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This blog is managed by us two sisters, known to some as Ants and Epic. We're a pair of up-and-coming authors and avid readers. This blog is mainly full of honest, Christian book-reviews and an occasional update about our writing. We love hearing from you all so feel free to drop a comment anywhere to just say hi!
Also, got any book suggestions? Something you'd like to see reviewed? Leave the title in the comments and we'll try to get to it!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Writing Peeves: Killing Characters

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.

 No, what I mean is the characters themselves, who they are, how real you (as the author) let them be.
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.
 The author, on the other hand, is never wrong in the sense that when they pass judgement like that, it can't be taken back or reversed which leads me to the second option.
           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.
 Here is the chance to let the reader decide how they feel about the character as time goes on. The reason this works is because this is how we meet people in the real world. We aren't introduced to them as "that disgusting guy". We see them first. Skin color, hair color. We watch them. Body language. We listen to them. Choice of words and changing tones. And then we decide how we feel about them. First impressions are, as the saying goes, rarely right. But these impressions are made from our deductions of a person. Not from what we were told to think about them (unless of course your friend/parent introduces them to you with preconceived ideas but, even then, we come up with our own view of the person once we meet them).
 All that to say, as an author writing in third person, keep your descriptions nonjudgmental. Use characters to describe the more gruesome or amazing parts of your character. Yeah, this can work for good guys too. Instead of writing "she was cool and pretty" after introducing the character, try using another character's thoughts to project this image. Or stick to the basics. "She was tall with dark hair and normally sat three seats away from MC."Give it a try!
 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! ;)


  1. Great post! I to don't like the simple "this dude is ugly and evil". I like it when they show us he is ugly and evil, you know what I mean? like don't just tell me. Show me and let me decide if he is ugly and evil (or handsome and good)

    1. My point exactly! A good book shows why someone is something instead of just saying it's so.