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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.

Ascended Gods – A question of morals

  • Posted on July 26, 2014 at 12:05 am

Tonight I went to see a summer hit, Lucy. To summarize, it is a movie about a woman, who, through a bad drug-ring run-in, ends up able to open up her very brain, and strive past the normal ten percent that most humans can access it. The movie is entirely about her journey from ten to one hundred percent, and what happens at the end.

Lucy Trailer

Now this is not the first story of a human pushing past humanities limits. In fact, there was another such being in media, one Dr. Manhattan. Through a freak science incident, this particular case ended up becoming almost godlike, capable of manipulating not just matter, but time and space as well.

But both of these two have something in common.

Both lose touch with their humanity, over a period of time. At one point, Dr. Manhattan, instead of exercising his gifts to save a woman, ends up allowing her to be shot. Lucy, despite her gifts, and apparent omniscience at the end of the movie, chooses to give mankind knowledge, but no guidance. Both of them, in the end, ascend beyond humanity, and choose not to interfere any further.

Why is this? What is it about these ascended gods that marks them as amoral, beyond the human concept, beyond understanding humanity, despite knowing, and having control over just about everything? Why do these so called gods choose instead to give humanity knowledge, and no true guidance? What is it about this ascension that takes them beyond any and all morals or codes that they held during humanity?

I beleive these characters are designed this way to invoke exactly that. A Godhood, an ascension. The belief that all humankind’s worries and needs are inconsequential in the larger run of things. However, I ask you, why would the belief, the realization of this, make these beings choose instead to fuck off into the deep blue mysterious beyond?

Why instead, do they not choose to stay? To attempt to guide humanity towards some kind of peace? If they have an absolute understanding of everything trivial and horrid that humanity has done, and how to correct it… Why don’t they? Are we to believe that once someone has ascended beyond all the worry, all the strife, all the day-to-day rat-races, that they would just… forget or ignore or lose interest in all of those they once cared about?

Dr. Manhattan’s transformation was quite well done, over a period of many, many years, and to be honest, I understand why he began to lose touch. He became entrenched instead on all of the mysteries the world had now unlocked for him. As he said, “I am tired of this world, these people. I am tired of being caught in the tangle of their lives.”

I’m curious, dear readers, has there ever been a case of one of these ascended gods choosing instead, to guide humanity? Successfully? Please tell me in the comments about it, about what you think would happen, and about what you think humanity’s response would be.

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