Stereotypical Characters

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Falls Apart
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Stereotypical Characters

Post by Falls Apart » January 28th, 2012, 1:13 pm

I try really hard to avoid characters that are stereotypical to their race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, etc. But if you have a character that really seems to be a certain way that is somewhat stereotypical, but is developed beyond that, is it better to change things that are stereotypical, even if you think they're essential, or leave it as-is and risk people thinking you're narrow-minded?

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polymath
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Re: Stereotypical Characters

Post by polymath » January 28th, 2012, 1:57 pm

Stereotypes are like stock characters and archetype characters, they can be flat when depicted without specificity. A key to character roundness is to make them individual, unique, specific to one person through depicting the individual's idiosyncracies and personal idioms.

I had this concern with a recent client's depiction of a heavyset person with all the trite, outworn comedian identifiers of "fat" people. My concern was the character could be any person struggling with overweight appearance issues, nothing unique or particular or specific to the individual. I felt it indicted and ridiculed all heavyset people and said what if the agent or editor or publisher takes offense, and the audience. An idosyncracy or two and a personal idiom or two would make the character unique, individual to the character, and inoffensive.
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Quill
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Re: Stereotypical Characters

Post by Quill » January 28th, 2012, 4:37 pm

I don't see a good reason to include ANY stereotypical characters in one's fiction. Certainly not for main or secondary characters. (With background characters it may be acceptable.) Simply because most people are not typical. And because it hurts the fiction, just as using cliches in writing does. Unless there is a point to it, and sometimes there is.

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AMSchilling
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Re: Stereotypical Characters

Post by AMSchilling » January 29th, 2012, 1:28 am

To me I think it would depend on how much of the character's traits/habits/appearance is sterotypical versus how much is unique. If the stereotype used is only one small part of who the character is, then for me as a reader it's not offensive because I know the author isn't *trying* to just write a stereotype.

For example: I am a computer nerd for my day job. I love many nerdy things, and understand way too much about what they talk about on "Big Bang Theory." I have glasses, can quote Star Wars, and my hair tends to have a mind of it's own. But I also love art, have a taste for clothing that is more New York than nerd, played varsity sports and was in the drama club in high school. I have no interest in online gaming, had a social life growing up, and wasn't above killing a few brain cells in the name of bar hopping. So I have some stereotypical traits of a nerd, but I'm also much, much more. My point? A stereotypical trait does not necessarily make a sterotypical character. Sometimes a stereotypical thing is appropriate for a character, as long as you're careful to show that those things are only one tiny part of the whole. Like polymath said: "A key to character roundness is to make them individual, unique, specific to one person through depicting the individual's idiosyncracies and personal idioms."
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Falls Apart
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Re: Stereotypical Characters

Post by Falls Apart » January 29th, 2012, 12:48 pm

Thanks for all the advice! :) What would you guys think about a character who's intelligent, analytic, well-read, sarcastic, cynical, blunt, fond of machine guns, and also happens to be a promiscuous bisexual? I know that it's something of a stereotype for a bi character to sleep around, but it's really not emphasized. Her orientation really is incidental--although it would be very difficult to remove without changing her relationships--and her promiscuity isn't in any way derived from it, being more the result of her personality. Neither is a huge part of her character, but I worry that it will seem too stereotypical :\ Thoughts?

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Re: Stereotypical Characters

Post by Rebecca Kiel » January 29th, 2012, 1:21 pm

Stereotypes or cliches are fine so long as they have twist. A main character needs to have enough to get and keep a readers attention. Backdrop characters are ok as stereotypes, in my opinion, because they are meant to blend into the backdrop. How can you take this character of course and add a twist? Maybe start with one of the stereotypica characteristics and give her the opposite quality. Remember, writing is fun if we give ourselves permission to play with it.

Good luck! And keep us posted!!

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AMSchilling
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Re: Stereotypical Characters

Post by AMSchilling » January 29th, 2012, 11:35 pm

Actually, I don't see a bi character sleeping around as a stereotype as much as the whole intelligent, blunt and sarcastic combo. But I've known a lot a people who sleep around, I guess, plus a lot of people of varying sexual persuasion. So personal experience tells me there's no real relation to orientation and promiscuity.

Then again, the whole "fond of machine guns" part distracted me from the other character traits. Probably because it's in contrast to what you'd expect from some of the others. So even if the promiscuous bi thing IS a stereotype, that little quirk there might be enough to distract from it. :mrgreen:
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Falls Apart
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Re: Stereotypical Characters

Post by Falls Apart » January 30th, 2012, 6:13 am

^^And since that's probably one of her more emphasized traits (she's kind of a hyper-intelligent assassin with the personality of a frat boy who likes nothing more than a challenging assignment) I think I'm good :) *is relieved*

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