Growing up, I noticed a lot of people I wrote with had characters that were immortal, or, to be more precise, characters that they didn’t consider ever had an ending. The first couple of years of that were okay. After that, I got bored and frustrated.
When it comes to tropes, there’s very little that isn’t one. Tropes are tools, things that, at the base, have been used before, but the difference between “trope” being a bad word and an okay word, is how you use it. That, I found out quickly. I remember friends browsing tvtropes.com and other friends getting upset about being called a trope and I never really formed my own opinion of them until later.
Tropes are tools. The little girl whose father was her hero, so she decides to walk in his steps, to greatness, only to find that she needs to walk in her own to find it. The teacher who finds excitement in the company of others because he finds his work so boring. The twins who don’t let anything get between them because they’re so close. They set up the story, they give you a subject and a way to find a conflict, they show you where to go, give you something to achieve, and show you how to get it.
Immortality, one of the broader, more difficult tropes to execute (pun intended), can be sticky. Or so far that I’ve seen. Is it one character that’s immortal among the rest of a mortal world? Is the race immortal, a la the elf race in most books/games/movies? Or is everyone immortal and there’s some kind of catch about death?
After thinking about it, I wonder if it’s not just the one way that’s the only bad way to go about immortality. It is something that can be very dynamic for a character to deal with, watching loved ones die while they remain forever, or watching the world crumble and themselves stand apart from it. When it’s simply. “well nothing can kill me,” invincibility, just out of stubbornness, then it’s gone too far.
When it comes to living forever, there is more to consider than just what ends they can or cannot meet, like I said.
“John stared ahead at the pink and purple horizon. ‘It’s so beautiful, have you ever seen anything like it?’ Cathy asked. He smiled softly. ‘No,’ he lied with excellence, because in fact, he had seen the sun set like this countless times in his ageless life.”
Don’t be intimidated, as I like to say; if you’re considering a character being immortal, go for it. See what it brings you, see if you like it. That’s what matters above all, having a line and a character that you like, and that you like where it goes. You may have a dozen that live forever, if that’s what you want, but think about what kind of lives they have. Think about what’s gone on, and all the different possibilities to find ways to shape how they’ve become. Did they fight in wars, are they wealthy and well off, or do they prefer a less worldly life?
The best thing about making characters is that it’s a brand new canvas, you have something clean to paint on, to create. You get to mold and make something profound, and there’s no doubt you will.
Personally, I haven’t had an immortal character in years, but I hadn’t thought about it until now. Having the tangible ending to their lives is what makes the characters more real for me, it’s something I enjoy having, the thought that their lives are jut as fragile as mine.
Back to the tropes, some are easier to do right than others. “Right” in this case is defined by your creativity and originality: the bones can be the same, but it’s what you do with the muscle and flesh that defines the character, quite literally. Don’t ever be afraid of the word ‘trope,’ or any word, for that matter; do what you’ve got bubbling up in that wild, imaginative head of yours and don’t let anything stop you.
-The Novice Wordsmith