Character Sacrifices = Greatness

I’ve noticed this often and have said it a few times, but never in detail or on this blog. Mostly because I was too chicken to use what I think is the greatest example of what I’m about to talk about. And what am I about to talk about?

Sacrifices.

But not personal sacrifices, which I also think are a big part of the writing journey, but sacrifices in stories and movies.

Has anyone noticed that really amazing stories have characters that make a huge sacrifice in the end? And the bigger the sacrifice, the better the story?

The following contains some spoilers to really awesome stories.

You have been warned.

In Lord of the Rings, we have Frodo’s sacrifice of, well, his sanity. Also the other hobbits sacrifice their innocence, and Gandalf sacrificed his life in the first book/movie (yeah, okay, I never finished reading the books), and so forth.

In Harry Potter, we have…well we have a whole ton of sacrifices, but for me what really hit home was Snape’s sacrifice. What did he sacrifice? Read/watch to find out.

In Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, my favorite of the three, Jack Sparrow was sacrificed in the end (okay true, it didn’t look like he had a choice, but I think he was fine with that end).

In the Night Angel Trilogy’s third book, Beyond the Shadows by Brent Weeks (well okay, not so famous, but I think it’s AMAZING), Dorian, Kylar, Durzo, Elene, etc made sacrifices in the end. And Dorian, my favorite character, made the biggest sacrifice*. Coincidence, I think not!

In Ptolemy’s Gate, another personal favorite and the final book of the Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud, Nathaniel makes a huge sacrifice at the end. I bawled like a baby at the end of that story.

And the list goes on.

But there is one character, one story, one sacrifice that could be considered the greatest ever.

Two words.

Jesus Christ.

Now, for the record, I’m not debating whether or not it’s fact or fiction. I’m not even Christian, but still believe the possibility of it being true. But that’s not the point. The point is, this story has been around for thousands of years. It may not be the oldest story, but I would definitely bet it’s the oldest most famous story of all time.

And why? Because if you actually do think it’s true, if you actually believed that this guy, who was absolute good, was tortured and murdered to save the world, that it ACTUALLY happened and with your knowledge/experience of how everyday people actually are….

It becomes one of the biggest sacrifices in history. An overwhelming sense of love and gratitude for this person washes over everyone. A whole religion is built around this sacrifice and people buy his book by the billions.

That’s what sacrifices can do.

Why do you think Gandhi, John Lennon, Martin Luther King and the many others who have sacrificed time, energy, reputation, dignity and/or their own lives for worthy causes are so loved long after their untimely deaths? For their great achievements of course, but they made a difference because they made monumental sacrifices for what they believed in.

Now we humans are often….well, lazy, selfish cowards. I know I am.

So we only see these great acts of sacrifice once in a blue moon, which probably makes them even more attractive. So we get our fix of these sacrifices from fiction and maybe this is a good thing. Maybe these stories can inspire real people to come forth and make personal sacrifices (like time, energy, reputation, personal pleasures, sense of security, etc) to make this world a better place (and hopefully next time we can appreciate their bravery and passion BEFORE we kill them and you know…NOT kill them).

So I encourage all writers and screenwriters, do your worse to your characters! Make them self-sacrificing heroes! Rape them, torture them, and kill them for the greater good!

It makes one hell of a story.

*About Beyond the Shadows: Big Spoilers here because I want to rant for a bit about this story. STOP READING NOW IF YOU WANT TO READ THE NIGHT ANGEL TRILOGY BY BRENT WEEKS.

You have been warned.

Dorian’s was the biggest sacrifice because he didn’t HAVE to do anything and he lost EVERYTHING.

Kylar had no choice, Durzo was all emo giving up the ka’kari and then dying, Elene gave up her life (and that of her unborn child) way too happily.

Meanwhile, Dorian pretty much saved the world for absolutely NO GAIN and he didn’t have to do CRAP. Hell, a heroic death would have been preferable. Or he could have just stayed far far away from all this insanity, but NO he felt he had to use his power for good and pay for what he did, despite what happened HAD to happen (If he hadn’t become the next Godking, then how would all the armies be at the right place at the right time?).

And what did he get in return? Insanity. He’s a drooling idiot now and no one will ever realize the extent of what he did save for a tiny few. He can’t even enjoy the world he helped save. I love him so much! SEE! We love SACRIFICES! We’re masochistic, sadistic bastards!

And I love it!

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