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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Stereotypes are boring.

So about a month ago, I got to reading a book. (I know, crazy, right??)

It was a book that I'd heard many good things about. Reviews were raving about it's originality and the realistic settings and, oh man, the characters were wonderful!

Except, when I read the book, they weren't.

Very disappointing. D:

The settings were amazing. Detailed, lively, you got a real feel for the town and school that it occured in. The plot and idea itself was definitely original--totally not your average paranormal tale. But the characters... they were horribly cheesy. They said and did and thought unrealistic things. And the characters alone really ruined the book for me. There was nothing that made them quirky or fun or believable. The were all stereotypes. And I read and write for the characters, so this, to me, was a big deal.

So, okay, as a teenager, I am usually pretty offended by the teen stereotypes. We care about nothing but petty things (well, I don't care about them! I just like them...), we talk weird (uh...), and we like to rag on the adults (HAH! I don't do this one!! much). But I can even live with those, because, as you can see, kids do these things occasionaly. It's the individuals that bother me most.

The jocks are big, dumb, and only want to get into the girlie's pants. There's the smart girl whose shy and quiet and, oh, hah, yeah, she has nooo life. The popular: blonde hair, cheerleader, vicious. The goth kid who wears black, listens to screamo, and is overall quite brooding. The overly weird girl who reads manga and dies her hair blue and has crazy mixtures of clothing. They're all stereotypes at their extreme, and this book basically held all of them. This really killed me inside, I'm telling you.

The book really would have been great if the characters were original and realistic.

So how are you supposed to make a character original? And are stereotypes always bad? Well, no. Stereotypes are okay as long as they're still realistic, and as long as you don't have too many. In my faery story, I had a cheerleader who was blonde and also an 'enemy' of my main character. But to make her realistic, I wrote her as smart, she's quick witted and snarky. And sometime later on in the story, her and Holly (the mc) have to work together because they think that Holly's brother is making a bad decision.

You'd have to read it in order for it to make sense, but I made my cliched character original. She had emotions that weren't trapped in a box, because she wasn't stereotyped. And that made her realistic, even original.

I think if you can name off characteristics of your character, and they all fit for one stereotype, then maybe you made him/her into that stereotype on accident. And that's just painful for everyone--yourself included. When you have a cliche, it's hard to have the character branch out and grow without it screwing up everything you once had established as making that character. It'll just be unnatural and jerky for the plot.

What do you do to make your characters original and realistic? And readers, what do you like? Do you despise stereotypes, or do you sometimes enjoy them?

Also, let's count how many times I wrote 'stereotype' and 'cliche' in this post.


Colene Murphy said...

Awe now I'm really interested in what book that was!

I think stereotypes are adult fall-backs when they can't remember what being a teen was really like. I'm often afraid of doing that very same thing. But It's easier to write a teenager if you channel your teenager self.

Great post!

Demitria said...

What book was this? I'm dying to know!

Sam said...

-grins- I'm thinking I know what this was. And yeah. I agree. A lot. It wasn't even the characters for me -- it was the cliche dialogue.

Aleeza said...

everybody i know hates stereotypes. cause, like you said, THEY ARE BORING. to me, things that un-stereotypeze them (i likey that word!) are unexpected quirks and likes and disklikes.
like...a jock could be a huge fan of classic movies with audrey hepburn in them! his life ambition is to become a hair-gel-maker when he grows up because he can't find any available ones that makes his crazy hair stay the way he wants them to.
er, that's wierd. But wierd= different=unexpected=ultimately stripped away from steretypes!
omg, that was a wierd response to your post. but just my thoughts :)

Aleeza said...

DISKLIKES? haha, funniest typo i've ever written :D also, steretypes? i think i should go get some sleep :)

Abby Minard said...

Ugh, how annoying. That's when you feel like the author is talking down to teens, or doesn't care enough to make it authentic. Who are they writing for anyway?

Well, mine is pure fantasy so I don't really have the sort of "school stereotypes" you mention. Just a bunch of teens on a deadly adventure, fighting evil and having very mature conversations about death and stuff..yeah totally normal ;p

I'm not sure there is a stereotype for fantasy novels? I guess you have the girl that needs saving, or even the strong and independent girl who defeats the odds. But in mine, The boys and girls equally "save" each other on several occasions, my mc is strong and independent but agonizingly shy and insecure, and I have a gay character...

Maggie said...

Colene: That's a really good thought, actually. I wouldn't know what adults remember of their teen years since I have yet to become an adult (says my mother), but I assume that could maybe be a problem sometimes. I'm sure you don't have that problem though; don't worry! :D

Demitria: Oh dear. I'd really rather not say, now that I've officially killed that book with my post haha. I'm sorry!

Sam: Same here. I think it's the dialogue that made me think of the cliches though, and it all went downhill from there. Sigh.

Aleeza: I fully expect you to write a story with a jock like that now. BAHA! Loved your response! And I have typos all the time. Kinda comes with being awesome, I think. :P

Abby: I absolutely love fantasy. I think you're right though: I don't think there are really that many stereotypes for fantasy characters. Woo! Half of writing fantasy is creating a world, so I think it'd be hard to make a character unoriginal in those circumstances. You really make me want to read your story now, by the way. It sounds fantastic. :)