Don’t dehumanize your characters.
Guest post by: Sandra Salinas (Clean Teen Publishing Submissions Reader)
We gathered in the conference room, pulling out papers and notes and pens, chatting over tepid coffee in our hands. It was time for our weekly conference in the rehabilitation unit.
Doctor H. was a history teacher before he returned to medical school, and was practiced in grabbing our attention with a soft ahem. His military style haircut sported just a touch of grey at his temples, his lab coat crisp white with his stethoscope casually hung around his neck. He leaned forward, his hands clasped together with elbows on the table. Even the whispering in the corner halted, all straining to hear his soft measured words.
“I appreciate that you all are working as a team to discuss your patient’s care and their progress in your various disciplines.” Well, that made us perk up, grateful of the kind words. “However, recently there is a trend among many of you..” Wait, did that include me? “… that you talk about your stoke patient, or the hip replacement, or the Parkinson’s patient with each other.” This doesn’t sound too bad, we are communicating and coordinating our care. That sounds like a plus plus to me right now. “I want you to remember why we are here. We are here to help our patient’s recover.” He hesitated, looking at our faces over his rimmed glasses.
When his careful glance passed our faces, we quickly traded glances at each other, still puzzled at what he was saying.
“Our patients’ are not their condition. By naming them by what they are here for, you have dehumanized them. In turn, you will treat them in a dehumanizing manner.” Holy crap! I never thought of it this way. “So please, keep them human, and when you discuss your patients, do so with respect. A patient who had a stroke. A patient who had hip replacement surgery. A person who suffers from Parkinson’s.”
Do you dehumanize your characters of your stories? You write from a passion, create characters that you love, even the ones you made unlovable. You would never do that, right?
I beta read for Clean Teen Publishing. I look for typo’s and grammar issues. The most common error I find is when an author describes the action of their character using the word that, instead of who. “The prince that picked up his crown.” By using the word that, the author has used a word that describes an inanimate object, a thing, a rock, not a person.
We hear the word “that” used in everyday language, and that is actually acceptable. However, in the published world, it is not. So please, take a moment to consider whether you truly love your character, and use the word who and humanize your beloved characters. And I will give you a hug.