Karma’s A Bitch

Characterizing corruption.

Here’s how to write a characterization properly:

Bad Writing (weak sentimentality):

Barta swept the crumbs from the shelf, and sucked on her lips. Where was she going to get more dog food? Her puppies licked at her feet, their whines growing doggedly as each moment passed.

“I haven’t enough chow for you, puppies,” Barta soothed. Armageddon, her red-haired schnauzer, whined piercingly. “Now, now,” Barta said, as the littlest puppy nibbled gently at her ankles. “We don’t eat mother, dear,” she said, pushing the ravenous dogs away.

I might as well cut myself into pieces, and feed these poor dogs, Barta thought, and she put her head against the cupboard, and sighed deeply.

Good Writing (genuine corruption):

Her fingers were dry as she pushed the crumbs over the dirty shelf. Her lips puckered out, like a fish vomiting scum, and the wrinkles around her mouth deepened.

The clatter of the many canine claws against the kitchen floor made an irritating crescendo, and she knocked her foot against the red-haired schnauzer, who yelped, and snapped at her ankle. The puppy came close, its eyes gleaming, and bit her.

She smiled when the dog’s teeth broke her skin. She pictured herself lying, an empty corpse, in the center of the house. She liked to imagine the little red paw prints that would smear over her cream rug when the dogs feasted on her body.

There is a tendency amongst writers to make their corrupt monsters sympathetic; this is an error in moral framing, and weakens your story.

Let your monsters be monstrous, and delineate the good and bad clearly.

Remember, people are reading to get two things from you:

  1. They read to get a surge of power from absorbing your authentic energy
  2. They read in order to experience an alternate, fleshed-out moral framework.

Don’t disappoint the reader.

Moralizing is deadly for fiction; a moral framework is necessary for a story to be coherent. So don’t confuse the two.

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