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9 Ways to Fix your Stereotyped Character – A guestpost by Cindy Grigg

  • Posted on August 11, 2014 at 2:08 pm

So You Wrote a Stereotyped Character…9 Ways to Fix Your Story

 

I’ve recently been doing a blog post series on How to Write Well-Rounded Female Characters, which included a list of 19 Female Character Stereotypes to Avoid.

Since Nicohle and I are swapping blog posts today, I would love to take that list one step further and show how I would fix a stereotyped female character (but the same concepts apply to any character).

Why You Don’t Have to Start Over

If your female character falls into a stereotype, it’s not so much that you’ve written her wrong as that you’re just not done writing her.

Writers revert to stereotypes or tropes rather than fully articulating what makes a character unique. It’s tricky because you may not feel lazy as you write a stereotypical character. You’re still sitting in the writer’s chair fulfilling your daily word count or time quota, but essentially you’re being creatively lazy about who you are writing about.

1. Rearrange what you’ve got. A lot of creativity is a matter of how you arrange the disparate parts of something to make a whole. Which aspect of your character is the focal point? By restructuring which personality traits are pivotal, you could create a more fresh character.

2. Add something to the character that scares, stretches, or otherwise challenges you. If writing about a certain characteristic your character possesses makes you think about the world in a new way, it likely will do the same for many readers.

3. Change how long your character stays a stereotype. Maybe your character can start out as a character but be changed by a new event. Maybe reveal they were hiding their true nature for some good reason. Think: Scarlet Pimpernel.

4. Look around you. Think of the most unique people you know and add some part of their personality to your character.

Rarity gives you an example reaction.

5. Add more weaknesses, flaws,  fears, and losses! I like the trick of thinking, What is the worst thing that could happen to my character? Then consider adding that to your plot so your character has to really solve and struggle.

6. Put your character in strange situations. Brainstorm several seemingly unrelated scenes and put your character in them. Consider crossing genres with this exercise. Put your fantasy heroine in a murder mystery and see how she behaves, etc. You may stumble upon an interesting nuance to add to your story.

7. Change your character’s past or future. If the character seems flat or one-dimensional, hook the audience into caring based on something terrible or wonderful they went through or will go through.

8. Give your character a unique motivation. Most of humanity is motivated to some degree by love of family, romance, personal gain, or moral/spiritual paradigms, for example. But what if you made your character also motivated by something kooky like a love of snails, and wanting to save those snails from extinction, for example?

9. Create personality contradictions. I love giving a character two characteristics that seem paradoxical or at odds with one another, then showing why they are this way.

Both fixing characters or scrapping them will require a lot of editing, so I figure you might as well refurbish your stereotyped character rather than starting from square one.

While it takes more effort, it’s more fun and interesting to write well-rounded characters. For me, this comes down to asking, But who else is she/he?! By consciously steering clear of stereotypes, writing becomes more adventure. More fun.

Cindy Grigg

Cindy Grigg writes speculative fiction and instructional non-fiction. She is the author of the HULDUSNOOPS series, a middle grade mystery and fantasy adventure about Icelandic Huldufolk or “hidden people”. As About.com’s Office Software Expert, Cindy also writes about technology and productivity (www.Office.About.com). Find her writing advice, blog, and other projects she’s working on at www.CindyGrigg.com.

Oracle Reading – 08/01/14

  • Posted on August 1, 2014 at 1:28 am

When I was fourteen years old, my dad got me a deck of oracle/tarot cards. For those of you who don’t know, Tarot cards refer usually to 78 cards, the four suits (Cups, Swords, Wands, and Pentacles), and the major and minor Arcana. You might be used to seeing them like this:

Wheel of Fortune as well as others.

The deck my dad got me, however, was an oracle deck. Brian Froud’s Faery Oracle, to be specific. A deck devoted entirely to the Fae and everything about them. It quite literally called to me, then and now. This deck has been with me my entire adult life, and has never once mislead me. In fact, it has, on occasion, saved my life. In a more general sense then say, the Death appearing just as someone was about to murder me.

My deck

Brian Froud’s Faery Oracle, with Text by Jessica Macbeth

When I was homeless, my cards told my mother, and brothers and I, which direction would be most fortuitous. Now, since I find myself lacking in direction, I intend to consult them again. But since I hadn’t planned a good blog-post for tonight, I decided to explain how it’s done, and basically go over the reading right here, in this blog post!

To explain the situation, just a little, I’ve just broken up with my boyfriend, with whom I had eleven months of psuedo-happiness. Now, I seek wisdom from my cards so that I might determine which direction would be right to go in my life.

Instead of asking a question, however, I’m going to just let the faeries choose the layout, and read it from there. Now, to explain the shuffling process. I literally hold the cards in my hands and shuffle side to side, instead of bridging the cards. That way they don’t wear out as quickly. These cards lasted me eleven years. They can survive a little longer.

Once I feel that the side-to-side shuffling is done, I lay them down and shuffle them face down, so that cards turn sideways, upside down, all over, and mix up real well. Sometimes I don’t have room, so I have to do this in my hands. That’s alright too, and the Fae tell me when to stop, that way I can deal the cards they ask me to deal.

Celtic Cross Spread

To specify which card is in which slot, we’ll be using the numbers. That way, you don’t have to worry about getting too confused, and you can follow along.

1) The Fee Lion

The Fee Lion is in the first spot, which, usually, indicates the querents present state of mind. Me, at this moment, in card form. Since the Fee Lion represents promises unkept, things undone, and duties unfulfilled, it seems to indicate I’m feeling guilty over the split up. That I feel there is much unfinished business, that needs tending to. He looks at me with the same eyes as a kitty that hasn’t been fed today. He might represent the worry I have of missing out on things in my life by not finishing the things I set out to finish. Who even knows?

2) Himself (reversed)

Representing Influences or events in the very near future, Himself is reversed, currently. Which means, he could mean blockage, twisting of meaning, or destruction. In this case, the meaning that resonates most with me is blocked. When the energy of Himself is blocked, one can feel limp, depressed, hurting. Energy is locked into obsessions and out of control behavior.  This seems to refer, to me, of the severe depression I suffer from, as well as the overwhelming hurt that came from the (amicable) split up between myself and my ex. While still amicable, it was a large period of time in my life, and I feel almost bogged down with the leftover feelings and thoughts.

3) Geeeeeooo the Slooow

This position represents the best course of action, and the consequences of ignoring it. Geo, one of the slowest, and calmest faeries in existence, represents here, sitting back. Taking time, and pausing, to begin  to experience the world properly. Allowing yourself to calm down saves on a lot of stress. This card seems to recommend taking a while to get back on my feet, and consider what I need to do from here. Instead of trying to push the river, settle back and enjoy the ride. If I don’t, I’ll only further confuse myself, and cause even bigger issues. My best bet at the moment? Relax, get back in touch with myself, and learn from what has happened.

4) The Singer of Initiation (Reversed)

This card represents an event or situation in the past that has an effect on the current event. The Singer of Initiation is the gateway we pass through when we make a decision, one that affects our entire life. As I have apparently been standing in this gateway for quite a while, it turns out that I have now passed through it. However, I was quite stuck there for a little bit, and that worried them. Perhaps that’s why I’m finding myself so distressed about a decision that I made for myself. Now, I just have to take Geo’s advice, and sit back to see where the choice I’ve made puts me.

5)UnDressing of a Salad

An Event in the more recent past. This most likely means the last few days or so. Things have been in motion, and they commend me for having a clear head here. I needed to use discretion and delicacy with my words and power, and this has in fact yielded the result I wanted. A genial split between myself and someone with whom I do still want to have a friendship with. I care for my ex greatly, and while we will have sore feelings for a little while, it is worth it in this instance.

UnDressing Of A Salad. Look at all of those balls in the air!

6) The Rarr (Reversed)

The Rarr is a Faery of incredible energy. It adds energy to all of the cards around it, making it clear that this was a very, very important event in my life. This card also represents the immediate future of my life, within the next six months or so. It seems to indicate, when reversed, a severe lack of control. A thrashing around of energy and intent. In this case, it represents a cool shower, meditation, and grounding exercises. So it looks as if I’m in for a really wild time soon. One can only hope to keep a clear head during all of this.

7) The Gaurdian at the Gate (reversed)

This position reflects the possible influences, or events, within my own work. Now this could mean my novel, my housekeeping, my job as a jewelry consultant, just about anything. In this case, the Guardian seems to indicate that I’m stepping into things I’m truly not ready for. I feel that this is an admonition against attempting to publish too soon. Which honestly, after doing a bunch of research, I feel might be correct. The Guardian also asks me to prioritize my moves, because otherwise, I’ll find myself flailing, like the Rarr says.

8) The Oak Men (reversed)

The Oak Men are an interesting card, as they do not have a reversed interpretation via Jessica Macbeth’s starter information! Instead, they ask you to interpret their expressions. To me, they look approving. Which is interesting, since in this case, they represent influences or events within my home life, or social life. So, most likely, my home life is going to become very important soon. Those that I care for and wish to spend time with will be important in maintaining the clear head I need to overcome this situation.

9) The Bodacious Bodach

This particular brownie tends towards trouble really quickly, which would explain why he’s in the slot that represents my belief of how the situation will turn out. I am expecting sabotage, and happiness to be short-lived, due to someone’s interference. Perhaps my own, perhaps someone close to the situation. This is completely at odds with the rest of the reading, however, which gives me hope, that perhaps my belief here is completely unfounded.

As any good card-reader knows, sometimes you need additional clarification, and it looks like this one might need it. So, I’m pulling the tenth card anyway, to see if perhaps they’d be willing to give me a bit more insight.  And the tenth card certainly does surprise me! I’ve never drawn this card before, even in readings for other people!

10) Ekstasis (reversed)

Pulling the final card, to get clarification on the final outcome of the situation turns out to be enough to almost make me cry.

You may be feeling sorrowful or grieving. Remember that these feelings, too, are a part of the great song. They are a part of love. Don’t try to block them, don’t try to deny them. Let them flow… There is a saying, ‘This too shall pass.” It is true about everything, all of our joys, and all of our sorrows.

-Jessica Macbeth

The outcome is pretty clear. Letting go, learning the lessons needed, and moving on. Which is just what I needed to hear from this reading, really. It’s refreshing to know they still don’t let me down.

Putting it all together reveals a really important story. With the Rarr and Himself there, along with Ekstasis, it turns out that this was more important than I believed it to be. Leaving my relationships is never easy, but this one, it turns out, I made the right choice. Geo gives good advice, that is backed up by the presence of the reversed Rarr. Rest, learning, and calm is what I need right now.

So, definitely no jumping into new relationships, or new jobs for me. I might, however, jump into a new book, or maybe a nice bubble bath. However, Dear reader, please leave me a message, telling me how you interpreted this, if you saw anything I missed. Or maybe you’d like to share your experiences with a tarot/oracle reading?

26 Questions No One Should Answer

  • Posted on July 17, 2014 at 1:51 am

Courtesy of Tumblr, I’ve found a blog-post thing that I figured I could fill out for fun and profit. Profit mainly being answers to questions I never thought I’d have to answer. So, here we go, 26 questions that literally, no one should answer, Ever.

  • A. If you could get away with one murder in your lifetime without any legal, social, or emotional repercussions, would you kill someone? -Absolutely. There are a lot of people out there that really, really do not deserve to live. And I’m pretty sure they may not know who they are. But if I were able to live a free life afterwards, I would happily murder some of them.
  • B. What is your first thought when you receive a message, are you excited for the idea of someone from potentially the other side of the world wanting to talk to you or fearful that someone will criticize you? – Well, Both, a little, but honestly, I’m just excited, because it means that someone actually wants to talk to me, and it’s someone I can hopefully have a long, heartfelt dialogue with.
  • C. Have you ever looked down on someone because you thought your religious views were superior? – No, But I have looked down on someone FOR their religious views. There are people who beleive that their religion comes over other’s basic human rights, and that in and of itself makes me angry.
  • D. Would you rather know everything the universe has to offer but in exchange lose all emotions or remain the way you are now? – …I’d rather remain the way I am now. My emotion is part of what makes me who I am. Not only that, but if I knew everything in the universe, what fun would it be? Part of the joy of life is discovering what exactly I’m looking at.
  • E. If you could live and be healthy without sleeping or eating/drinking, which would you cut out of your life? …Sleeping. Eating and drinking is VERY, VERY fun, new tastes, sensations all of that. But honestly, sleeping I would miss if only because I have really awesome nightmares sometimes that turn out to be really great story ideas.
  • F. If you could take on the exact body and form of anyone else on Earth, who would it be? – …Uh, well… I’m a little partial to the form of one Tom Hiddleston. I wouldn’t mind being him for a while.
  • G. Would you rather burn or freeze to death?-  FREEZE. ABSOLUTELY. Freezing makes you want to go to sleep. Burning just hurts. Everywhere. Forever.
  • H. If it meant it would solve all world hunger, war, disease and bigotry, would you spend the rest of eternity in Hell? – Yes. I would. Because honestly, if one person could end that much hatred and pain, then any torture is worth that sacrifice.  And if I could be that person, then I would suffer through the pain and torture knowing that my pain brings others happiness.
  • I. Was the first crush in your life something you had or something someone had on you? – A boy named Bobby Brown had a huge crush on me when I was living in West Virginia at the age of Nine. He and I went to school together, and we were best friends. Turns out, he had a huge crush on me, and for christmas, had his dad help him buy me emerald earrings. I have no idea where the earrings are, but I remember him, and I miss him to this day.
  • J. Could you live without having sex ever (again) in exchange for eternal youth? – <Asexual laughter in the distance> No, but really, I could absolutely live without ever having sex again. As an Asexual, I don’t need it, don’t like it, and honestly, would much prefer eternal youth.
  • K. Have you ever watched a full length pornographic movie? – Yep. It’s like any other movie, only with more grunting and a lot of sex.
  • L. The Beatles or The Rolling Stones? – Neither? If only because both of them are good, but not my favorite.
  • M. If you could have the ability to manipulate matter or energy, which would you choose? – Matter. Energy is constant, but matter can shape and change. So, I could, technically, create more money. Which would be useful.
  • N. What was the worst nightmare you ever had? – One night, I dreamt that I was a mother of two, in a post-apocalyptic world, covered in water. I was searching for a place for my children to be safe, and took them into one of the few non-flooded basements I could find. My child was curious, and opened a door. Inside was a creature I can only call a Revenant, a strong, fast, and vicious zombie-like thing, and it attacked the child. I tried to leap forward, to put myself between it and my child, but… I couldn’t. I woke up crying out for a child I don’t have yet.
  • O. Would you rather spend one year with your one true love just to never see them again or the rest of your life with second best? – …I…Wow, this one is hard. Probably the one year. Because better to have and lost, then never to have at all, right? But… Wow, yeah, that would be difficult.
  • P. All the sequels/remakes/adaptations/rip-offs in movies nowadays, good or bad? – Neither? Some are good, some are bad. They’re getting better, though.
  • Q. Would you rather be dirt poor and emotionally fulfilled in life or be rich beyond imagination and emotionally dissatisfied for life? – … Considering I’m dirt poor and emotionally dissatisfied right now, I’d say Rich. Because at least then I wouldn’t have to worry about where my next meal is coming from.
  • R. Do you have any (secret) feelings of bigotry to any group of people? – Unfortunately, yes. I do. I’ve often been jealous and bigoted towards those of a Mexican background. Their women are prettier than I am. Not only that, but I was jumped by a gang of mexican children when I was in gradeschool. So I harbor a grudge.
  • S. Would you rather be the only person in the world that can read minds or have everyone else in the world be able to read minds except for your own? – I’d rather read other people’s minds. Honestly, because that way, I could try and make peace with everyone.
  • T. If everyone in the world would automatically only know one language, which language would you choose? – Japanese! JAPANESE. I want to learn that language SO BAD. You have no idea.
  • U. If you were old enough and not in a situation where it would be inappropriate, would you sleep with one of your (past) school teachers/professors? – …Not really? None of them were attractive to me. And, again, Asexual.
  • V. A world without religion, good, bad, neutral? Neutral. People would find other reasons to kill each other.
  • W. The men’s rights movement, legitimate cause or laughable, and why? – Well, honestly? Legitimate cause. But not the way they’re going about it. The way most men’s rights activists go about it is to bring out their issues whenever a feminist brings out theirs. Which demeans both causes, and brings more and more distain down on both of them. Men do have problems. They can’t report rape without being laughed at. The ‘Sissy’ standard. Domestic violence issues. I understand this. But that does not compare, not right now anyway, to the systematic rape and repression of females all over the world. Personally, if MRA’s want to make things better, maybe they should concentrate on helping Feminists first.
  • X. You can eliminate one of your five senses to substantially strengthen the others, which one and would you do it? – Hearing. Because while there are lovely sounds in this world, and music is beautiful, it is nothing compared to the beauty of a sunset, or to the touch of soft fur, or the exquisite taste of a well-cooked meal.
  • Y. Do looks mean anything to you? Don’t lie, could you fall in love with someone you thought was ugly? – Looks do mean something to me. I want the person I love to take pride in their appearance. So yeah, I would have issues falling for someone I deemed unnattractive.
  • Z. Can you understand the mindset and logic used by the opposite spiritual opinion? An atheist understanding the belief in a higher power and vice versa. – As a Pagan kitchen witch, I do understand the beleif in a higher power, whom sent their most beloved down to die for you, and all like you. I don’t beleive the same, but I can understand the instinctual comfort such a thought would give.
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