One of the topics readers most frequently ask me about is how I feel about and handle the inevitable bad things that happen to good characters in my writing. Do I enjoy tormenting and killing the good guys? How far in advance do I plan these things? Why am I mean to my readers?

No, I do not enjoy hurting my favorite characters (many of whom end up being my readers’ favorite characters as well). I’ve heard some other fantasy authors say they do get a kick out of upsetting the readers and causing shock or surprise by killing characters. That’s not me. Whenever a sympathetic character dies in one of my books, it’s because that’s the only way the story could move forward toward the destination I’m aiming to hit. In general, a living character is a lot more interesting and useful to me than a dead character would be. Once a character dies, that’s pretty much all I can do with that person, and they’re no longer an active part of the story. I could go back earlier in the timeline and fill in their story with flashbacks, but I don’t like doing that a lot. When a character dies in my writing, they’re most likely gone-gone.

For that reason, when a sympathetic character does die, I always want that event to have a purpose in the larger story, and I want for that purpose to be worth losing that person’s presence in any future chapters or books. The big upcoming developments are what I buy with a character’s death as the price. And when a character does die, that death needs to be significant enough that it affects not just the current book but also resounds in the ones that come after. None of my characters are easily expendable, and the things that happen in Akithar’s Greatest Trick will cast long shadows into Teshovar Book 2 and beyond.
Because I’ve big-scale outlined the whole Teshovar series, I’ve already planned most of the major events that will happen to the key characters, and that includes deaths and assorted misfortunes. It’s unlikely you’ll see any main character deaths that I hadn’t already planned prior to writing Book 1. In fact, some characters may get saved from the chopping block when I get around to actually writing that part of the series. I already found a way to rescue one significant character who was originally slated to die in Book 1, and they’re currently going through some great drama in Book 2 that is much better than anything their death would have bought me in the first book.

Guilt and a sense of responsibility are the major drivers in my feelings about character deaths. While deaths and torment are essential parts of some of the conflicts throughout Teshovar, I don’t want to make my readers miserable. I’ve heard from many folks who have read Akithar’s Greatest Trick that it does pack some big emotional punches, but my hope is that suffering through those parts of the story will lead to some understanding and emotional payoffs later. I still don’t feel good about doing that to you, though. Whenever I sign books in person and see a bookmark stuck inside, I anticipate what part of the book the person is about to reach. I’m very familiar with where the points are that hit the hardest, and I always feel an anticipatory sort of guilt or dread when I know I’m about to cause this nice person who bought my book to have a bad time.

In summary, I hate dooming your favorite characters, and when it does happen, it’s only after a lot of gut wrenching consideration on my part and had to happen that way. And I’m very likely to do it again.