Eight Deadly Words

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The Eight Deadly Words are a single sentence which amateur and professional authors use to warn themselves and each other against boring the reader by writing unappealing or two-dimensional characters.

The words are: I don't care what happens to these people -- followed by the reader closing the book, leaving the theater, or otherwise giving up on the story.

The idea has probably been floating around in literature since Homer's time, but was codified by Dorothy Jones Heydt in 1991.

Here we were in Chapter One, Book Two. Rand had arrived in whatever city it was he had arrived in at the end of Book One, and it was noised about that any day now some group of powerful magicians (?? I think--it's been a while) were going to arrive in the city, and when they did he would be toast. And he kept sitting around saying, "Gee, any day now those guys are going to show up, and if I'm still here when they do, I'll be toast; I guess I better move on." And day after day he didn't move on, but sat around repeating the speech paraphrased above, and one day they did show up and, I suppose, toasted him. (Though he seems to have survived into later volumes.)

So I uttered the Eight Deadly Words--

"I don't *care* *WHAT* happens to these people!"

and gave the three volumes I had bought to my niece, who had a long train trip to make. [1]

In 2003, Heydt wrote: " I coined them about a decade ago upon putting down volume Two of _WoT_." [2]

According to Justin Bacon, "The first time Dorothy Heydt used the words "I don't care what happens to these people" was, according to Google Groups, in 1991. It was in reference to The Copper Crown [by Patricia Kennealy]. The first time these were referred to as the Eight Deadly Words was in 1993, when she was discussing [Guy Gavriel Kay's] The Fionavar Tapestry.

There is a female-fronted hard rock band called Eight Deadly Words in England.


Eight Deadly Words on tvtropes

David's Credo From David Brukman's blog, talking about how he judges good books