I have a scene where a character is applying to be released from prison pending trial. I want an arbitrary / unfair reason for the judge to dislike him. It has to be something that is not justified to keep him in prison (ie, risk of committing further offences, running away, or interfering with witnesses).

I was thinking something like he is rude to the judge/police, he has some character flaw that people don't tend to like etc.

EDIT: In response to the helpful answer below, it occurred to me that I should have pointed out that it would be good for it to be something that the readers wouldn't like either.

I'd really appreciate any ideas!

  • 4
    I have voted to close this question as you're asking us what to write / to suggest ideas for your story. StackExchange is a question-and-answer forum intended for everyone to benefit from the questions. That being said, it sounds like you need flesh out the Judge as a character. Explore them, maybe even write a short interview with them to find out what kind of character they are, and then it should be obvious why they were prejudicial to your character. Jan 17, 2019 at 11:33

3 Answers 3


In a modern setting, the prosecution may submit something like blogs or emails intended to prove the defendant was involved in some crime or had knowledge of it.

But the judge, in reading these blogs, finds the defendant's other opinions repellent, even though legal. These could be talking about a callous attitude toward women, for example, or how he insisted his girlfriend have an abortion, or a liberal attitude about drugs or immigrants, or any number of other things allowed as free speech, that grates on the judge.

In any case by reading the defendant's communications, the judge just doesn't like the defendant as a person or human being, even though the behavior itself does not rise to the level of criminal activity; it is just an "ick" factor for the judge and the reader.

  • Yes, the callous attitude was exactly the type of thing I was thinking. Plus you've also added a way for the judge to find out this 'irrelevant' information in a plausible way. Thank you!
    – Poul
    Jan 17, 2019 at 12:33
  • @Poul Vote up the answers you like, it doesn't cost you anything.
    – Amadeus
    Jan 17, 2019 at 12:38
  • If set in the United States, make the defendant a have sympathys for the prison gang, especially if he is white. Prison Gangs in the US tend to be racially motivated in their operations and white prison gangs tend to be very pro-nazi and white supremacists (and tend to be specialized for behind bars crimes, while other gangs tend to recruit for gangs on the outside. They also tend to be more brutal.). Your character need not support the racist ideology but still be sympathetic to their motivations of protection but the judge doesn't see a difference.
    – hszmv
    Jan 17, 2019 at 17:38
  • @hszmv I don't think "racism" is the only arrow in the quiver. Peter Woolley already gave racism as an answer. I hate racism, but it seems a little too convenient for me; in general to be creative in writing we should put aside the most obvious answers and come up with something new.
    – Amadeus
    Jan 17, 2019 at 17:50
  • @Amadeus: My suggestion was specifically to the racism on the part of the defendant (or rather perceived racism... The defendant does not have to be racist at all, but his associations in prison are and thus the judge believes him to be a racist). Peter's answer implies that the judge is racist, not the defendant. Given that OP's response implies that he wants the reader to see the negative trait in the defendant, which would support the racist judge reading.
    – hszmv
    Jan 17, 2019 at 19:37

Have you considered racism? May not fit with your story, but maybe some kind of societal objection ... like wrong accent, hair too long, tattoos ... all arbitrary, but could influence someone to be more harsh/unfair.

  • Thanks @Peter! Yes, racism had occurred to me, and would probably be a fairly good candidate, but I was hoping for something more subtle, and also I was hoping it would be something that the reader would also dislike the character for! (I'll amend the question now to reflect that.)
    – Poul
    Jan 17, 2019 at 11:27
  • Perhaps, in that case, the issue could be with his attitude to the crime for which he is to stand trial. Contempt for the victim(s), or an attitude which shows that he doesn't consider the offence a big deal. Jan 17, 2019 at 12:41
  • 1
    @PeterWoolley: Lack of remorse is a perfectly valid reason for the judge to deneign parole. Dismissive attitudes are valid justification for denial... It's not uncommon for the wrongly convicted to be incarcerated far longer because of this, as they still maintain their innocence because the alternative is tantamount to admitting guilt to a crime they did not commit.
    – hszmv
    Jan 17, 2019 at 19:41
  • @hszmv Ah, yes. Needs to be somewhat arbitrary. Maybe the guy just snorts through his nose, or spits or some other bad, yet unrelated habit ? Jan 31, 2019 at 13:42
  • @PeterWoolley: That's not going to be something that could actually get someone denied parole.
    – hszmv
    Jan 31, 2019 at 21:00

You don't need a valid/justifiable reason to dislike someone.

Maybe the judge didn't even care.

Maybe he was just watching porn on his smart phone and decided to reject the appeal, because that's his default answer...

The point is, it is hard work to explain why the judge dislikes him.. ;)

All you want to do is to have the guy stay in prison for the wrong reasons, and have the judge be the 'bad' guy...

So why not just go for it?

You can throw in whatever you want the readers to not like about him in the story.. And it didn't even matter ...

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.