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Sunday, 4 December 2011

Today let’s talk about stereotyping.

How’d you feel about stereotypes in fiction? Do they annoy you? Or do they make you smile?

You have the dramatic gay man, the lazy fat person, the sullen teenager… they are all there because they exist. So does that mean we can’t write about them? I mean, you also get the lazy thin person, the sullen middle-aged person and the ditzy Afro Caribbean (I should know, I work with her!). But the fact is if there weren’t any people to fit the mould there would be no stereotypes!

But what are stereotypes?

It’s a generalization about a group of people where we attribute a clear set of characteristics. These can be positive or negative. But I’ve learned that this “positive” and “negative” is personal to one’s own self.

Some blond haired women hate being labelled as “dumb”, others aren’t so bothered.

So why can’t we stereotype in writing?

It’s lazy - like clichés, stereotyping is too easy. Your character is blonde so she must be as thick and enjoy shopping?

It’s offensive – stereotyping evolved to be cruel towards typical groups. He’s fat so he must be lazy and love hamburgers?

In A Proper Charlie I deliberately made my gay man “typically” gay until layers were peeled away and he was revealed as being frightened of failure and very possessive. Charlie, my main protagonist, was ditzy but I gave her red hair. No, she didn’t have a temper either!

I enjoy watching reality shows and love being proved wrong about a stereotype. On the surface they exist. But dig deep and you have an individual.

A character.

Make your character an individual and you’ll have real, flesh and blood person to write about.

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