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For Readers: I Know How to Do That

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Today’s reader topic comes from Hank T. Cannon:

How do you as a reader feel about the ‘competence’ of a character. If someone is supposed to be good at something, do you expect them to be good at it on the page, or is it fine to simply be good at it? If it is something that has an effect on the plot and they are noticeably incompetent, or incurious within the realm of that supposed competency, does it affect your enjoyment?

Writers, feel free to join the chat, but please do not reference your own books directly, as this is a reader topic. Thanks!

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2 thoughts on “For Readers: I Know How to Do That”

  1. One way Bey Deckard indicates capability is to have military rank speak for competence in battle situations, such as in F.I.S.T.S. Bob Williams does the same in Music City Macabre, mixing military, civilian and demonic titles of authority. In Hugh Howey Lives, Daniel Arthur Smith indicates a character’s competence by citing her research and hands-on experience. Each of these examples is then backed up through scenes in which characters display what they are capable of and how they grow or change.

    I think an interesting aspect of competence in characters is when they are not capable of what their situation requires, whether through timidity, arrogance or ignorance. Writers who explore those dynamics can create complex characters who can carry great loads in story building.

  2. I don’t mind if the competence is not presented in the story – as long as the story doesn’t reveal the author actually doesn’t have a clue of the subject the character should be well versed in. I have read stories where a character is doing their work or the activity they are supposedly competent at but the actions and/or speech is not valid for the circumstance. This differs to a character being incompetent at something. Yes, it affects my enjoyment of the story and mars my perception of the author – which I can forgive if it is a really early work of theirs.


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