Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Sheriff

As an editor I see a lot of stories.  It amazes me how delusional writers can be.  While some writers anguish over every submission and have to have it critiqued 20 times before they'll submit anything, there are also the other kind.  One of things I notice mostly from novice writers is so many of their characters aren't characters at all.  Characters are interesting people who help the reader enjoy the story by being entertaining in some way.  But, so many writers do not understand this.  The most glaring and immediate factor that tells me I'm dealing with a dud of a story is the huge number of them where so many of the characters don't even have a name.  They have titles. We see the doctor. The barkeep. The conductor. And 99% of the time--the Sheriff. Oh how I hate that.  I hate it on so many levels.  Most incorporated towns had marshals. Sheriffs served unincorporated areas. But, regardless of title, we can't even bother to give this character a name.  It's not Sheriff Watson or Deputy Smith. Nope, it's always The Sheriff (almost always capitalized) or the deputy (rarely capitalized).  And they never have a name. Just a title.  And the submitter deludes himself that this is a story that's actually going to get published. 
Well it may.  I've seen some real crap get published on occasion.  But the Sheriff will not be published in anything I edit. A title is not a name. A title is not a character.  The Sheriff rarely has any characteristics other than being an alien in disguise. (I get that one a lot for some reason).  No aches from an old bar fight. No thinning hair. No Stetson that doesn't quite fit. Nothing but some title walking around some town.  They could at least have him walk around in those pink Acme Union Suits.  They don't even do that.  "Oh Sheriff, arrest that sad excuse for a writer. You arrest him and throw away the key!"

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