The “Burly Detective” Syndrome

July 27, 2010

Sometimes, I see writers use a “character tag,” a short description of the character, instead of using the character’s name. Typically, it involves hair color, eye color, build, or the character’s job.

This syndrome gets its name from a detective pulp series that often replaced the main character’s name with “the burly detective” or “the red-headed sleuth.”

Fanfiction seems to be especially prone to this problem (how often have you read things like “the blond bard” or “the tall warrior”?).

Most often, it’s a violation of point of view. The character very likely won’t think of herself or her significant other as “the dark-haired lawyer.”

So most often, it’s better to use the character’s name instead, said the brunette German writer 🙂



  1. There seems to be a name for everything 🙂
    said the short haired brunette with the bluest eyes west of the river Main…

    • At least the fact that there’s a name for everything makes it easy to find a title for my blog posts 🙂

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