Thursday, February 04, 2010

Dear Ryan

I got this letter by email the other day. As you can imagine, I get a lot of mail, most of it through this site. A lot of it is positive feedback for my books and comics, which I’m grateful to receive. I try to respond to everybody personally, even if it’s just a casual thank you.

Sometimes, people write to take me to task over something and generally tell me how wrong I am, or how bad, or how mistaken, or simply how crap. This is pretty much par for the course in this business we call Write, and I’m grateful for it too, no matter how odd that might sound. It’s not pleasant to be told you suck, but sometimes it’s useful. A writer needs to learn how to use negative criticism as free ammunition (to make him think about his own work and perhaps improve it) and not feel wounded. Either that, or never stick his head over the battlements.

I’m not invulnerable, and sometimes I feel dejected because of the things people say to me about my books despite the fact that, quite often, I don’t even think they mean to be hurtful.

Anyway, a hot button topic, positive or negative, is usually the death of characters (what a surprise). It crops up about as often as the other FAQ - writing advice. Ryan’s letter typifies the sentiment of much of my positive mail, but I found it a particularly stirring example. He’s given me permission to publish it below, so that rather than answering his request for tips privately, I can do it in public for everyone’s benefit.

Ryan, thanks.

Dear Mr. Abnett,

We met once, eight years ago at the 2002 Gamesday in Baltimore,
Maryland. I was just fifteen years old then and my father was with me. He had bought your Eisenhorn trilogy for me, which you signed, and I left untouched on my shelf all these years for fear of damaging actual signed copies. I finally did read the Eisenhorn and Ravenor trilogies just this past year, great stuff, the dialogue between Frauka and Carl when they're waiting in the lander and the thug gets the drop on them in the origin story about Patience had me laughing so hard I nearly fel out of my chair.

When you were signing them, I brought up how I was angry when you
killed Bragg. You asked me why I was angry and I gave you a rather offhand comment about how I liked the character. You nodded and went back to signing. Truth is, I was rather intimidated at that moment and my answer was a cop-out. Plus, my real answer was rather more long-winded so I figured it wasn't proper etiquette to tie up your time with it. It has always nagged me since then (silly, I know, right?) that I never got to tell you my real answer.

So here it is. It was not so much that you killed Bragg that upset me, but how he was killed. If he had died in war, slain by some agent of Chaos or what-have-you I do not think I would have felt much disappointment because he's a soldier and that is what you expect to happen. But having Cuu kill him really got to me. It made me so angry I couldn't even sleep after reading it. And it was because the Ghosts had been a family. The original Ghosts from Tanith, we had gotten to know them over a few books before the influx of the Vervunhivers. Here was this Vervunhiver betraying and killing off one of the original Ghosts, an outsider coming in and destroying the family. That's what made me so angry, and that's the answer I would have liked to have given you back in 2002.

Since that book, you've killed off many of the main characters,
and every one made me feel sad at their loss. It is for that very
reason that whenever I am asked my favorite author, my answer has
always been, Dan Abnett. I actually feel something when a character dies. They're fictional, not real, no one was actually harmed in the writing of your books, and yet I can still feel sad after putting the book down like I just lost someone I cared about.

I definitely do not have the gift of a storyteller, in fact my
stories usually fall flat when I tell them, but perhaps that is
another art altogether from the written story. But something in me wants to write stories, for no other reason than for myself. I have always wanted something more from life than what is possible. To me life is really all just variations of the same pattern. We get an education, we choose a career, we start a family, and we see things through to our end. But that doesn't hold much meaning for me.

What I find meaningful can only be found in stories. I want to go
slay a dragon, be a hero, save Middle Earth, clash lightsabers with a Sith, pour lasgun shots over a sandbag bunker, I think that pretty much conveys the idea. Sure, I try to satisfy this desire with reading, Warhammer, with video games, movies, TV shows, etc but my thirst is never really sated.

The only way I can experience all these fantastical things would be to live vicariously through the stories I create. Even if my
written stories fall flat and are as trash as I anticipate, at least they'll serve their purpose to me. I have no formal training, I never had a creative writing class in my life, I don't fancy myself a writer of any kind.

I just wanted to perhaps hear some advice from you on the subject of writing. You signed the word "Repent!" into my Eisenhorn books so perhaps that is really the key behind all things, but if you had any more elaborate answers that would be lovely. Another author made a comment about how whenever he's approached by people who say they want to write, his first question is, "What do you like to read?" because reading is a great way to improve writing and I agree with that.

When I do try to write, I have plenty of ideas for characters and
scenes and dialogue but it all gets lost in translation between my
brain and the screen. Honestly, I don't know how to start.
Perhaps working inside a universe that has already been created, like Warhammer or Star Wars, or Warcraft where the general framework of the universe has already been established and I can work off that framework rather than from scratch would be easier?
Anyways, thank for you providing me with endless stories to enjoy
since the day I picked up First & Only.

Take care and thank you for your time,

-Ryan Brundage

Dear Ryan

Thanks for your email. The subject of Bragg’s death has come up time and again since The Guns of Tanith came out, and I’m sure my comments to you back in 2002 were a variation on what I usually ask: “Did you care?”

This is what matters to me, and this is why I ‘did’ it. I try to create character-driven stories that are so compelling they inspire gut reactions in a reader - even if that reaction is to hurl a book across a room in outrage. If I kill off a character and the readers utter a resounding “meh” then I don’t think I’m doing a bang-up job.

From your letter, I get it. You may not have been able to express it in 2002 (though you could have held the queue up for a few minutes, nobody would have minded), but your letter does it really well. I’m glad, it’s the response I wanted, because it’s a response. I’m flattered.

I think it’s important to realize that while I am in control of these books and characters, I’m not a cruel and vengeful creator. I am very engaged with them, and it pains me, really pains me, to do anything remotely unpleasant to any of them. I go where the drama takes me, and sometimes (though this will sound terribly poncey, so forgive me) it’s the characters who decide what happens next, and who lives or dies. To give you two non-specific examples, there’s one Ghost book where I knew a main character was going to die but only in the writing of the ‘death’ scene’ did I realise that it wasn’t going to be the one I was expecting it to be. In another Gaunt book, a Ghost died when I wasn’t expecting one to at all, unplanned. It just made sense. It wasn’t nice sense, but it was sense.

I’m glad this matters to you, and I’m glad and honored that it seems to matter to a lot of readers.

As for storytelling, I get asked for advice a lot, and I’d like to take this opportunity, in this post and the next few that follow, to set out some basic pointers as they appear to me. They are not infallible, and they are neither right nor wrong. They’re are just what they are. You can learn an awful lot from formal writing classes or informal advice from authors but, in the end, writing is just one of those things that are unquantifiable.

This post is now running too long, so I’ll end for now with a couple of comments. One is to pick up on the reading thing. It is the primary way to develop your writing and write better. Look at what other writers do and consider how they do it, how they achieve (or fail to achieve, heaven forbid) what they’re up to. I also believe that if you aren’t an eager reader you won’t make an eager writer. It’s like trying to be a great chef but not liking food much.

I also believe reading and writing enjoy a relationship that’s akin to the fuel in/fuel out principle. I’m not talking about plagiarism here; I just know that if I don’t read for a few days, if I don’t pour words into the fuel tank, I can’t write well. And it can be anything - a classic novel, a newspaper, a gossip magazine.

The second thing is just an idle aside. I agree that fiction is a marvelous escape, perhaps the greatest and purest route of all, but I think real life has a little more going for it than you suggest. Balance in all things.

Nice talking to you. I’ll post more soon.



frieslander said...

I've been waiting months for this.............................................ZING!!!!!!
First time. Feels like a conquest.
Two very intelligent letters. I remember the first time I read the death of Bragg, and Corbec to. I had to reread those pages several times to be sure. The death of Gaunt was similar, I genualy thought you'd done it, and I know there's still a chance for this to happen. All part of the series's realism. :)

Blitzspear said...

You may need to explain the meaning of Poncy to Ryan :) I have the same problem as Ryan i have lots of great bits of dialog and scenes and colour text to set a scene but it's putting it together that's stumping me. I also can't decipher my own hand writing and a basic grasp of grammar escapes me :) Bragg's demise was a shock but made sence and i think helped Cuu's character develop, it's ok hinting that Cuu is a stone cold killer from the under hive but it hits home when he go's and knifes Bragg in a frenzy like that. Now Colm dying upset me A LOT and was totally unexspected and yes i did drop the book in shock then reread it.


Big said...

That was a good letter, and i have so many writing ideas that it feels like my heads gonna burst sometimes to. Bragg was me and i was Bragg when he got it i was gutted , but your heroes are only as good as their enemies and Cuu was a bad man (he is also innocent)
Just listening to Gav Thorpes Ravens Flight....he reckons no one could take Angron except perhaps Sanguinious or Horus maybe.....hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahah truly pissed myself laughing , oh dear its the kid in me coming out i want to point and say....... anyhows didnt mean to change the subject. Dan right this wrong!

Phillip said...

As one of the many who wrote to you asking for writing advice I can't tell you how grateful I am that you're going to be sharing some of the benefits of your experience and, dare I say, wisdom. I keenly await the blog posts.

As for this one? Yes I cared a great deal about the deaths of much loved characters and certainly felt a palpable sense of loss at their demise but oddly enough I don't remember anger as one of the emotions. It's war...actually it's WAR. Soldiers are going to die and murder by ones comrades is sadly not unheard of. I think that my attachment to these characters is in part informed by the knowledge that they might well die, violently. It lends an urgency to my relationship with them that might not exist if I felt we had all the time in the world. It also lends your stories a large measure of genuine suspense...they really might die this time!

By the by Dan, looking at how other authors do it, so to speak, is good advice but sadly advice that I can't seem to put into motion. I find that I get lost in the story and then realise that I have no idea how he built the scene or created/developed/introduced the character. What am I missing? Should I be reading more deliberately? Aiming to analyse the book rather than just reading it? I find I can only do that with books that don't really grab me.

Anyhoo, thanks again for the words of wisdom. I eagerly await your next post.

ooh yeah, p.s. After reading your books for so many years now I believe very strongly that you are in fact the Master. I've yet to come across another author who's really in your league. I mention this in the hope that it might be able to counter the astonishing losers who email you with pointless 'you suck' emails. Least I can do really for a man whose work has given me so many hours of enjoyment and inspiration.

Longest. Comment. Ever.

BigWill said...

I'm upset about the one who is going to go soon.
It stinks that the enemy is sometimes within.

HiWayRobry said...

I just want to say that I am no writer, not by any means. But I am a songwriter and I think the most important thing in writing, in general, is to write! Write, write, write, and then write some more. I have little scraps of song lyrics sitting around all over the place. Every once in a while I'll find something I've written a year ago that goes wonderfully with something that I've just come up with. I also read voraciously and that sometimes help me come up with a basic framework of a song. Then I write, write, write and write some more. I've actually been working on a song called 'First & Only'. Unfortunately, I've been working on it for almost a year now and can't seem to get it quite right. And I blame you Mr. Abnett. For setting the bar so high that I can't possibly feel the song is finished until it meets the high standards of your writing!

Xhalax said...

It was "Try again Bragg" that made me sob like the little girl I am and then grind my teeth, shake my fist at the sky and swear once or twice.

Hell, it still does....though with maybe less crying these days as the shock has worn off though the 'DAMN YOU!" hasn't.

Big - Sangy could totally cane Angron's arse in a fight. Don't go picking on Sangy or I'll have to give you a slap!

cor said...

When Bragg was killed it highlighted to me that anyone of these characters could go and this seemed to be further highlighted when corbec died which this hadnt really crossed my mind before id seen the main ghosts as been invunerable, we tend to see the heroes as been indistructable especially in movies, books etc and its always shocking when this isnt the case, id use the example of the martin scorcese (not sure thats spelt right but meh) film the departed when leonardo de caprios character exits the lift and is shot this was genuinly shocking as it seemed he had arrested the 'bag guy' and was about to wrap up the film all nicey nicey.

Oh and the nickname Sangy for Sanguinus might just have tarnished my image of the blood angels primarch forever cheers xhalax

Jason Dyer said...

I remember having the same conversation with you at the same GD Dan (and thank you gains for my free signed copies!). The gut wrenching reaction to Bragg's "Death" had more of an impact on me that the fact that he was gone. How the hell could I get so attached to a character?

Of course you have continued to kill of characters that we love, and not kill off those that we despise (and then may come to love).

One of the high points (since Bragg) has been when you bought Soric back. That was heart pounding stuff. When he was taken by the Inquisition we had no idea what had happened to him, but to "see " him in that state, and to know that even though he had been degraded by the Imperium for his "gift", but to know that he was STILL a Ghost deep down was an impression you left me with that will last a long time. And of course his death, a merciful one, was fitting too.

Keep writing - and we'll keep reading!

Xhalax said...

Cor - Don't make me give you a slap for dissing Sangy too!

Dju said...

I make no secret about the fact that I cried when Corbec died (how could I possibly keep it secret since you wrote it in the French foreword !). And I'm a grown up man. That wasn't even a surprise, since Mathieu (the publisher) had spoiled it for me big time beforehand, but as I was translating it, I went over the text a good 30 times and polished it so the feeling was just right.
It's like Big said, I was Corbec and he was me (I'm talking beard and jolly swearing here). I totally felt connected to him.
Hum, in a nutshell : Dan, you're teh MAN !

sredni vashtar said...

i'd just like to point out something that i think ties in with other people's observations here, and also consistently distinguishes your work within this genre/subgenre/whatever you want to call it; for me as a reader, at least.

it's the personalisation of your "bad guys": the insightful character development of your antagonists as much as your "heroes" (and i'm not just talking about the GG series here). it's all too common in fantasy/SF-- and especially, i think, in tie-in fiction-- for adversaries and even the CONCEPT of "the enemy" to be sloppily abstracted (or worse, clich├ęd) into a nothing more than a mechanistic plot device. one of the things i find most engaging about your stories, especially in the context of the 40K milieu with its lack of contemporary moral trappings, is that your human antagonists are, actually, just as human as the central characters.

i know you've addressed this issue already with the stapling-babies-to-hats thesis, but i get the impression it's often overlooked by many readers and reviewers in favour of the kickass visceral action (which, don't get me wrong, is certainly important too...)

Jeff said...

The Death of Bragg fit. It may not fit the heroic grand ending many readers expect, but this is supposed to be a particularly messed up universe. Honestly I think back to Gav Thorpe's 13th legion: literally thousands of perfectly good useable characters killed in order to put together one squad. How many "Bragg-like" characters were there in those thousands?

Without these sometime ignoble deaths, we lose sight that this is the grim future and all there is is WAR. Untold billions of humans and the universe will not even notice your passing. THAT is the underlying premise, and I feel that this gets lost in most 40k novels. The death of Bragg, as painful as it seems, hits that nail directly in the head.

Without these, sad examples, the rest of the deaths and the overall stories seem to become four-color.

Look at the TV analogue: Band of Brothers. people dying in horrible and often odd or ignoble ways. Some just die. It's what gives the whole series a certain feel. Without it Band of Brothers becomes almost trite.

I have no complaints about some of the almost ignoble deaths of some of the characters. Actually if anything the ghosts seem to fare better than they should in many ways.

PoliticalOfficerKrad said...

I often feel the same way as Ryan whenever one of the ghosts dies. I think to myself, 'How could he[Dan Abnett]!?' I feel the loss, I understand it's something that must be done in the story, but it sits we me all the same. Bragg, Caffran, Corbec, all of the lost Ghosts. Well, all of them except Cuu, who I wanted to die since he first showed his face. All in all it makes the story more compelling, and thus much more enjoyable, despite how sad it may feel at the moment. Keep on writing Dan.

Dan Abnett said...

Yes, Frieslander, you never forget the cold, antiseptic shock of your first zing.

Thanks for all the favourable comments, everyone. Shucks, you guys.

Philip - did I write back, or are you one of the ones waiting for me to make a public response? If you didn’t get a reply, my bad. Sometimes the email pixies stalk this site. And I’ll gladly share my experience, just don’t expect any bona fide wisdom. Caveat emptor.

I don’t think I’m advocating analysing the books you read - join a book club or a writing class for that kind of textual criticism. I firmly believe it’s an osmotic process: if the God Of Writing wants you to drink it in, you will absorb it through your pores eventually. Just enjoy the books. But read. Like a fething demon, READ!

And thank you for trying to restore cosmic equilibrium with your PS. My professional cynicism recognised it immediately as an apple for the teacher, but my faded old whore-bag ego went all coquettish like Blanche DuBois.

Xhalax - I agree completely (with Cor). I will now call him Sangy. At all times. Even in actual Horus Heresy books. Even during the Siege of Terra. That will be Dorn’s special name for him. I hope this air of cheerfulness will make up for any tears you have shed.

sredni - I think the issue of bad guys is a very interesting one. I believe it’s just as important, in terms of a story’s tension, to understand who or what’s on the other side of things. I like my baddies. I think I give good baddie. At the very least, I try to set up the sorts of bad guys I would like to read about. Nameless enemy cannon fodder has its place, but I like the reader to ‘feel’ the death or defeat of a bad guy too: maybe not sadly, but with exhultation, or with a sense of relief because they had got to know the character, and knew how capable a threat they were.

I think this may come in part from writing superhero comics, where the villains are usually as large as life, and as personalised, as the heroes. Spiderman doesn’t fight octopus men. He fights Doctor Octopus. We understand a supervillain’s motives and abilities, his character, and so we understand more dynamically the contest between him and the hero. I guess it’s also like a sporting fixture where you’re so into it, you’ve analysed in detail the stats of the teams involved. It’s geeky, it’s nerdy, it’s rich, it’s interesting. How did they win? What are their comparative strengths and weaknesses? What really mattered in the end?

This is true of the bad guys in the Eisenhorn and Ravenor books, people like Molotch and Culzean. It’s true of the Pact strike team in Blood Pact, and of John Grammaticus or Dinas Chayne in Legion (depending on which side you’re on).

And I think it’s something the Heresy books really lend themselves to because, more than in 40K, we’re interested in AND PRIVY TO the characters on both sides. Lot of good villain writing in the Heresy books. Grahams done some towering bad guys, and Aaron’s got some juicy ones on the way...

Anyway, I will post another chunk of writing advice shortly, once I’ve hit some comic deadlines. I only wrote this because... well, someone made me a cup of tea, and I was taking five to consider what the form looked like on Nova vs. The Sphinx.

Big.........(head) said...

Xhalax- im not saying he cant and believe it or not Sangy is my 2nd fav Primarch as are the B Angels my 2nd fav legion, hell if i coulda painted red well when i was younger i would have had a army,
i suppose what im saying with guilt free nerdishness, is i never saw Horus or Sangy as being close combat monsters.After he loses it yeh Sangy is nails but he doesnt acheive anything the others cant do (greater daemon or not), when bloated with the powers of chaos Horus ovbiously......but not to mention RUSS or Konrad or the Phonecian
man Gavs gotta be crazy, i think Russ is the hardest Primarch their is ,man i study a horse before i back it. All Primarchs are singular foes (Right Dan)but in the race for Close Combat tough guy its gotta be ,
The Khan
The Lion
This is my top ten,this is not Warmastering or Generalship
this close combat ability, you just aint gonna beat Russ...he is the standard that all others set themselves to, everyones got their fav and i mean no disrespect

but im right hahahahaaha

Big said...

Thats Sangy after he loses it and Horus before he turns....
cmon any takers lol

Dan Abnett said...

I said what I said about studying form, and then Big puts it so much better.

Xhalax said...

Yay for Sangy!!!! Long may he live. Though I
must admit Mr Abnett that if you do put Sangy in one of the Heresy books I'm not sure if I'd die of
embarrassment or explode with glee.

Big - As much as I love Leman Russ and his general bad-ass awesomeness, I'm not sure he could stand up to some of the bigger dogs.


He's just too wild and ROAR....he's impulsive and rash and, lamentably easily played. He'd go rushing in to headbutt Angron not realising that it's a trap.

Sangy vs. Angron - I suspect the Angel would be able to dodge every punch Angron throw with ease until he got bored and slip inside his guard and bury a sword in his chest.

Big said...

You forget the cunning of the wolf Angron is the brain damaged lunatic ,i think it is the wolf who would play him! if anything
Sangy = hell yes
lets not forget Russ is the big dog!
what about the bad guys though?
"The Phonecian is a singular Foe"

cor said...

how about a bit of tag team action Angron and Fulgrim Vs Russ and *sigh* Sangy on the other both teams have brawn and fury i.e. Russ and Angron and where as Fulgrim and *sigh again* Sangy have superior grace and swordsmanship, i think my money would still be on Russ and Sangy i mean come on its RUSS

Big said...

Cor = you da man hehehehehe

Big said...

Cor = you da man hehehehehe

sredni vashtar said...

... then again, all sorts of crap happens on an actual BATTLEFIELD that can mitigate or even reverse combatants' comparative strengths and weaknesses.

and as Xhalax points out, with the Primarchs you also gotta bear in mind the human element. i mean, without wishing to sound like an arse, that IS kinda the whole point of the entire series-- it's the Primarchs' HUMAN personae that are the source, not only of the individual strengths and weaknesses referenced above, but also, like... the Heresy, and everything. they can be distracted, preoccupied, undermined, burdened by the awesome responsibility/hopeless loneliness/terrible hangover (in Russ' case) etc. etc. in ways that the Marines themselves can't be...

in that respect, you could say that the Primarchs were actually the weakest-- or at least the most VULNERABLE-- links in the Imperium right from the get-go, despite appearances...

Xhalax said...

Big - Dorn would split Angron's head without compunction.

And don't forget that Russ did get bitchslapped by Jonson that one time.

Big said...

hahahhaa he would i think, i love Dorn Dan has breathed life into him and i would like to see much ,much more of him.
I tell you the truth Xhalax i really have a personal attahment to that story ,the questions he asked himself ie "what are you really afraid of" are questions that as a body guard or working on the doors i ask myself, i gonna ask Dan about it because yet again
he seems to have singled out some of the my thoughts again. We will talk more when i see ya !
Any how lets address that sucker punch shall we .ANYONE can get suckerd its about timing and courage
not about martial skill, this was also not a fight to the death or indeed with weapons, it was a brotherly srap wich the Lion took t seriously (That usually happens when your scared) having survived Lemans fisty cuffs he plotted to get the one good shot in ( i always said the Lion was the greatest General) and he did! He used Russ's sense of humour against him! i have actually seen this happen in the real world, people have underestimated there opponents and get suckerd, 9 times outta ten they would lose but that seize the moment and wollop ! what your left with is a very embarrased bouncer or body guard hahahahaahahaa you laugh it off . How Leman gonna prove his point After that ....Kill The Lion? not his style... im sure he got his own back.

Big said...

However now you mention it i think Angron would get his head split!
Im a big Khornate fan as you know but i dont think anyone has portrayed him well .perhaps i sould have a go?

Xhalax said...

He's afraid of the Lightning Tower. Change through sacrifice....he fears what that sacrifice may be. And he should.

And I love Dorn too. Never really had any opinin on him until the Heresy books and I found myself a little shocked to like him so much.

frieslander said...

Xhalax, Big, Sredni & cor the one problem with decideing who out of the primarch's would be better in a fight is that we haven't seen all of them fight yet, nor do we quite know who all of them interact.
I will put forward a, possible, heretical notion though, slightly contradicting my last sentance. Has any one considered Perturabo? Yes his most famous legion v legion action was an act of generalship (against Dorn) and the Iron Warriors were often derided for fighting from prepaired positions, but they were an army of besigers, and fighting in the breach Is one of the toughest fights there is. And Prinarchs tend to fight with their legionaries. So is it not possible to assume tha Perturabo would be well tough after all that time besieging the enemy?

Big said...

frieslander your right!

Xhalax said...

I did for a second and then dismissed him because he's a whiny git and I don't like him.

True it's a extremely biased opinion but I'd side with Dorn any day of the week when it comes to siegecraft (depsite the fact that it's siege building rather than breaking).

frieslander said...

Xhalax, we know that the Iron Warrios are possibly better at siege craft than the Fist as it is writen in one of the two versions of the Siege of the emperors palace that the Iron Warriors were there and in both versions the outer walls (Dorns best work might I add) were breached.
Then were must remember the battle of the Iron Cage in which Perturabo built a giant fortified trap of that was so effective the Fists only escaped with 3000 men and only escaped because the whole Ultramariens Legion turned up to rescue them. And even then they didn't even try to defeat the Cage. The story of the Cage highlighted the fact the both Primachs were fataly flawed in battle. Dorn didn't know when to stop and Perturabo enjoyed playing with his victims (he had many chances to deal the death blow, and fails to act. If eather if them had been different the whole post heresy era would of been different.

Anonymous said...

...Mr Abnett, I would have liked a big "SPOILER" thingy before Ryan's mail. I know it's moooostly my fault, but still.
A friend just recently started to make me read Gaunt's Ghosts. So I kind of didn't know about people dying. ... Now I'm going to be a sad, sad fangirl^^
As I said, it's mostly my fault for not being careful/not having read your books earlier, but given the beginning of the mail, I couldn't know T-T

Forkmaster said...

Ryan expressed what I believe many fans thinks. But this means Dan has done a great job. Even though a favorite characted died, he made that character so alive so when he died everybody felt it.

samurai said...

The Tanith series of books has been the most enjoyable ongoing series i have read.

I keep hoping that some day, whoever is left, will be able to re-colonize a planet... sort of a happy ending to such a tragic beginning, and on-going hardships of being a member of the First and Only.

Phil Brennan said...

When Try Again Bragg died I said "You bastard..." but I was talking about Cuu there. Antagonists, as someone else already said here, are best served as well developed as the protagonists or they become mere plot devices or McGuffins (although they are that too).

The best example of this from the Gaunt's Ghosts series is in Traitor General. The pheguth was a seriously well developed antagonist as well as the McGuffin that the story hinged upon. Even though he was a traitor you still empathised with him and the choices he made even though they were ultimately selfish and wrong. Still had no sympathy for him though...

So another tip for god writing is "avoid cookie cutter antagonists and develop their characters as much as the protagonists if they are to be a major character in your story."

Of course mooks* are mooks, whether on the side of the antagonists or the protagonists, and these characters are there to appear, do something, possibly die horribly, then disappear from the story having served their purpose.

*Mooks - bit part characters, Fast and Dirty Expendables (FADEs), etc.


mels a wandering again said...

...i am one who does write more than i read... primarily because i have a high standard and most books just don't light my fire. i have a lot of fun with my characters, amping them up with details and opting for the more adventurous quirks. when i start a new book with new characters i try to think of that characters motivations and pitfalls. i try to provide them with opertunities to change and let the drama decide how reactions play out. my problem is... writing. i am juggling my writing with the day job and the studies so i don't get nearly as much time as i would like, wargamming is so much more involved you see. My stories at the start were not not good and my grammer appaling but i found a writers group and they gave me the cast iron boot tot he backside and gave me an involentary shove into the world of publishing. Since then, and starting with short stories, my grammer has improved ten fold and my conversations are less scripted.
Reading is important for writing but writing itself can only improve with practice.

Anonymous said...

your all weirdos..

Alasseo said...

I remember when I first read Bragg's death scene. My response wasn't quite so dramatic as some of the other's mentioned, but it sure as kek was powerful: I couldn't believe it. I mean, I simply couldn't accept that Try was gone.
Once it sunk in, I hated Cuu, because it felt like he'd murdered a member of my family. I can honestly come out and say that that scene affected me as much as the actual death of one of my family members, because Dan had written a character so well formed that he was real, and more than that, a character that we'd come to love.
The same thing happened with Muril, Caffran and Corbec: there was this character, no, this person that we'd come to know, to think of almost as a friend, if not a family member, and suddenly they're gone.

Looking back now, I can see that their deaths were important, in terms of the story. Indeed, without the deaths of Bragg and Muril, we wouldn't have seen Cuu to be such a menace. Giving "good baddie" is one of the most important skills for a writer, as without a believable and real antagonist, it's very hard to stay interested in the protagonists.
Even the little enemies tend to get enough characterisation to work: I still remember Sholen Skara, begging for death, and the piercings and grin of Nokad the Blighted, and they got maybe 2-3 pages of screen time put together.

Corbec's death was a little different, but it was probably a good idea to have him die then, as quite honestly he was getting far too old for front-line service, and I can't see him taking a desk job, or retiring before the rest of the Ghosts, for that matter.

...that reminds me: Larkin, Mkoll and Dorden are about the same age; any hints on how they're going to be taking things? (Well, aside from Dorden's own bad news in Blood Pact)

Blase said...

It's been said time and time again but I still have to comment on Bragg's death.
Yes, it made me grind my teeth and hate Cuu with a passion. Still, a beloved character getting killed in a stupid, senseless way is one of the details which make me love your books so much Mr. Abnett. Life is cruel, especially for the Guardsmen. A vast majority of them never gets to die as heroes. Most Tanith soldiers (as in 'of the 1st and Only, not just the original bunch) is a hero in his or her own right anyway. Not having them all die in epic, pitched battles agains the Archon's honour guard is what makes the grim reality of the books so appealing. Cuu was bound to do something utterly despicable and Try Again just happened to be it. Actually Corbec's death shocked me much, much more. It came out of nowhere, like a bullet in a firefight. I had to go back and reread the description of the last skirmish just to be sure. I know I sat there for a while, feeling.. empty.
So my hat is off to you Mr. Abnett for creating characters whose deaths can affect us so much.
I know it's an umpteenth comment to this post but I just felt like saying something. Please keep'em coming!
(And sorry for my English, it's not my native language obviously)

petersmith said...

It's what gives the whole series a certain feel. Without it Band of Brothers becomes almost trite.
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