Friday, September 7, 2012

Rules of Resurrection

Resurrection! There are rules for resurrecting characters, you know. You can't just fling around resurrection powers carelessly. Depending on the genre you're writing for, the rules of resurrection vary.

Science Fiction - Dead? Not A Problem

In science fiction, characters are allowed to physically die. Also, depending on the type of technology in the book, their dead bodies may also suffer varying degrees of damage, from superficial (burns, lacerations, limb detachment) to severe (total disintegration or erasure from the time-space continuum). Our two examples for the science fiction genre come from Fringe, my favorite sci-fi show for the past four years.

Fringe is amazing. Never let anyone tell you otherwise.

Olivia Dunham, the main protagonist, gets killed in the season finale of Fringe's fourth season. But due to childhood exposure to Cortexiphan, and more recent doses of the same drug, you can just pop that bullet out of her head and wait for it to seal up because of Cortexiphan's regenerative properties. That's our favorite little FBI agent, always cheating death!

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Complete erasure from the time-space continuum? Psh. Whatever. Ain't stopping me from coming back.

Peter Bishop, the second of Fringe's three main protagonists, was wiped from the time-space continuum at the end of the third season in his effort to join the two universes and prevent the two sides from destroying each other. But we all know that you can't just get rid of one of the show's main characters, so Peter eventually resurfaced in the new timeline that he was erased from. We're not entirely sure how, but we think it had something to do with love and the Olivia's Cortexiphan dosing. According to September. Go figure.

Fantasy Fiction - He's Only Halfway Dead

In fantasy fiction, characters may also die, but with less frequency than science fiction. If a character should die and be revived in fantasy fiction, necromancy, magic, light magic, or godly interventions are all permissible. The power of love, without any technical explanation whatsoever, is also allowed.

I was at a loss for movies or fantasy books that had such resurrections, so I just looked through my movie library till I came across Tangled. I love that movie, and it sums up fantasy fiction resurrections so well.

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Happily ever after!

As it happens, we can mostly agree that Flynn's healing was a combination of both love and magic, a beautiful combination, if there ever was one. However, should you need other examples of resurrection in fantasy fiction, I would direct you to The Princess Bride, the more recent ABC TV show Once Upon A Time, or Hayao Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke.

Any Other Fiction Not Involving Supernatural or Scientific Elements/Themes

Any resurrections outside of those two genres generally involves the characters feigning death. Of course, there are exceptions; a dead character's body may be possessed by some spirit or another and the character is technically 'resurrected' or in the case of steampunk literature, a character could be brought back to life after they patch up the character's wounds and then jolt him back to life Frankenstein-style. But even those are variants of science fiction and fantasy genres. In the end, resurrecting a character goes one of three ways:

1. They're dead and we brought them back with science. (Science Fiction)

2. They're dead and we brought them back through supernatural means. (Fantasy)

3. They weren't really dead in the first place; they were just faking it. (Everything other genre outside of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

So. There's your rules of resurrection. As someone once famously said, write a romance! Kill all the characters. And then bring them back to life with these rules!


  1. Olivia and Peter! Those crazy kids. Always trying to outdo one another!

  2. "Olivia Dunham, the main protagonist, gets killed in the season finale of Fringe's fourth season...Peter Bishop, the second of Fringe's three main protagonists, was wiped from the time-space continuum at the end of the third season"

    Well...cross needing to see that show off my list.

    First thing I thought of when I read this post's title was Dragon Ball Z. People were coming back from the dead so often, it was just getting to be a bag of silly.

  3. I do recall that being true. . . however, people in Fringe get killed more often than not, good guys included. One of the supporting cast characters in Fringe gets killed and replaced with a replicant seeking to undermine the Fringe team, while in the alternate Fringe universe, the captain of the alternate Fringe team gets killed and doesn't come back. Not everybody gets to magically survive; I was just hitting the positive notes in the series. Fringe is much darker than just having everyone survive.

  4. very informative! I enjoyed your post! ah yes, who doesn't love a handsome prince coming back to life? haha :)