and this is ooooooold

anonymous asked:

Okay, maybe a dumb question... but when you say you hate epithets in fics, what do you mean?

hi anon! i don’t think it’s a dumb question. so, just in case you didn’t know: epithets are when you use descriptions of people to refer to them instead of their name or pronoun. it’s a literary device that’s essentially only found in fanfiction.

the problem with epithets are that they are confusing and they take you out of the narrative and are not true to how real people relate to others. for example, if you’re talking to your friend about another one of your mutual friends; would you refer to them by name or as ‘the brown haired woman’ or ‘the blue eyed boy’? i’m going to guess you’ll refer to them by name and not epithet. so don’t use an epithet in writing.

it’s a common trap that beginners fall into because as you write you keep repeating ‘he and ‘him’’ and ‘harry’ and ‘louis’ and then you’re like, “wow….that’s so repetitive? people are gonna get tired of reading those same words! i have to mix it up by saying, ‘harry said hello to his boyfriend when he came home’!” but in reality you’re disturbing the reader. readers gloss over names and pronouns as we read. we absorb them, in the way that we know who is performing what action to whom, but beyond that it doesn’t bother us. 

and then… it’s a trap that even experienced fic writers fall into because they’re constantly reading fics and what do they see? epithets. so it just seems par for the course. but it shouldn’t be, and it’s incredibly disruptive to readers. 

i personally think one of the most important things when you’re a writer is to be clear (and also concise, but that’s another issue). you muddle things up when you use epithets. and! you reduce people to a single attribute which is just not how people think of others that they know intimately and by name. here’s my favourite quote on the issue:

A name encompasses everything about a person. The more you learn about someone, the more their name represents for you. You don’t need to use his first name sometimes, and his last name other times, to remind yourself who he is; you don’t need to describe him (by his looks, his emotional state, or his occupation), either. All you need is the name you default to when you think of him. x

further reading:

epithets: fandom’s designated pinch hitters

banishing the wild epithet

the big list of fanfic peeves

writing tips: epithets

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