There comes a point in many books where you realize that a particular character is irretrievably doomed.

Some character deaths are a shock. They pop up so unexpectedly that the reader barely has a chance to cope with the loss. In other cases, it would be more startling if a character somehow made it out of the book still breathing.

When you’ve read enough genre fiction, the omens become easier to read. There are several signposts that indicate a character is slated for a date with the hereafter.

1. The character is sweet-natured, optimistic and/or possessed of a “plucky” spirit. Especially if the character had a difficult earlier life.

2. The character has a high risk profession, such as cop, soldier, spy, private detective, pirate, federal agent, superhero or criminal. And thus regularly works in some sketchy locales, like grimy city streets, hostile foreign countries, pirate-infested waters or a supervillain’s lunar command base.

3. The character then makes a love connection with the main character or the main character’s indispensable best friend/sidekick/partner/teammate. Especially the latter. The lead is probably permanently messed up already, but the number two may still has a spark of humanity or hope burning that needs snuffing out.

4. They start making optimistic plans for a gentler future, even as a series of “near miss” incidents unfold around them. If anything along the lines of “it’s just a scratch” appears in the dialogue, it is a mere precursor to more gruesome injuries to come.

If you note any of these developments, you may as well just say goodbye to the character before the inevitable happens. It will be less painful that way. For you, at any rate.

Because something brutal and likely baroque is heading for that character. It won’t be pretty.

No one ever said that being a character in a genre book was a low danger proposition.

Author (Grievous Angels) and pop culture gadabout #amwriting

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