One of the mistakes that many new authors in fiction make is that they stereotype their characters, especially the supporting characters. This could reduce the quality of your work. Even for the main characters and their love interests, we have physical stereotypes. The problem with this is that just as you are familiar with these characters, so are the readers. How are you making an impression in the minds of the reader?
Many romance novels have a pretty damsel or the “oh so handsome” boy as the love interest of an “average” character. While the initial first few times a reader reads this, they would be hooked to the thrill of the average person getting someone out of reach. BUT, after say ten or twenty such books, the interest dwindles. Besides, ten years down the line the reader would hardly be able to distinguish your character from the characters of others.
So, in order to write a great book, one thing you should ensure that ALL your characters (not just the main ones) have a personality of their own. Just look around you, the world is a classroom. No two human beings are the same…just see which people attract you…what are their qualities, their quirks, what is it that makes them different from others? Give those traits to your characters..and see the difference it makes to your overall work! Stephen Chbosky has done a phenomenal job of giving this distinct touch to each of his characters in “The Perks of Being A Wallflower”.
These are the internal characters, coming to the external….break away from the conventional. Give your characters their own looks. If you make your characters look run of the mill…they will be run of the mill. Human beings look different..that is what makes them stand out. If all your characters are thin, good looking, perfectly chiselled jaw, beautiful body etc..you are preparing for mediocrity. Simply because I could close my eyes, go to romance section, pick up random book and find that exact character in most of those books. In order to be different, dare to make your characters different. Take for example, characters from Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park. The very reason her book is so successful is because she has etched her characters who are so different that the reader feels them like they are a breath of fresh air!
Make sure all your characters are three dimensional, well scripted and interesting.
Some of the most used stereotypes are:
- The handsome man
- The average looking guy
- The perfect girl (pretty, innocent, sweet)
- The Tomboy
- The nerdy person with spectacles and who bores people around with their knowledge
I am not saying you cannot have a handsome guy or a beautiful girl in your story. BUT, that should not be the extent of their existence. There are countless books where the character is just that..nothing else. Everytime the character is mentioned, their looks are mentioned..you never know what they are really like. For example…your hero’s love interest is this cute and sweet girl. OK. But then what? Her whole personality cannot be cute and sweet right? Add depth to your characters to add depth to your story.
One thing that you should AVOID AT ALL COSTS is using generalized statements to explain your individual character traits.
Instead of statements like:
She giggled. I looked at her and thought, “Gosh! Why do women giggle so much…I hate when they do that!”
You should use:
She giggled. I looked at her and thought, “Again with the giggle…why does she have to giggle so much..I hate that!”
By doing this, you are targeting two birds with one stone.
- You are avoiding stereotyping people (women giggle too much)
- You are giving a personality trait to your character ( She is a kind of person who giggles to much)
In the past, I wrote a blog post on How Hunger Games challenged Gender Stereotypes, you can check it out here.
Some other books that you could check out for reference are:
- The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
- Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
- Eleanor and Park by Rainbow RowellEleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
- Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
- To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee