Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Stereotypical characters

After wrapping up my heroine's conflict with her former best friend, it hit me: is her so-called best friend a stereotype? Are all characters, deep down, stereotypes?

Look at the novel Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. The first chapters draw you in with an unjust situation. A wicked aunt, bratty cousins, and no way out for the quiet, yet spirited Jane. The aunt could easily be considered a stereotype, but her character didn't turn me off to reading further. I understood why she acted the way she did. She seemed real to me--mean and nasty--but real. However, I wasn't reading the Aunt's story; I was reading Jane's. Jane's reaction to her was what kept me reading.

Pick up any fiction book. Why do you keep reading past the first page? What is it that draws you into this alternative universe? The characters are completely undeveloped until you read further, so why do you care about their world? I can't answer for you, but I know I read because the main character intrigues me.

I think the main characters cannot be stereotypes. Secondary characters can have stereotypical qualities, but only if the hero or heroine interacts with them realistically. If a character is drawn to be evil incarnate, well, then there needs to be a compelling reason for the main characters to be dealing with such all-encompassing evil.

Main characters can fit in a mold, but should be written as unique individuals. No one wants to read about a character with no flaws, or on the flip side, with no redeeming qualities. Especially in romance! Readers have to believe the hero and heroine are falling in love. I constantly ask myself if I would fall in love with this person. The answer has to be yes every time.

Since I'm still working on the first draft, I will not worry too much about the best friend being a stereotype. In a few weeks, when I begin revising, I'll be studying and analyzing the character in depth.

Lesson to self: just get it down in the first draft; you can always fix it later.

Enjoy your week!

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