Killing off characters is a facet of storytelling that writers
look forward to with glee treat carefully. A character death can pack such an emotional punch, and a lot of the time we plan ahead exactly how, when, and where a given character will kick the proverbial bucket. We try our best to keep those character deaths a surprise until the time is right.
There are, however, certain trends I’ve noticed that potentially give away which character will die next. Obviously, this isn’t always the case, but next time you see a character exhibit some of these signs…well, don’t get too attached to them, just in case.
They talk wistfully about home
Ironically, the characters that talk or reminisce the most about the home and family they left behind to go on their quest are the ones who seldom make it back. Here are some key phrases to look out for:
- “When all this is done, I’ll go home to…”
- “Right before I set off, my wife told me…”
- “I long to return home and meet my newborn son…”
- “I miss […] but I’ll be there again soon.”
They get married
Characters who get married just before or during the main conflict will probably leave their spouse in a lonely conundrum. Writers are just cruel like that. Happiness is for the single.
They have humble dreams and goals
If a character starts to talk a lot about their dream of owning a farm, or of visiting a certain place, or of witnessing a certain event…yeah, not gonna happen. Their lowly-yet-relatable ambitions make them the perfect candidates for a sacrificial and emotional end.
They dislike the protagonist at first
Ah, this guy/gal. The ally that spends the first two-thirds of the book hating our hero for questionable (if any) reasons, then makes a sudden change right around the start of Act III. You know what’s coming: they take the ultimate redemptive step by sacrificing themselves for the hero or the hero’s cause.
They embrace the concept of death
I mean, it’s kind of fitting, I guess. The character that views death as ‘the start of another journey’ or ‘not the end, just the beginning’ is, in fact, the first to get their ticket punched. Hey, at least they got a head start on that journey, right?
What are some of the clues you’ve noticed that might (or might not) give away which characters have their days numbered? Let me know! In the meantime, have a great day!