Being pushed hard as a child by parents or adults in positions of power; family abuse rooted in not measuring up or being good enough; exposure to a military education or experience; employment in an area where scrutiny at all levels is expected and held in high esteem
Characters in Literature:
Headmistress Trunchbull (Matilda); Professor Snape (Harry Potter); Norma Bates 'Mother' (Psycho)
Critics have an eye for flaws and their high standards mean they expect nothing but top effort from themselves and others. As such, critical people can often hone a talent into something exceptional through a regime of discipline and determination. If ego can be set aside and instruction taken, people can achieve great things under the tutelage of someone who is both highly knowledgeable on a subject and critical enough to demand best efforts. When praise is given by someone who is critical, the person receiving it often feels extreme pride in knowing they earned the compliment 100%. When respect is given to a critical teacher, coach or person in authority who is seen as tough but fair, it is often accompanied by unshakable loyalty and gratitude.
Critics can often cause upset and hurt through their words and actions. People can feel as though their efforts are never good enough, or assume they are worthless in the eyes of the critic. Overly-critical people can cause low self esteem in others, damage relationships with those they love and make people feel guarded during interaction. They often do not see the difference between encouraging someone to give their strongest effort and pushing someone until they feel worthless and bullied. Critics can break not bend, causing lasting damage and resentment.
Unyielding coaches, professors and teachers; nuns who run orphanages & schools; pressuring parents living their dreams through their children via sports/activities; Army boot camp trainers
Cliches to Avoid:
The overbearing parent or grandparent; a sadistic principal or teacher who enjoys brow-beating students; the older sister who is over critical of her younger siblings; the boss for whom nothing is ever good enough
Twists on the Traditional Critic:
- Critics are often portrayed as negative within a storyline, or even as villains. Try creating a critical character as a positive force, rather than a 'necessary evil' device for another character to succeed (like your typical coach/star athlete duo).
- Most critics are seen as hardened individuals made that way by circumstances & the environment. Try to infuse soft-hardheartedness in your critic, or give us a critical character who is emotional &/ encouraging.
- The critical character's biggest target is often themselves. They can drive themselves with high expectations and then hold others to the same standards. What happens when a critical, driven character is placed in a situation where the goal is to ensure a defeat of some kind, not success?