Arts & Culture

Becoming a Character Critic

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Consider analyzing a fictional character from a favorite work — it could be from a movie, a television series, video games, or even a book of some kind. Critiquing a character is substantially beneficial to those who admire a specific story, or favor a specific fictional being because it helps the critic and potential readers better understand the said character.

To become a temporary character critic, an individual must set aside personal beliefs and speak through a neutral point of view, much like a standard evaluation. Doing this will not only bolster a writer’s credibility, but allow the critic themselves to dive deeper into a character themselves and not produce a one-sided opinion.

When discussing any type of fictional work, the writer must be familiar with their subject, otherwise, it leads to a seemingly subjective point of view. When critics review a movie, they typically watch it three times: the first time is for their enjoyment, the second time for the overall messages, themes, and to make sure they didn’t miss anything important, and they finally begin the reviewing and critiquing process during the third watch. The same can be said when reviewing a fictional entity — you must be familiar with the subject, watch them play through their story, analyze their purpose, and eventually put yourself in their shoes and see if their decisions make reasonable sense through their own perspective, not yours. A critic may not want to review a relatively minor character within a work or one who barely plays a role in the story, because there may not be anything to analyze. Additionally, selecting a character that’s a major contributor to the plot, and one that the critic is completely familiar with will lead to better and more objective statements in a review.

Not everyone in fiction is likable, but a critic who puts their feet into the character’s shoes is bound to see their actions from a whole new perspective. Regardless of the character’s rank (protagonist, deuteragonist, antagonist, etc.), a critic who can determine why a character commits certain actions within a story based on previous events will be sure to draw both attention to the reader and make for a spectacular analysis. It is often easier to see why a protagonist makes the decisions they do when someone sees where they are coming from, but an antagonist can easily come off as opinionated, especially if they don’t have their own point of view within the story itself. A critic should always put aside their subjective thoughts of said character and attempt to determine why they make the decisions they do, who or what influenced them, and if it makes sense when you’re in their shoes. A character whose decisions cannot be explained through the text may not be the better character themselves, and that’s okay.

Every good fictional character is not perfect, the best are always prone to flaws, which is what makes them great. As a critic, their job is to analyze both a character’s flaws and morals, so listing what makes them terrible can be a good idea. Take note of mood changes or character shifts, while also putting into consideration their overarching motivation(s). Determine their personality on a more broad level — remember that personality doesn’t determine a good or bad character, but rather the complexity and relation they may have to the audience. In addition, a good author or writer will usually refrain from specifically mentioning character traits, which makes for a better review, of course, and a deeper form of analysis. 

Now, it’s time to become a character critic who can complete a successful character evaluation. Make sure to consider what makes a character great, while also taking a few steps into their own shoes, and determining what makes the character so great or terrible within their own fictional universe. In the end, a critic should be able to determine whether a fictional character is well-written or a pile of trash that needed more work from its creator.

Here are some good, easy, major characters a critic can start reviewing: Osha (A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones), Pudding (Space Channel 5), Bullseye (Toy Story), Quirinus Quirrell (Harry Potter), and Dale Horvath (The Walking Dead).

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