Judging characters

Sometimes we learn about a character through the way the writer judges them.

A writer might tell us directly that a character is good or bad, kind or cruel.

Here's Roald Dahl judging Mr Twit.

Mr Twit felt that this hairiness made him look terrifically wise and grand. But in truth he was neither of these things. Mr Twit was a twit. He was born a twit. And now at the age of sixty, he was a bigger twit than ever.

The Twits(1980)

This snippet has four segments, and each serves a different purpose:

  • First, Dahl tells us what Mr Twit thinks of himself—he's very wise.
  • Next, Dahl disagrees with Mr Twit and dismisses his belief—he's not wise.
  • Dahl then tells us what he thinks of Mr Twit—he's a twit.
  • Finally, the writer expands on his judgment with more detail—at the age of sixty, he's a bigger twit than ever.

Here are some examples that use the same pattern.

Captain Punce was always a bit embarrassed about his peg-leg, because he felt it looked a little silly. But he wasn’t silly. He was a pirate. Every real pirate has a peg-leg, and the fact that Punce’s went all the way up to his hip proves just what a fearsome pirate he was.

Puggles thinks he’s a very sneaky cat. But really, he isn’t very sneaky at all. Puggles is loud and obvious. He’s always running into things, or knocking stuff over, or falling off ledges while he naps.

Describe a character by judging them - telling us what you think is good or bad about them.