Thursday, 4 August 2011

Don’t make your characters stereotypes

Make him real, not a stereotype

I’m a woman, so I must like shopping, shoes and soaps. I must hate football, not know the offside rule and how to fix things. And of course, I abhor bad language as it offends my feminine sensibilities.

In reality, shopping is my idea of hell, I hate shoes and wear trainers all the time because I walk a lot and soaps, well as though I am as susceptible to big storylines as anyone, I can take or leave them.

I don’t just love football, I was a football journalist for years and I am the one who fixes things in our house.

I also (shamefaced) have done quite a bit of swearing in my time. Well, put it this way, if there was a swear box in our house, I’d be putting a heck of a lot more in it than my boyfriend.

Are you a stereotype? Chances are you probably are not. So, why should your characters be?

Make them different. Make them stand out. They can even be a contradiction. For instance, in the Harlan Coben Byron Molitar books his friend Win Lockwood looks like a soft rich boy, but he’s a violent man and a master in various martial arts.

Myron’s business partner Esperanza is a small, pretty Latino lady but she used to be a professional wrestler known as Pocahontas in the Fabulous Ladies of Wrestling.

Whatever you do, DO NOT make them a stereotype; don’t generalise.

Real life people aren’t stereotypes and you want to breathe life into your characters.  


  1. The contradiction comment is a great point. Most people will fall into some stereotype in real life depending on which social group/job/area they come from. Yet underneath all of them is something unique.

    It's that nugget of individuality and even flipped personality that makes them become interesting in real life and hopefully real in fiction.

    Good post Jen. Lots to think about.

  2. Thanks Tony. Trying to keep busy as my dad's in hospital again.


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