland film? Maybe.

            I am not saying don't do it, but be careful. With your audience invested in someone for about ninety minutes, you really run the risk of having the effect of your story collapse at it approaches the finish line.

            Jess my opine, as usual.



            • #7
              Re: Kill the Hero, or just mess him up?

              There are ways of doing it so that it may work. Are there other main characters to pick up the baton, i.e., who pushes the action? Is it expected? Is the antagonist more likeable? Is it a great plot twist as in Scream (though that was an ensemble cast and the death was very early)?


              • #8
                Marion was killed in psycho ..... anything is possible as long as it works. But ask yourself if im doing this because I want to kill somebody or because its part of the story and moves the plot.


                • #9
                  If the main character dies from choking on a mouthful of Red Hots, this is also acceptable -- even recommended.


                  • #10
                    Do what serves YOUR script and YOUR story the best, while keeping the audience in mind...

                    If your story is best told by killing the protagonist off at the end of Act II (and only you can really answer that), then do it. But everything folks already said about audiences applies... (remember, you're not telling your story to yourself)

                    It's a lot to consider, but thus is the stuff great screenplays are made of - making (the right) tough choices.



                    • #11
                      Thanks for all the replies. The killing of the protaganist refers to my movie Man of the Cloth. The woman geneticist who raises the Christ child clone is killed by the priests in a final attempt to have him perform a " miracle" and fulfill their expectations. It pushes the movie forward. He is then also killed but returns to life. He leaves a calling card. A new shroud image. He escapes from the deluded priests and they are caught and led away to be punished. It still ends on a hopeful and uplifting note.
                      Hopefully the audience wouldn't feel cheated.


                      • #12
                        Sounds like the geneticist is a "good guy" or gal in this case.

                        The true protagonist is the Big Kahuna, God. And he doesn't die, dies he?


                        • #13
                          I think there needs to be a clarification of terms here. The PROTAGONIST is the mover and shaker in the story. His opponent is the ANTAGONIST. In James Bond movies the protagonist is always the villain. Bond is the antagonist.

                          For beginning writers the rule should be "never kill the hero." If the villian dies, he should die as late as possible.

                          There are exceptions of course. Larry McMurtay (sp?) kills off his hero in <!--EZCODE ITALIC START--> Lonesome Dove<!--EZCODE ITALIC END--> and gets away with it. When you're as big as McMurtay you can too.


                          • #14
                            City Of Angels
                            Pulp Fiction
                            The Seventh Sign


                            • #15
                              Yeah but all those movies - the protag is killed pretty late - as in late in the movie.

                              The exception is Pulp Fiction, but the way the story is being told allows for that.

                              The only time I see this working is in ressurection peices where the story involves some form or rebith from death, angels etc.

                              The only other way to do it is if you have two potags and one gets offed. Though be careful, Lethal Weapon would never work if Murtagh was killed and it was only Riggs.