The overparented character

“The story’s initial surprises began to seem less wonderful, even though its details were excellent, and the story was never anything but truthful. But the story had begun to read itself too early, and before very long it was always and only about one thing, with the result that all the details fit in perfectly. All the arrows pointed in the same direction. When all the details fit in perfectly, something is probably wrong with the story. It is too meaningful too fast.

Its meaning is overdetermined and the characters overparented. When writers overparent their characters, they understand them too quickly. Such characters aren’t contradictory or misfitted. The writer has decided what her story is about too early and has concentrated too fixedly on that one truth.”
Charles Baxter in “On Defamiliarization” from Burning Down the House


One thought on “The overparented character

  1. I had a reader tell me once that I’d mothered my characters too much; it was his only critique. An easy accusation to make, maybe. A harder problem to fix, as a writer, in a text.

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