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.