Posted in books

Stereotypes in Character Devlopment

What are Stereotypes and why should you be careful when using them?

StripedShirtWomanStereotypes

A character that is so ordinary or unoriginal that they seem like an oversimplified version of a person, class, gender, etc.

Why should you avoid this?

Stereotypes are rarely accurate. Not only can they be offensive, they make for poor characters because readers can guess exactly what they will think, do, say, or respond. That’s boring.

Straight stereotypes lack depth and are predictable. Readers immediately think they already know how their story will go because they feel like they have already met this character and read their story in a dozen other similar stories. Your goal as a writer is to surprise your readers with new and unique characters and stories.

Should you NEVER use a stereotype?

OSC quote stereotypesStereotypes develop for a reason

High school for example: there are jocks, cheerleaders, nerds, emos, skanks, etc.

  • At this age, being defined and having a “label” provides safety and confidence (“self” on some level)

Now think about the adult workplace: there are brown-nosers, slackers, workaholics, gossips, etc.

  • You have a wider variety of personalities, but there are always those few in nearly every workplace that fit “the mold”

How do you use this the right way?

Start with a level of stereotype to instantly familiarize readers with the character’s traits…then delve deeper, expand on what is on the surface. You still have to be careful with starting out an introduction with a stereotypical portrayal because it can turn readers off if they think all they are going to get is a stereotyped “blah” character, i.e. the handsome and charming billionaire out to sweep Miss Innocent off her feet.

Make it clear from the beginning that even if this character exhibits stereotypical behaviors, the reasons behind them are deep and layer, and there are consequences for the way the act or live. Hint at complexity so your readers are left wanting more and searching for the truth rather than sighing and thinking, “I’ve already read this a hundred times before.”

SURPRISE YOUR READERS

If you want to hear the full discussion now, listen to “Episode 5: Creating a Character with Depth” on #WritePublishRepeat Podcast.

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Posted in books

Writing a Character With Depth: Where to Start

Characters can make or break even the best of ideas, but where do you start when building great characters?

It might depend on what type of writer you are. Here are a few options for getting started.

Character Profiling

Invisible Cast

Start with the basics: Who is your character?

  • Create a character profile sheet and be as detailed as possible
  • Physical characteristics
  • Eye/hair color, weight, height, etc.
  • Personality traits
  • Happy, gloomy, morose, optimistic, etc.
  • Likes/Dislikes
  • Fears/Dreams
  • Talents/Goals
  • Secret or otherwise
  • Flaws (We’ll talk about this on in more depth later)

Start with a picture

Car Man Head in HandsInstead of starting from scratch, find a picture you think is interesting and describe what you see. Go deeper than how they look.

  • What motivates these characters?
  • What are there goals?
  • What are they afraid of?
  • How did they end up in this situation?
  • What emotions are they dealing with?
  • Where will they go from here?

Start making a list of character traits that will help bring them to life.

The key with the beginning stages of character development is to get to know your characters, find out what problems they are facing (there MUST be a problem), and what the first stage of their journey looks like.

If you want to hear the full discussion now, listen to “Episode 5: Creating a Character with Depth” on #WritePublishRepeat Podcast.

Posted in writing, writing advice, writing tips

Creating a Protagonist With Depth: Part Five

If you haven’t read the first three part in the series, you can find Part One HERE, Part Two HERE, Part Three HERE and Part Four HERE.


Now let’s discuss how to make your characters fail in a way that makes them better.


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Failure

Just like nobody enjoys a perfect character, no one likes a character that always makes the right choices and succeeds
If your character always succeeds, where’s the tension, the worry that they might fail? Without that, readers get bored.
A story needs fear that the character will fail/die/be beaten in order to keep readers flipping pages.
Even if they think they know where the story is going, they want to find out how they’ll get there


 How do you make them fail? Rope 2

Look back at their list of faults and flaws. Which of those can you use to put them in a situation where making the right choice will be difficult?
In “What We Saw At Night” Allie doesn’t tell the police what she saw because she’s afraid of getting in trouble for being somewhere she shouldn’t.
Why was she out at night? Because she has a severe sun allergy and has started taking risks because she thinks she won’t live very long.


hand over mouthHow do you avoid nonsense failure?

Does it make sense in real life?
If some guy told you he was sneaking into your room to watch you sleep at night, you’d freak out. Bella, though, was totally cool with it, which has garnered criticism.
Would two parents ever actually split up twin girls and never let them see each other for their own selfish reasons like they did in The Parent Trap? I highly doubt it.
When helping characters make decisions, make sure there’s a good reason for what they choose. Lean on that backstory you crafted.
Do their fears influence them?
Have past hurts caused them to mistrust others when they shouldn’t?


What character failures have left an impression with you?


Posted in characters, writing

Creating A Protagonist With Depth: Part Four

If you haven’t read the first three part in the series, you can find Part One HERE, Part Two HERE, and Part Three HERE.


Now let’s discuss how to fill out your character with some backstory, faults, contradictions, and conflict.

iStock_000014115888LargeBackstory

Now that we have the basics of your character and who they are at the beginning and end, it’s time to fill in the middle.

We do that with backstory. Why is your character the way they are?

Remember those personality flaws, fears, and annoying habits you created earlier? Now it’s time to find out where they came from.

The reason behind the flaw is what makes it interesting.

Ex: Lena from “Beautiful Creatures” is afraid of falling in love because of the curse on her family that tells her she’ll turn evil and hurt the people she cares about.
That’s more interesting than just being too shy to ask a guy out.

Like an iceberg, most of the backstory you come up with will never appear on the pages, but it will make your character who they are. 


Depressed young homeless womanFaults

Nobody likes perfect characters. They’re boring.

Every character needs a few faults.

Make a list of 5 faults your character has – let’s go deeper than not being able to make a free throw.

Personality flaws: unreliable, eccentric, immoral, volatile.

Fears: common or complex – Indiana Jones’ fear of snakes got him in trouble a few times.

Weaknesses: unemotional, domineering, perfectionist.


IMG_0454Contradictions

Faults aren’t enough. Your character needs to be contradictory at times.

Why? No real person behaves the way they should all the time.

We do things we know are wrong, go against our own beliefs, and do the opposite of what we intended to do.

This can go the other way too. Does your bad guy had a soft spot?

No one is all good or all evil. Your characters need to have a mix of both.


Man with SwordConflict

Every good character needs plenty of conflict, not just from situations they find themselves in, but internal conflict as well.

Go back to your list of fears…

Which of these fears will your character face and try to conquer in your story?

While trying to overcome the main conflict in the story, your character must also overcome internal conflicts that are holding them back.

If they don’t, their character arc won’t be completed.


Full, rounded out characters can make or break a story. Giving your character a life outside the story will help them come alive on the pages for your readers.

Posted in writing advice

Creating a Protagonist with Depth: Part Three

If you haven’t read the first two part in the series, you can find Part One HERE and Part Two HERE.

Now, on to today’s discussion!

Character Arc

What is a character arc?

It’s your character’s journey from who they are at the beginning of the book to who they become by the end.

(Hint: these should be different!)

  • This is basically the main question your character arc needs to fulfill throughout the course of a story. Developing a strong character arc will help you create a character with depth.

There are 3 stages to a character arc.

STAGE ONE

Arc Stage 1

The Catalyst

You need something that will force your character onto the path that will change them from who they are to who you want them to become.

This can be a physical and internal stumbling blocks.

The catalyst is a problem – something your character needs to overcome.

For example…

Tris finding out she’s Divergent.

Katniss volunteering for the Hunger Games to save Rue.

The journey to overcome this problem is what will test them and force them to grow personally and emotionally.

STAGE TWO

Arc Stage 2

During the second stage, your character attempts to resolve the problem from the first stage.
Of course, things can’t go to easily for your character.
In order to make sure your character keeps growing, they need to continue to face new obstacles.
Translation: Things keep getting worse.

Why?
As your character faces new problems, they learn new skills, become more capable, more like the person they need to be.

STAGE THREE

Arc Stage 3

This is the resolution stage, where your story reaches its climax and your character discovers who they are becoming.
This is NOT always the resolution of your characters’ completed arc
If your are writing a series, this may be the first realization for the character of who they want to be or will become.

Your full character arc may stretch over a series of books, but within each book you should have the three stages of the character arc, with the character reaching an important realization at the end of each book.

Making sure your character changes and grows throughout your story will help create a more believable and relatable character.