Have you ever read a story and been frustrated with the stereotypical characterisation?
[Insert sarcastic tone]: An asian who is great at maths? How extraordinary. A corrupt politician? Very creative.
How about turning those stereotypes on their head when you create your character? Now that is entertaining! A quirky, unexpected character will spring to life in the mind of the reader, engaging them in the story in a way that the usual would not. You’ll find people connect with the character in a more sympathetic way, as well as finding a sense of amusement in their predicament. Let’s try out the above-mentioned examples.
What about an asian who’s not good at maths?
Sue sighed as she collected her algebra homework. Another fail. What would her parents say? They couldn’t understand why she was so abysmal at maths. Sue had a long family history of celebrated accountants, bankers, bookkeepers. It just didn’t make any sense. Dad had done everything he could possibly think of to help her; from hiring the finest mathematics tutor money could buy, to taking the traditional route and sending her back to her native Shanghai for summer school. She had spent many torturous hours counting rice grains. Her mother was quite concerned when she returned home and wouldn’t touch the stuff for weeks. Some of their relatives in more remote parts of China, learning of what they deemed “Sue’s disability”, had disowned her whole family. She was an embarrassment to her parents, to her whizz kid mathlete brother, to China, to the entire asian race. Seriously, an Asian who’s not good at maths?! But try as she might, Sue could never master even the basics.
How about an honest, caring politician?
Every day Mr Biggs would put on his suit and tie, shine his shoes, catch the 405 to work, and try his best to make the world a better place. But every day, poor Mr Biggs would receive hate mail and angry yells from passers-by. You see, Mr Biggs was a politician. Noone in the country had ever met an honest and kind politician, so in the public’s mind, such a person could not exist.
You can see how easy it is to create interesting characters by simply giving them qualities that defy the norms of society.
Why don’t you try to create a stereotype-defying character? Here are some ideas you can try out:
- An english woman who detests tea and scones
- An attractive blonde girl who is secretly a genius
- The top of the class student never studies, hates school, and wants to drop out and work at maccas
- A banker who daydreams about quitting to be a broadway star
- A vegetarian great white shark
- A young sweet-looking redheaded girl who is the leader of a notoriously brutal gang
- A supermodel who eats junk food all the time (and is not bulimic)
- The rebellious mum who stays out late and parties, and tells her kids off for doing their homework
- A cat who chases dogs
- The princess who loves paint balling, riding her motorbike, and graffitiing the palace
- A very rich man who lives in a tin shed
Feel free to post your own suggestions. I’d love you to post descriptions of your own characters!