I was reading a story yesterday, a sci-fi I really enjoyed, and started to run across one of my personal pet-peeves in characterization and thought I could share with you all. I'm going to try to make this post more of a tip to writers rather than a rant but...we'll see where it goes.
Ok, the thing: killing characters. Not actually killing characters. Some of the best stories end up killing some off at one point.
Let me explain. In the book I'm reading, the villain is introduced as "Gluttonous, slimy, and disgusting" and often breaks into an "evil grin". When writing in third person, this is not what the reader needs to hear from the author. After all, we don't know why this person is automatically "disgusting". Because they're the villain? There are plenty of suave villains out there. Because he's fat? That doesn't automatically make him gross. What if he's got an eating disorder? It could be stress induced. Do a little research. So why is he "disgusting"?
This is the author projecting an image, a pre-made judgement, to the reader. We're not allowed to evaluate the character ourselves and decide, we're told to think of him as disgusting. This makes him shallow. Rather than reading into his movements, understanding his thoughts, and developing our own profile for him, we're simply told what he is and that takes away the chance for this villain to become anything memorable or creative. he's just a plot point now. A "disgusting" one.
This could be better handled in two ways (both or either).
1. Using a character to describe a character: If our main character (MC) is thinking to themselves "That man is gluttonous, slimy and disgusting" it takes away the pressure for us to view him as such. Most will because we're on the side of the MC, but we don't have to see him as such. This is not fact but the biased view of the MC. This leaves plenty of room for the villain to develop. After all, the MC could turn out to be wrong.
2. Unbiased description: "The man was large, taking up most of the bench by himself, and busily stuffing food into his mouth." Here we see an unbiased opinion from the author. There are no judgments or conceptions. This could be an enormous tyrant enjoying the plunder from his people or a kindly Santa Clause character who's about to share in his never-ending feast.
Think this was helpful? Have any other points to add? See a flaw in my explanation? Feel free to comment or even link to your own post!
Disclaimer: I do not own any of these images! ;)