Authors are not their characters. Seriously.

Do you want to know something that bothers me? If not, please ignore this post.

If so…

Okay, look. We need to have a talk.

Let’s say we want to quote something from the Harry Potter series. This one is a pretty popular quote: “Dark times lie ahead of us, and there will be a time when we must choose between what is easy and what is right.”

Who do we attribute it to?

If you said it was Dumbledore who said it, then you are correct.

Here’s where it gets hard for some people. The quote belongs to Dumbledore. Yes, J.K. Rowling put the words onto paper. But that doesn’t mean you should say it’s her opinion. So when you quote it, here’s something like how it should go:

“Dark times lie ahead of us, and there will be a time when we must choose between what is easy and what is right.” -Albus Dumbledore, [If you want to insert which book it came from here, that’s fine. If not, you don’t have to], [and you can stop here, but if you really think there will be someone who doesn’t know who Dumbledore is or doesn’t know who wrote the series, then you can include the author’s name].

And that’s it. If you attribute the quote solely to J.K. Rowling, then you’re doing it wrong. Characters are not mouthpieces. Don’t treat them that way. Would you say some quote from Draco Malfoy is just from Ms. Rowling? That would be unfair. You could really make her sound like a bad person if you only attribute character quotes to their author.

Try this on for size so you can understand how bad it is to not attribute quotes to their characters:

“When the Dark Lord takes over, is he going to care how many O.W.L.s or N.E.W.T.s anyone’s got? Of course he isn’t… It’ll be all about the kind of service he received, the level of devotion he was shown.” -J.K. Rowling

Yeah. Don’t do that.

My point is that even if a quote is awesome, it may not be the author’s opinion.

Let’s say you’re a Taoist. And you write a story where the main character discovers that they want to be a Christian. And in that story, your character says, “Jesus rules! I’m so happy I’ve found the love of God!" And while it’s a nice sentiment–and we can be happy for your character–it’s probably not your opinion since you’re a Taoist. And then it’s attributed to solely you and not your character.  How would you feel?

Maybe you’re a Christian, and you write a story in which your main character is also a Christian. And your main character is trying to convert their Satanist friend. "Satan rules!” your Satanist character says. Do you want that attributed to you?

Other people’s characters aren’t their mouthpieces. And neither are yours. Treat other people’s quotes with the same respect you’d want for yours.

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