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FUNERALS IN YOUR STORY

July 1, 2020

            The other day, on one of my fantasy Facebook forums, someone asked about how we’d address a funeral in our fantasy world.

            Hmmm…

            Since I personally don’t believe in funerals, I said so and also said since I don’t, why should I write about them?

            Understandably, I got quite a reaction to that.

            The thing is that I don’t believe in NOT mourning for the dead, per se. I just don’t believe in the traditional funeral. Never have. My reasons are my reasons which are neither here nor there. However, as others pointed out, what about my audience? How do I handle death for THEM?

            That made me think.

            As authors, how do you handle death in your story? It doesn’t matter what genre you’re dealing with. Be it fiction, or even non-fiction. How do you deal with death? It may be a beloved character, a main character, or it could be someone peripheral, or even hated. People may grieve for them in some way.

TRADITIONAL FUNERALS

            The traditional funeral, which most know of according to popular media (or personal experience), are usually based on Christian values. While that sounds biased, which it is, that’s mostly what you’ll see on TV, in movies, and in books. While there are other forms of traditional funerals, by the numbers, they aren’t near as prominent. I’m sure most religions are represented in one form or another, but how many of you can count on your hand the movies or TV shows, or even books that portray a non-Christian funeral?

            Add that to the many biases conveyed by media in general.

            Diversity is finally becoming more prominent in the media, and other cultures are creeping into the list.

            In a fantasy world, they often tend to be a Pagan variation of the traditional funeral. A lot of times, they’re based on the Viking or Druid ceremonies. I could go on and on.

NON-TRADITIONAL

            It doesn’t necessarily have to be in a fantasy world, but there’s a particular freedom in fantasy to make something up with a funeral, or more precisely, a mourning of the dead. On the other hand, why does it have to be restricted to any genre?

            It can be as simple as digging a hole and placing the body in it. All the friends gather around, say a few words, and that be it. Or, in a more rowdy story, everyone pees on the grave as a salute, even the women, or they all pour a beer over the grave. As my father-in-law used to joke, pour a beer on the grave after circulating it through his kidneys.

            In a more modern real-world tale, that may not be possible with all the legal implications of disposing of a body, if one does not want to suspend the readers disbelief too much. Instead, maybe disposing of the ashes off a cliff, something that’s actually done in real society wherever it’s legal.

            The characters could just leave the corpse where it lies, and mourn later with a simple thought of better times. I’ve seen that in at least two movies in the past two weeks alone.

            Or…mourn them on the spot and that’s it…for practical reasons. Later on, maybe do something in honor of the character. Not exactly a funeral, but a necessity.

DEALING WITH DEATH

            In a lot of cultures, dealing with death is as much or more of a ritual than dealing with life. You, as a writer, have the opportunity to write about it as you see fit.

            Depending on the type of story, you can choose not to deal with it at all. It has nothing to do with realism. It has to do with your taste as a writer and whether it’s important to what you want to say.

            A story is about what you want to tell. If you want to deal with funerals and mourning the dead as part of your story, so be it.

            If you do, you have the freedom to choose what type of “funeral” for that character you want to choose. It can be some elaborate Christian traditional deal, some other religious ceremony, to something made up, or as simple as tipping a glass and be done with it. It’s all in the nature of the characters you create, what the story demands, and how you want to deal with it.

SUMMARY

            I personally don’t believe in funerals, so why should I write about them?

            Does that mean I’m going to deny my readers of the “pleasure” of a good funeral?

            Ridiculous.

            Depends on your definition of a funeral. I’m going to deal with death in my own way and I’ll guarantee, it will not likely be with a traditional funeral…but then again, if the muse strikes and I find a good reason…you never know. After all, I do also write icky bug.

            Hmmm…

Happy writing!

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