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  • Kim Senklip Harvey

Our Characters Don't Always Have to Die

Dying is inevitable. Writing about it, using it as conflict for a character or narrative, is not challenging.

Ex: Inter-relating group of people, someone dies (usually the femme) and then those people go and alter their lives.

Ex 2: Someone is in the process of dying, they are scared and dramatic action and death are intertwined for dramatic purpose, and death becomes the central motivating factor.

Ex 3: Someone dies, this motivates the entire story, we usually land on an untransformed understanding that death, is inevitable and we should make peace with it.

Death becomes the crux of the narrative. It is for many stories, many stories that have been told powerfully and now I'm interested in the evolution of how we transform the motivating structure of our stories.

Because killing a character, or having them die at the end is not innovative or really interesting to me, because rarely is it ever investigated or troubled in a way that is sensorially anew. It’s a predictable and an unsatisfying process of death, pain, hurt, regret.

Their death is often used for other characters to be motivated by, in a really egoic way, and it’s disconcerting. I question what teachings it communicates and whether we need more of that in this moment. Honouring the courage it takes to really live, the pain, that joy, the impenitency it takes to be deeply alive - to capture that, is The challenge. It is the most challenging storytelling journey and is without a doubt, the most challenging action in my life. Battling life and bearing witness to characters doing the work to engage with the erotic sensibilities of what being alive can mean, always make me weep. Courage ignites my spirit because of its activating complexity, at once, it humbles, inspires and awakens me. I’m very much interested in storytellers conjuring characters who experience pain as a part of the process of joy. Writers illuminating characters who are activated by life and not reactive to the fear of death. We live in a time where we’ve never been alive for such lengths, and yet so many stories still pivot around death. The scope and dynamics of the possibilities of a human life have drastically transformed and I want to fall into that. I want to bear witness to that, tell me those stories. Our characters don't always have to die. I offer, when you feel that impulse ask yourself, but what if they lived? What would that require? And there it is - those are the stories we need right now. I long to experience stories that explore the profound nature of being alive, that is why I write. With humility, deep love and respect to those courageously capturing the sanctity of life, Kim.

p.s here is a picture of my Great Grandmother Edith, a Salish woman, who was fiercely alive right up until her death. Who on our last visit said in Tsilhqot'in, "I'm probably going to die child, so this is the last time you will see me, come give me a hug." And a month later she did. Death took up a small moment of her very full and extraordinary life.

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