I want to write a short post about loss. During my Talent Campus 5 course, we were lucky enough to have John Yorke talk about his 3D roadmap of change. This builds on Vogler's change guide for your protagonist, expanding it to 15 moments, neatly split into triplets across a 5-act structure. If you remember, this is the classic 3-act structure (beginning, middle and end or set-up, conflict and resolution) but with the second act split into 3.
John made a throwaway comment how many protagonists, if not driven by loss, certainly have it in their backstory. Whether its Bambi, Luke or Tyler in Peanut Butter Falcon, it's something that contributes to their makeup. For the first two it elicitis sympathy and in the Tyler's case, if not sympathy, empathy. It affects their behaviour, if not directly, it's implied or perhaps implicit in that many of us have experienced loss of a loved one.
So the use of loss may be 'useful' as it's a shared experience, generating empathy with the character. It makes them more three-dimensional. Although even James Bond is most often presented in his post-wife form, even if not always referenced. In fact, one of the most frequent users of the dead wife is Christopher Nolan. Many of his films feature this trope. Perhaps in this case, it's less about a shared historical experience but a deadly threat - the loss of a partner. Is there an argument, in his films, he's moved down the scale of seriousness, from the death of multiple loved ones (Memento) to the potential killing of a new one (Tenet).
What about the loss of something else? In Pixar films, it's not a death of a person but the loss of something the character is passionate about. In Toy Story, it's Woody's status as the number one toy. In Finding Nemo, it's Nemo. Why is this? Could it be that Pixar didn't wish to go back to the days of Bambi and tears in the aisle. It still plays on the loss of something, but something less traumatic but still relevant to a child. Think of the times when you were told you had to leave the tv to go for dinner.
So loss, a powerful tool to add to your armoury. The loss of a loved one, haunting the protagonist (perhaps deliberately, like in Undone) or the loss of something beloved.